Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Project Car: 1966 Pontiac Tempest finds new home at Junkyard Life

Jody, Keith and Ron in front of their latest purchase, a 1966 Pontiac Tempest in yellow.
Jody, Keith, and Ron find another Pontiac.  

What is a Tempest?

  • A violent windy storm
  • Story about a storm that turns into a blessing
  • Violent commotion or turmoil 
  • A beautiful girl we went to school with
  • The closest thing a guy could get to a GTO in 1966
  • The newest (and oldest) occupant in Junkyard Life/Keith Lively’s stable

Ten points if you guessed one of the above!

Yellow 1966 Pontiac Tempest has been parked a few years in this garage.
As found in the garage.

Letting go

At times, a car can be more than an old hunk of metal taking up residence in your basement. It can mean something to your family. When life dictates a change and demands hard decisions, your options can be difficult. In those times a good understanding of the character and the intentions of the new owner are paramount. Enter Keith Lively of Junkyard Life and lifelong Pontiac enthusiast. Sometimes the stars align and the right people come along when they are needed. 

Candlelight Cream paint with black interior.


Actually Junkyard Life has a lifelong Pontiac passion. We couldn’t hide that if we wanted to. So we were honored when we were trusted to become a candidate to be the next caretakers of this prized 1966 Pontiac Tempest. Keith drew the winning card. The reality is that had Jody or I called dibs, Keith would have beaten us up and stolen our claims to Pontiac fame. He heard violins and angels singing when the car was uncovered.

Mike, the previous owner, unfortunately passed away. This Pontiac was almost his dream car. Mike searched hither and yon for a GTO but he just could not find one. This Tempest Coupe was as close as he could come to a GTO. Mike's wife, Valerie, knew this was the right crew for the car. Valerie explained that once this Tempest was in his garage, Mike treated it as a prized possession. He cared for the preservation and enjoyed the car as much as time would allow. Including ice cream runs and even a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Stacked headlamps and 326 fender emblem.

Hub caps and a post
You didn’t have to be an expert to feel the love we all shared for this post sedan. We could feel it from the time the cover came off to show the Candlelight Cream (code Y) paint over the accents of a black interior. A classy combination indeed. The combination of class and color only continued with the choice of rolling stock. All stock and rolling on all of the original 14-inch Tempest hubcaps. One of us here at Junkyard Life is a hub cap nerd. That guy is really happy…just saying. I will enjoy the hubcaps while I can, for a set of 1973 Pontiac Rally IIs are on the way. I really can’t argue with that.  

Four flat tires were filled with air but the old rubber was in bad shape.

Power train choices aplenty in 1966
This Tempest was fortunate enough to have an upgrade or two under the hood. As much as we love the Sprint 6 as the surprise performer that it was , we are not in the least bit disappointed in this 326 C.I.D V8 we found between the fenders on this Pontiac. This motor had been out of the car, seemingly rebuilt and detailed. The 250 hp power plant has a slightly bigger two barrel carb than it originally did. We detect a cam upgrade and appreciate a very well done exhaust system. It may not take you out to the woodshed and give you a spanking, but it offers decent performance and reliability. Sum it up…it’s a V8 made by Pontiac. We are happy.

Engine bay holds a 326-V8 Pontiac.

No meatball surgery
Inside the car, we were met with nothing but pleasant surprises. The black bench seats are a perfect match to that light exterior. The headliner is in fabulous shape. My favorite part was the next to perfect example of the Tempest steering wheel. We are even happy the 2-speed automatic is present and accounted for. Mike and Valerie took great pride in this car and it shows. He added a tachometer, full gauges and a stereo all while not hacking up the original dash at all. Excellent foresight and much appreciated. You would not believe the meatball surgery we have seen on original dashes. Not in this case! Thank you, Mike!

Aftermarket gauges were added without cutting up the stock dash.

Happy is an understatement
We are ecstatic about Keith becoming the new caretaker for this prized Pontiac. He fully understands the sentimental meaning of this car from Valerie’s family. Mike and Valerie’s daughters Ashley and Bethany are excited to see their Dad’s car go to someone who will feel the same way. In this case, they will actually be able to ride in this car whenever they want or need to with an open invitation from Keith and all of us here at Junkyard Life. We know how much those things can mean to someone. Sometimes the base model Tempest means as much as a GTO ever could.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life:The Story Beneath the Rust 

Dream cars are what you make them.

Tempest Fun Facts: 

  • 326-V8. Or IS it? The V8 found under the bandanna of our feature car is a 326. The 326 was not to be confused with the 327 Chevrolet power plant. GM was serious about this. So much in fact that rumor has it that the 326 Pontiac actually displaced 336 cubic inches. GM had Pontiac advertise it as less motor to protect Chevrolet from any confusion. 

  • 1966 was the first year that the famous GTO was a solo model from the Tempest and LeMans.

  • Davy Jones of the Monkees made appearances at GTO unveilings to promote “The Monkees” new TV show. It was based on the popular pop band, but car guys know the actual star of the show was a customized Pontiac GTO. Two base model GTOs were supplied to a sharp car designer named Dean Jefferies to design the far out Monkeemobile. He may have contracted or worked at MPC (the plastic model kit company) and in exchange had exclusive rights to the scale model of the Monkeemobile. Sales quickly rose to sell over seven million copies of that fun model. George Barris has been associated with the car and over the years building credit has been somewhat confused. Barris actually purchased one car after the show had ended. Missing the last train to Clarksville**, the other disappeared in obscurity for several years until resurfacing as a hotel courtesy car in Puerto Rico. 

  • Ferrari was not happy about the GTO designation used by Pontiac. Why? Because it was theirs! They didn’t copyright or trademark the acronym for “Gran Turismo Omologato”. John Z. DeLorean* snagged the moniker and viewed it more as a tribute to some of his favorite cars than as stolen intellectual property. 

  • Interestingly to go along with the 326/327 separation anxiety GM was experiencing, they also decided 1966 would be the last year for any tri- power cars (performance engines with three two barrel carburetors). So after this…no more multi carbs for thirsty performance engines! That is, except for the Chevrolet Corvette. Coincidence? Everyone else under the entire General motors blanket was now limited to a single four barrel. 
  • The Tempest Custom we pulled out of the woods several years ago educates us in trim levels and options. Such as The Custom is full of extra body trim and the base Tempest is seemingly naked. The Custom also has power steering and air conditioning. Name two things Keith’s Tempest is about to get! See? Reasons to keep a Tempest custom we found in the woods no one wanted but us. Interestingly, Valerie remembers driving this car with no power steering and hopefully will be on the car when she and her daughters take it for a spin!

  • Keith Fun Fact: Keith was born and raised in a very Pontiac family, but circumstances over the years  filled his collection with very interesting and iconic Chevrolets. Now…he is back.

  • Keith’s Tempest was equipped with a 326/250hp power plant. If it would have left the factory with a four barrel, it would have had 285hp 

  • Considering the production number of the great selling GTO (almost 100,00 units produced) Keith’s Tempest would be significantly harder to find with only 22,266 rolling out the door.

  • The hardest to find of the mid size 1966 line is the Tempest Custom convertible coming in at only 5,557 produced. This was a fair weather Tempest indeed. A ton of irony in the idea of a “fair weather” Tempest considering the meaning of the name. 

Editor’s Notes:

* We all just lost a bet that Ron would not even make it to The Fun Facts in a Pontiac story without mentioning his hero John DeLorean. It was a safe bet. Ron and his brother can work in John DeLorean into a Thanksgiving dinner conversation if you let them. 

** We allow Ron one music reference per story and he thinks he got away with that one. We see what he did.

The 1966 Pontiac filled the trailer.

The body is in great condition on the Tempest.

Tempest emblems did not command the same respect as GTO emblems.

Original 2-door 1966 Tempest.

Ron Kidd sizes up the tires and ramps on the trailer.

Loaded and ready to roll to a new home.

Keith Lively cleaned up the interior wiring, added Rally II wheels and hit the road. Stay tuned for more updates on the Candlelight Cream 1966 Pontiac Tempest.

Do you have a car story, junkyard or a junky yard?
Send us details and we’re on the way!  
Send emails to Jody Potter at
and Ron Kidd at

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