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The old, tired, 400 engine had seen its day. It won’t be a part of the new car when it is finished.
Dad and I pulled the engine using my Grandpas engine hoist that dates back to the late 40’s when he was a mechanic.
With the old suspension out of the car, the new rear end has gone in. Using a winters mini quick change, with a magnesium center section, aluminum tubes and GN hubs.
To get the type of turning, ride height, and engine placement I wanted, the best solution was to completely eliminate the factory crossmember and fabricate an entirely new front end.
I had a significant amount of help on this step… Britt not only let me use his shop, and tools, but he did most of the fab work.
One of the first things I did was clean out the inside of the car and get rid of the stinky seats and carpet – they were certainly not going to be reused.
I went ahead and coated the floor with some POR 15.
The 1961 Tempest was truly a unique breed. It utilized a modified version of the Corvair rear suspension, in a front drive configuration. So it was a rear transaxle car, similar to the newer Corvette with the transmission in the rear. There was a choice of either a 2 speed auto (a power glide) or a 3 speed manual. My car was equipped with the auto transmission.
The rear suspension was a swing arm style, so like the old Corvair or VW, the wheel changed camber dramatically as they went through their travel.
I pondered long and hard how to utilize the original rear suspension and maintain some form of performance… in the end it just isn’t there. Then I started to consider some form of independent rear, but that was just going to be too complicated. So I decided a solid axle would replace all the OE suspension.
The car was all original right down to every nut and bolt. Some very cool stuff here.
If I’m honest, I’m not a big fan of “fake” patina on cars or trucks. But I do love an all original finish that has been weathered, and worn over the years, and this car is just about perfect in my book. I certainly am not planning on painting the car any time soon.
Rear transaxle and front engine… what connected the two? Pontiac called it a “rope drive”. It was a 5/8″ drive shaft connected directly to the flywheel and the input shaft of the transmission. The real kicker was the arc it was permanently mounted in meant it not only rotated, but twisted during each revolution.
Again, while super cool, innovative, unique and “fun”, this was not exactly the best setup for what I had planned for the car. So like the engine, trans and suspension, it had to go.
The guy I bought the car from worked at a salvage yard (go figure), and he had collected quite a few spares over time. So when the car arrived, the trunk and interior were full to the brim with extra parts.
Grill shells, extra trim, a spare trunk lid, replacement fender and a windshield were just the beginning. There were also a couple NOS tail lights, distributor caps (an odd part for this car) and even a set of pedals to convert the car to manual trans.
Just what I needed… more junk to find space for.
Again, the early Tempest was a special car, and it’s engine is one odd hunk of iron. From the passenger side of the car, the engine appears to be a standard issue early Ponitiac V8 – until you move to the drivers side and realize there is half the engine missing. Based on the 389, this 4 cylinder is exactly half an engine. It shared virtually all the components with the V8, just half as many rods, valves, cylinder heads etc…
Similar to the rear end, I originally tried to think of ways to make this original package into a high performance option. While there have been several folks out there through history that have made these engines into real runners, the weight and lack of option on transmissions was ultimately the doom of the original 4cyl in my car.
It did run and drive when I purchased it (barely). I replaced the points, flushed the carb, and drove it around the block a few times. It was a similar experience to riding a John Deer tractor. At over 3.0L, the engine is BIG for a 4cyl and it is very lumpy feeling – especially when the engine was a little off tune… it kicked like a mule!
28 Springs restaurant is located at 100 E University St, Siloam Springs. Meeting there for lunch between noon and 12:30. Drive continues by 1:30pm.
Planning to camp outside of Lowe’s Motor speedway. Packing the family tent, a couple of air mattresses and lots of warm stuff in the Chevelle!
We have arrived in Puyallup!! What a drive. This is something that Dad and I will remember for the rest of our lives. No I just have to tell him that I am planning the route home… and there is no plan! We are going to shoot from the hip on the way home. No scheduled stops, no planned route. Just drive!!
Got a little food in Portland and got to Seattle in no time. The Space Needle and fish market were on the checklist for the day. Both were awesome and Ol’ Blue has never been better!
We had perfect weather through Oregon and were excepted with open arms by all the people. Right when we entered the city, the rock star status was turned on. Countless thumbs ups and comments gave us that “homey” feel. The roadster was lovin the exposure and we knew thats what it was made for. We also got a chance to check out the new three story Nike Town and that is always a cool deal.
Off roading in Lake Shasta was one of our stops on the 400 mile trip to Oregon. Can barely feel my face! Little white knuckles through the 50 mph winds in the mountains. Let the good times roll.
On the road to no where. The bugs are tasting better than ever…
Getting Old Blue ready for the road trip. My Dad and I got the roadster up on the lift and most things checked out until we found a leaking rear brake cylinder- trans line leak and small radiator leak- all fixed and road ready. oh also had a craked fuel filter- shake down done and ready for Sunday launch.
My dad and I were up late last night putting the final touches on the car. My old man is a little to into fixing the cigarette lighter (even though we don’t smoke)but I gotta love the effort! Well, I5 is waiting for me so its time to get this thing going. I will check in later with some cool photos and stories about our day.
It has been several years since I’ve had the opportunity to drive across the country in a hotrod. My job seems to prevent such frivolity. I have to say this has been one of the more fun trips of my life. I’ve tried to show the tangible highlights…the shops, the cars, the sights. What I have not been able to convey is the enormity of this country. For those who live in a populated area it seems inconceivable that there is WAY more unpopulated land in this country than there is populated. In some places you can literally see as far as the curvature of the earth. In others you are surrounded by mountains and canyons with 1000 ft elevation changes. In some places people are living in tin shacks the size of a yardbarn.
The other intangible was the enthusiasm of the people on the tour, both the participants and the shop owners. ALL the shop owners were completely proud and honored to open their shops for us…and made sure we are all well fed and watered.
To see guys like Troy Trepanier, George Poteet, Jesse Greening, Josh Goolsby, and Gary Meadors thoroughly enjoy every aspect of this trip was inspiring. These guys have been at this a long time at a high level…they’ve all seen and done lots of cool hotrod stuff. But all of us saw things on this trip that were cooler than anything to date. That’s why we’ll be doing this again next year.
After the week we’ve had and the shops we’ve seen I cannot imagine improving on the experience. We left Amarillo this morning for the final leg to Ft. Worth. Our first stop today is in Wellington Texas at Bob Owens Salvage Yard. This is a time capsule that could as easily be set in 1970 instead of 2013. Acres of Chevy, Ford and Mopar relics nicely preserved by the arid north Texas climate. And unlike many of these graveyards…everything is for sale!