Words & Photos: Clive Branson
The problem with the 1967 Pontiac Tempest Sprint is how its contemporary bigger, brawnier brother, the Pontiac GTO, overshadows it. At a passing glance they look almost identical, but looks can be deceiving. Besides the racy ‘chain-link’ grille and hood scoop, the GTO housed a 400-cid enlargement of the 389-cid V8. The Tempest, by contrast, was equipped with the standard six-cylinder engine.
Nevertheless, don’t discredit the Tempest. It had come a long way since its original mold: a rather tame edition of a mid-sized sedan with a hawkish grille when introduced in 1960. By 1967, the Tempest convertible Sprint grew to maturity with a more wedged and angular DNA designed to rival the best European sports cars. Or at least, this was the intention; sadly, European sports car purists scoffed at the notion, claiming that the Tempest was heavier, longer, lacked road handling and furnished with poor braking. One thing they couldn’t dispute was the Tempest’s great acceleration. The speed on this car would strike you like a spanking. The other appealing features were that it was cheaper than the GTO in price and insurance and on gas.
Don Drummond was a looking for a collectible ‘toy.’ “We had a choice between the Pontiac Tempest and a 1970 Challenger with a 440." he recalled. "Though the Challenger was tempting, it was restored without any matching numbers.”
The Tempest, however, was in excellent and genuine shape. In fact, for a 26-year old un-restored car, it was remarkably well preserved. Its skin still glistened in its original burgundy paint with pin-strip racing lines. Not a dent, scratch or spot of rust from top to bottom could be detected, and as for the chrome - immaculate.
Don beamed with pride. “She’s my baby. How could I refuse her? The engine numbers are all original. The car has an inline 6, overhead cam with a 4 BBL carb. Another reason I desired her is that it is outfitted with a 10½ to 1 compression that is very rare. This car has been stored away for 14 years since it was last driven and remains just as good-looking today as it did 50 years ago.” The dial on the mileage gauge just turned 40,000 miles last summer, but the way Don pampers it, the Tempest will surely stay pristine for another 14 years.
The first and only other owner, purchased the car from Adirondack Auto Sales in Potsdam, N.Y. on Oct. 6, 1967. “To our delight, we have the original Owner’s Manual, Convertible Top Manual and Warranty Book (with plate)," Don explained. "In addition, the car billings and Build Sheets from General Motors. I even have the original car keys (with #’s plug). The car was written as a feature in Car Exchange magazine in 1986 and over the years we have won numerous trophies, usually in the ‘Un-restored Survivor’ category, but also picked up a prized People’s Choice Award.
It’s not the first classic car in Don’s stable. He and his wife still own a 1968 Firebird and a 1984 Camaro Z28 – both cars are still in the family.
I ask Don: “How has this car changed you? For example, how do you feel the moment you start the car and sit behind the wheel?”
A smile graced his face. “You know you will not meet yourself on the street. It’s truly a one-of-kind car. It can be stressful sometimes since the car is irreplaceable, but most of all, it is a lot of fun and generates a lot of attention, and that’s worth every penny.”