Chief Richard was tired. Richard Fish had been the hard-core Pontiac drag-race guy of the Northwest for going on 20 years. What started out as a fun way to blow off steam in quick street/strip cars had evolved into long expensive tows resulting in a precious few seconds of enjoyment--and it was getting old. So when he happened across a college professor with a clean '65 Pontiac Tempest for sale at a grocery store one day, the Chief knew he was facing his past, present, and future, all rolled into one mystical four-wheeled messenger. The professor needed to finance a trip to Mexico. The Chief needed to reclaim his lost perspective. He bought the car on the spot.
Visions of Tri-power 389s banged gears through Richard's mind. A nice, clean 400-500hp street car with no rattles or squeaks would hit the spot. Then he returned home and rolled up his shop door. He was greeted by a lifetime accumulation of Tin Indian speed parts, and he had to face the inevitable: Once a warrior, always a warrior. He knew what he had to do. He would have his nice, clean rattle-free street car all right, but the focal point of the car would be the glovebox, where he would enshrine a decent e.t. slip.
Richard's vision for the Tempest was a unique one: moderate street gearing, a bulletproof Powerglide, and enough torque to move a mountain. He brought this strange vision to the local fast street car guru, Charlie Allin at Allin Specialties. Charlie admits he was startled at first, but he ran some computer simulations on the combo and became intrigued. After the usual head scratching, Allin decided it could be done successfully with parts the Chief was tired of tripping over in his own shop.
He already had the 3.70-geared Currie 9-inch Ford with 35-spline axles and Detroit Locker. He had the Hughes 'Glide with manual valvebody and transbrake. He even had a TCI 9-inch 4,000-stall converter. And Chief Richard had the big medicine: a 507-inch Indian Adventures block filled with mojo like an Eagle stroker crank and H-beam rods, 12.5:1 Ross pistons, and a Comp Cams solid roller cam so hairy it barely fit in the block with specs so secret only Charlie knows the recipe. Ported Edelbrock Performer RPM aluminum heads were stuffed with yet more mystery, and the whole thing was topped with an Edelbrock Victor intake supporting a Holley 1050 Dominator.
This whole drivetrain had occupied various engine bays in Richard's fleet over the years. It ran 10.04 in a street/strip Firebird with DOT tires and mufflers and had offered up a 7.96 in a rear-engine dragster. Yep, the good Chief had everything he needed right there. Everything except for one magical ingredient, and his pal Charlie had it: great gobs of nitrous. Charlie figured a Big Shot plate system would enhance the torque curve of the long-armed 507 to pull through the 1.76 First gear of the Powerglide and keep on pulling right through the top of the 3.70 rear gear. It was a devious plan that had both men giggling like they'd just discovered the fountain of youth. And in a sense, they had. They would pour all of their newfound youthful energy into the Tempest for the next few months.
The Chief dropped the Tempest off at Allin Specialties, and Charlie went to work on Richard's vision. The body, interior, and chassis were pristine, needing only minor tweaks. Charlie installed the 9-inch Ford housing using tubular control arms from Morrison/ Gazan then added an antiroll bar using bits from Chris Alston and Allin Specialties. Double-adjustable Alston rear shocks were fabbed into place by Charlie. Up front, a Stainless Steel Brakes Corp. disc-brake conversion kit made for a quick and easy way to bring the 3,600-pound arrow to a halt, and 90/10 shocks completed the upgrade.
The stock fuel system was considered laughable for what was in store. It was replaced by an aluminum Triangle Engineering 16-gallon fuel cell feeding a Magnaflow ProStar 300 electric pump and filter combo, continuing on through No. 10 braided stainless line. Charlie slipped the big engine and trans into place and fitted a pair of Doug Thorley 17⁄8-inch headers backed by a Torque Technologies 31⁄2-inch exhaust system dumping into Flowmaster 31⁄2-inch 40-series mufflers. He added a Ron Davis aluminum radiator with twin cooling fans, an oil cooler, and a trans cooler. The last piece of the puzzle was a Mark Williams chromoly driveshaft with 1350-series U-joints. The key turned, the shop windows rattled, and then everything changed.
When the Chief heard the 507 idling with a snap, crackle, and pop at 1,000 rpm, he had yet another vision. One of a 40-year-old car showing the world what it can do with some refinements. All of the new parts added to the car were designed based on the original parts. From the carburetor to the exhaust pipes, these were just modified versions of parts that came from Michigan in 1965--except for one thing. Richard told Charlie to remove the nitrous system. They didn't use nitrous oxide on street cars in 1965, and this car wouldn't be using it now. The vision was now complete. They changed the oil and the Tempest was ready for its first move under its own power in many moons.
The next morning, the '65 was at Southern Oregon Dragway. Its first baby steps were in the form of a viciously brutal burnout. Baptism by fire. Chief Richard and the Tempest. It felt like watching cowboys break wild horses. By the end of the track they had developed a mutual respect. They had run an early shutoff 10.96 on a slippery track, on street tires, through mufflers, first time out. The Chief grabbed the timeslip, tossed it in the glovebox, then left. The car had no safety equipment other than that offered in 1965, so they were done racing for the moment.
One week after the dragstrip debut, the Tempest had only a few miles on it. The Chief is a busy man. Mostly, he keeps busy with his visions. This one worked out well: The car has no squeaks, leaks, or rattles. It looks nice and clean, is dependable and comfortable, and has an awesome glovebox. He's thinking about maybe refining it further with a TH400 and an 8-inch converter, and he will probably add a rollbar and harnesses. But no nitrous. It could blur your vision.