Built on a shortened ’62 Pontiac Tempest convertible, the Monte Carlo was a hit at auto shows and major road racing events. It shared the spotlight with GM design chief, William Mitchell’s Corvair Sebring Spyder show car.
One thing was a given at GM in the 1960s: Chevy’s Corvette was a sacred cow and no other division could bring a two-seat sports car to market. The only way Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile or Cadillac could reveal branded two-seat, high-performance sporty vehicles was to have Mitchell’s GM Design create Concepts that became part of GM’s traveling auto show displays.
Pontiac’s Tempest Monte Carlo, powered by a supercharged 195 cubic-inch Four rated at 250-300 horsepower, featured 15-inch- shortened unibody architecture with four-wheel independent suspension. With a wheelbase of 97 inches and overall length of 175 inches, it had a five-inch-shorter wheelbase and was almost two inches shorter overall than a ’62 Corvette!
Pontiac already had a relationship with Mickey Thompson, having supplied him with four and eight cylinder engines for some of his high profile, multiple-engine Bonneville and drag racing cars. Thompson came up with a supercharger package for the Tempest Four, incorporating a modified GMC 3-71 Roots-type blower driven by a two-inch-wide ribbed Gilmer belt and a manifold with a huge built-in pop-off valve. An offset adapter allowed for installing a Carter four-barrel. As with most GM show cars, the Monte Carlo’s engine received abundant chrome and polished aluminum accessories.
A 15-inch section was removed from a four-passenger Tempest, converting it into a sporty two-seater. The Tempest’s four-wheel-independent suspension was retained, though the controversial flexy shaft between the engine and the rear-mounted, Corvair-based four-speed was shortened considerably, making the drivetrain more efficient.
Since Pontiac’s plan included showing the Monte Carlo at major sports car races, it was treated to a full complement of gauges, racing mirrors, dual thin blue racing stripes, tri-spoke steering wheel, hood louvers and Firestone Super Sport tires mounted on polished Halibrand knock-offs.
Wholly impractical but responsible for drawing a crowd wherever the Monte Carlo was displayed, the severely chopped wraparound plexiglass windscreen looked as though it had come off a full-tilt racecar. It offered absolutely no protection, but tied in nicely with the slick fiberglass tonneau cover with headrest fairings.
Finished in White Pearl, the Monte Carlo was also shown with knock-off wire wheels with Goodyear Blue Streak tires in place of the Halibrand-Firestone combo. Unlike most Concept/Show cars, the Monte Carlo was not crushed after it was retired. It was gifted to Ed Cole, Vice-President and head of GM’s Car & Truck Group. Before taking delivery he had the Monte Carlo re-powered with a stock 215-inch aluminum V8. The windscreen was replaced with a production Tempest windshield, and they also added a small convertible top. The net result was a somewhat awkward looking, short-wheelbase Tempest with an oversize top. The Tempest survived and is currently in a private collection. But Mitchell’s original Monte Carlo styling did not!
Pontiac’s Monte Carlo was featured in DAY ONE, An Automotive Journalist’s Muscle Car Memoir that covers vehicles built in 1962 to 1974. It’s available at https://www.amazon.com/Day-One-Automotive-Journalists-Muscle-Car/dp/0760352364/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1493561421&sr=1-1&keywords=Day+One+by+Martyn+L.+Schorr