Don't let its small stature and understated beige paint fool you - in 1963, a lightweight Super Duty Pontiac put you right at the top of the food chain, that is if you were fortunate enough to get one. Just 12 Super Duty Pontiacs were built in '63, featuring aluminium panels, a thundering 500 horsepower 421 Pontiac V8 and an unusual rear mounted trans-axle arrangement.
This highly functional and detailed 1:18 scale model is a faithful replica of Paul Goldsmith's Super Duty, a car which won the 1963 250 Daytona Challenge Cup and beat a bunch of Detroit heavyweights and European exotics in the process. Even more legendary is it demise, reportedly bought by Mercedes-Benz, shipped to Germany and dosassembled for inspection, never to be seen again.
On of only 228 pieces worldwide.
- Diecast metal body
- Opening hood, doors and trunk
- Detailed interior with folding front seats and sunvisors
- Opening glove box
- Opening vent windows
- Functional suspension
- Poseable steering
- Opening gas filler cover
- Plumbed and wired engine
- Rotating axle shafts
Thundering Bastard — The Day A Super Duty Pontiac Tempest Destroyed The World's Best Sports Cars by Brian Lohnes
One of my favorite movies of all time is the western Pale Rider. After Clint Eastwood's character mangles a group of bad guys in a street fight with a simple axe handle, he quietly says, "There's nothing like a good piece of hickory." During the 250 mile Challenge Cup event at Daytona Speed Weeks 1963, Paul Goldsmith's piece of hickory was a Super Duty Tempest that used good old blunt force trauma to vaporize a field of cars that included Ferrari GTOs, Stingray Corvettes with 427 mystery engines, Jags, and other exotica. Goldsmith didn't just win the race, the guy who finished second was five miles behind and he lapped at least one of the Ferrari GTOs eight times over the course of the 250-mile contest. Believe it or not, the ending of the story is even better than the finish of the race, for reasons that I'll share a little way down the page.
When most of us think about the Super Duty Pontiacs of the early 1960s, the drag strip is the first thing we think of and rightfully so. Pontiacs were the machines to contend with in the stock class drag racing world at that point in time. The hairy 421 that fell into the right hands of talented racers was an unstoppable force, even years after it was fresh and new. Even "civilian" models with 389 power could be wrenched on and tuned up by kids to haul the mail. Bunkie Knudsen had taken Pontiac from the old man brand to the dominant racing brand in a short amount of time and when 1963 rolled around, the Poncho skunk works was in full swing for the upcoming season. The division crafted 12 Super Duty race cars and sold them to the "right people" six of the cars were Tempest station wagons and six were Super Duty Le Mans coupes. Of all these cars, the only one we know of that didn't end up on a drag strip was the car that Goldsmith drove which was delivered to Ray Nichols Engineering, Merrillville, Illinois.
The guys at Nichols set to making a road/circle track racer out of this car by beefing up the brakes and chassis. Drag cars were obviously built with the lightest possible compo-nents and brakes that were not intended to be used any more than to haul the car down from a 100mph strip blast. Nichols also outfitted the cars with oil coolers, a specific roll cage, a bunch of extra gauges, heavy duty springs and shocks, as well as boxing on stuff like control arms. It should be noted that at this time Goldsmith was the president of Nichols Engineering. He was a lot more than just a race car driver. Like all the SDs, this car had a bunch of lightweight aluminum body panels.
The engine was 421ci and rated at 420hp. If you think that the 420hp rating was at all accurate, we've got some oceanfront property in Nebraska that we'd like to sell you. These were 500hp engines, especially when race tuned by the guys at the shop. Goldsmiths car was a hit of a rarity in the fact that his was the only equipped with cast iron exhaust manifolds. All the others of the bunch had the famous aluminum manifolds that are fine for the strip but would have been molten puddles by the time a distance race at high speed was run. These motors had big cams, dual quads, and heads that moved serious volumes of air. They were damned stout pieces. Not just for '63...for any year.
The real genius in these cars was the rear mounted trans-axle that was certainly not a favourite of drag strip competitors, but had to have made Goldsmiths life easier when trying to get this car to turn and stay stuck to a race track. The four forward speeds were achieved by ingeniously stacking a pair of Pontiac two speed Tempest Torque units. Goldsmith’s car did not use a torque converter like most of the other SDs did. His used a clutch to get the car moving but once it was under way he was able to knock through the gears without using the clutch. Not that big a deal during a flat out oval race like the 250, but still a pretty cool setup.
The 250 mile Challenge cup race was conceived as a way for NASCAR to generate some more money through ticket sales during Speed Week. The thought was that it would draw some different fans in who were interested in seeing exotic sports cars compete on the same course as the big boys did. The purse was a huge (for the day) $20,000 (ironically enough the sale price of a Ferrari GTO) and because of a crappy weather forecast only about 4,000 people showed up. NASCAR lost their ass, but those 4,000 people got to see one of Pontiac's great shining moments in racing.
Right out of the gate, the hairy Le Mans let the assemblage of talent know that it meant business. Goldsmith put the car on the pole and did it by a pretty significant margin. On sheer looks alone, that had to have been a shocker. Putting this Pontiac next to a Ferrari GTO is like putting the bearded lady next to Cindy Crawford. (we don't think the Poncho is ugly, but a Ferrari GTO is one of the most beautiful cars of all time). Hell, even next to the Corvettes, the thing looked like it had shown up to the wrong party, but it was everyone else who was looking for the exit early.
Taking off from the pole position, Goldsmith laid the hammer flat and the big Pontiac engine just sang. He pulled away from all of them, even the mystery 427s. As rain showers came and went (and the race continued) his lead continued to open wider and wider. As I stated earlier, he lapped one of the GTOs eight friggin' times before the end of the race. By the time the checkered flag flew, Goldsmith had lapped the second place finisher, some guy in a Corvette named AJ Foyt twice. Yes, he won this race by five whole miles.
The car went onto the compete in the longer distance Continental race later that week but the engine failed shortly into the event, probably strained past its happy point during the 250. Goldsmith and the boys still left with a pile of money in their pocket ($6,500 to be exact) and a stunning victory that served as a humbling experience for automakers all over the world.
Oh.. and speaking of those automakers from all over the world, after the event the car went back to the shop in Indiana and sat for a short time before reportedly being purchased by Mercedes-Benz who promptly shipped it back to Germany and completely disassembled every nut and bolt for a "competitive" inspection. The car has never been seen again and is listed by most hard core SD experts as "destroyed". Sad, but that's one hell of an honourable death. Also, something tells us the Germans didn't just scrap the thing, but who knows? So there you have it. A pocket biography of a largely obscure, but totally freaking bad ass day at the races for Pontiac.