Curbside Capsule: 1966 Pontiac Tempest LeMans – A Perfect Storm

At the time I had put pen to paper to draft this piece, I was on a plane to spend the December holidays with family in southwest Florida.  This was the first Christmas I didn’t sleep under the roof of my parents’ house.  Rather, I crashed on my brother’s couch like it was 1997.  Did Mom and I have a falling out like any two members of the Bluth family?  Nope.  Here’s what happened.  Some wild, uninvited, destructive houseguest named “Irma” did a number on the Dennis family ranch which, coincidentally, is a ranch house built in the 1970s.

At the end of 2016, however, it was a completely different story, with everything being relatively normal around these parts.  The truth is that I never really super-loved that house, as I didn’t grow up there and really missed Michigan when my folks moved to Ft. Myers after my late father’s retirement.  All the same, it’s Mom’s home and haven.  Also, I love my mom, but she’s not coming to live with me.  It is absolutely imperative that her house gets fixed.  Thankfully, she feels the same way about all of these statements.

When I’m back in Florida, I also try to plan visits with close friends who live in other parts of the state.  I have been blessed with many solid friendships throughout all the different phases of my life, I take them very seriously, and I am loyal to a fault.  I had borrowed Mom’s car to take a trip up to the Tampa Bay area, when the featured ’66 LeMans beckoned me with its loud, red paint from the entrance way of a business not far from I-75.  I only hope this thing (and its owner / seller) made it through Irma unscathed, because it was a honey.

This generation of Pontiac A-Body has gotten its share of love here at CC, and rightfully so.  Pontiac Division (and arguably General Motors, as a whole) was at the top of its game in the mid-’60s, with a nearly flawless trifecta of engineering prowess, gorgeous, trendsetting styling, and a strong brand identity rivaled by few other marques.  This red LeMans, even as a “post” coupe, is still a stunner, half a century on.

Having a look inside, I thought about how hot that black vinyl must get in the tropical, Florida sun.  This thing must be a rolling sweatbox, and it simply has to get funky in there.  I had supposed that wouldn’t be a primary consideration of anyone who deigns to feel the power of up to 285 horses from an optional, four-barrel 326-cubic inch V8 mated to a four-speed manual.  Interior cooling comes from “Two-Sixty” air conditioning: two windows down, sixty miles per hour.  Regrettably, pictures that would provide clues as to this car’s actual powertrain configuration were a casualty of the demise of my old computer.

This example was one of just over 16,500 LeMans post coupes produced for the model year, out of just under 360,000 total Pontiac A-Bodies in any body style.  It should be noted that the hardtop coupe version of the red-hot GTO outsold our featured car by a ratio of over 4:1 that year, with about 74,000 sold.  The post GTO coupe sold roughly 10,500 units.

It should be obvious that this car wasn’t in perfect condition for what I recall to be its $10,000 asking price.  It was all there, though, and awful purty.  I thought about knocking on the door of the nearby business to ask if I could look under the hood or (gasp!) take it for a drive, but I didn’t want to get the seller’s hopes up under false pretenses.  Still, this car seemed to be calling me like a siren as if in the lyrics sung by the inimitable Grace Jones: “I’m not perfect… but I’m perfect for you.

Dare I treat myself to this red sled for Christmas and drive it back to Chicago?  The reality is that this car spotting was from what was already a year ago, and this car probably sold a while back.  Whatever.  It has taken me over a decade to move up to the number four slot on my condo building’s waiting list for an underground parking spot.  Maybe once Mom’s house is fixed, she would let me store a car like this in her garage.  Regardless of where I’d park such a vehicle, though, perhaps 2018 should be the year I start Joe’s Classic Car Fund.  There.  That’s my New Year’s resolution.

Fort Myers, Florida.
Monday, December 26, 2016.

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