Final Fours: 1963 Pontiac LeMans – $25,800
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Since starting GuysWithRides.com, one of several car lines we’ve gained an appreciation for is General Motors’ (“GM”) senior compacts “Y” Bodies shared by Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac for a short-lived three model year (1961-1963) run. Featuring innovative engineering that included unibody construction (an innovative concept in 1960), each GM Division added its own innovation to differentiate its senior compact from the competition.
For Pontiac, the Tempest “Y” Body featured an innovative drivetrain that coupled a rear-mounted transaxle mated to the front-mounted engine via a torque tube. The rear-mounted transaxle featured an independent rear suspension and a “Trophy 4” inline-four that was based on the right half of Pontiac’s 389 cubic inch V8 of the period. These engineering features combined to provide a European-like, roomy four-seat alternative to Chevrolet’s Corvair without the downsides of a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine. Alas, by the early 1960s, America had risen out of a recession and were back to buying bigger cars equipped with V8 engines. Consequently, in 1964 GM replaced the slow-selling “Y” bodies with more conventional body-on-frame “A” body intermediate cars featuring V8 engines.
This red-over-black 1963 Pontiac LeMans convertible for sale near Phoenix, Arizona, is a coveted “444” example featuring Pontiac’s Trophy inline-four engine topped with a four-barrel carburetor and controlled via a floor-mounted four-speed shifter. The seller reports their LeMans features a freshly rebuilt engine and new wiring harness in addition to several other new parts.
Currently offered for $25,800, Classic.com, the analytics and search engine for the collector car market, confirms the ask is at the higher end of the five-year rolling average of this guide’s summary for first-generation Pontiac LeMans cars of all body styles produced between 1961 and 1963. By clicking on the green dots in the graph below, you can navigate to each comparable car sold as a way to help you evaluate the price of theLeMans featured here:
As a second data point, the Collector Car Market Review Online Tool reveals the seller’s ask falls well above this guide’s #1 “Excellent” appraisal of only $19,200 even after factoring in a fifteen percent premium for the four-barrel-topped inline-four and four-speed manual power train combination.
Pontiac introduced its new “Senior Compact” Tempest in the fall of 1960 as a 1961 model. Pontiac’s new model was its version of General Motor’s new unibody “Y” Platform shared with Buick’s new Special/Skylark and Oldsmobile’s new F-85/Cutlass models. While each Y-Platform offered something unique to differentiate itself from its GM siblings, Pontiac’s version was the only one of the three to feature a rear-mounted transaxle supported by a fully independent suspension. A flexible drive shaft that became known as “rope drive” connected the front water-cooled engine to the rear transaxle. The torque tube actually arched in a three-inch downward bow within a curved, longitudinal tunnel. This design was the result of being forced to use the Corvair floorplan, which, being a rear engine platform, had no drive shaft. To combine flexibility with strength in the proper proportion, the shaft was forged of SAE 8660 steel. This design meant no traditional transmission hump taking up interior floor space. The combination of a rear-mounted transaxle and front-mounted engine very nearly gave the car an ideal 50/50 front/rear weight distribution. This, along with a four-wheel independent suspension, helped make the Tempest a nimble-handling car for the era.
The Tempest was the result of a decision by the Pontiac division to enter the compact car market following the initial success of the Chevrolet Corvair. The division wanted to produce a clone of the Corvair, but instead, GM gave Pontiac the lead to develop a new car in an interdivisional program coded named “X-100” led by a young John Z. DeLorean.
The Trophy 4 four-cylinder engine was promoted for its economy, but Pontiac also saved money on its assembly: Because it was based on the right cylinder bank of the Pontiac 389 V8 engine, both engines could be built on the same assembly line. There were three versions of the Trophy 4: An economy version with a relatively low 8.6:1 compression ratio and a single-barrel carburetor; a hotter version with a 10.25:1 compression ratio and a single-barrel carburetor; and the most powerful Trophy 4 engine, which had a 10.25:1 compression ratio and a four-barrel carburetor. The high-compression, four-barrel Trophy 4 engine produced 166 horsepower at 4,800 RPM and 215 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 RPM. The three Trophy 4 engine versions offered fuel economy ratings ranging from 18-22 MPG.
Another departure from the other Y-body cars was the Tempest’s nine-inch brake drum, which used five studs on the same bolt circle (“five-on-four-and-a-half”) and 15-inch wheels – a configuration unique among General Motors cars. Both Buick and Oldsmobile had standardized their Y-body cars on an odd 9.5-inch brake drum with four lug studs on a 4.5-inch-diameter circle (a “four-on-four-and-a-half” bolt pattern), with 14-inch wheels. This arrangement was also not used by other General Motors cars at the time. In 1963, the LeMans became a separate series as its sales were nearly half of the combined Tempest and Le Mans production in prior model years.
The Car Commercials YouTube Channel features this 1962 Pontiac commercial launching the top-trim LeMans model that became a separate lined for the 1963 model year:
Unfortunately for the seller, prices for 1963 Pontiac Tempests for sale have not appreciated much despite being a nicely-sized, four-seat convertible. With a freshly rebuilt engine combined with a fresh wiring harness, the only thing you have to check thoroughly is the condition of the rear transaxle and independent suspension.
If you are serious about buying this Pontiac LeMans, you can start the conversation by following the instructions provided by the seller in their Craigslist ad. When you connect, please remember to mention you saw their LeMans featured here on GuysWithRides.com. Good luck with the purchase!
Here’s the seller’s description:
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