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The old “buy-it-and-drive-it-cross-country” dream

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1967 Pontiac Tempest two-door post. Photos by author.

I recently returned from the annual Scottsdale auto auctions, after spending nearly a week covering six of them with friends and co-workers Jeff Koch and Mark McCourt and witnessing some of the rarest and most sought-after vehicles on the planet crossing the block. Once I returned home, I was finally able to start going through my photos of the auction cars, and in so doing, I was reminded of this Pontiac.

While in Arizona, my life-long desire to buy a vintage car from the dry Southwest and drive it back East, both creating memories and finally acquiring a mostly rust-free car in the process, kept boiling to the surface. I know it’s a cliché to some, but many of you who’ve battled endless rusted fasteners or spent countless hours repairing or countless dollars paying for rust repairs to body and floor panels on your vintage cars may still be able to relate to this.

1967 Pontiac Tempest

The Cameo White paint was fair, but the body seemed to be quite solid after 50 years.

Likely, most who consider such a trip dream about driving a Ferrari or perhaps a Hemi ‘Cuda, some other muscle car or even a luxury car from a bygone era across the country to the delight and envy of all who see you pass by. This is where my practical brain takes over and usually ruins the illusion, however.

As I walked the many isles at the auctions we covered, I kept thinking more about which cars would actually be feasible for me in the real word—one that I could afford and one that could realistically make it across the country without breaking down. Real romantic, huh?

1967 Pontiac Tempest

The bright trim was in good shape overall and rear bumper shined, but also had some pitting and a few dings. The registration date on the rear plate’s decal is 2006.

I came across quite a few desirable candidates. Not surprisingly, most were muscle cars since those are usually my favorites anyway. All were generally in solid #3 driver condition, as I knew that a #1 or #2 car could never be in my price range. But once my chosen #3s rolled across the block and I saw the selling prices, they too fell by wayside due to my, shall we say, limited finances.

One vehicle that seemed to be a strong candidate for my fictitious nearly transcontinental jaunt, however, was this 1967 Pontiac Tempest two-door post coupe I found at the Silver auction. No, it’s not a GTO with a 400 or even a LeMans with bucket seats and 326 V-8. It’s a Cameo White (confirmed on the cowl data plate) Tempest Custom with a bench seat and a 165-hp,, OHC-6 with a 1-barrel carb and a column-shifted two-speed automatic transmission. Not the stuff from which life-in-the-fast-lane road warrior dreams are usually made, but it’s not 1984 anymore when GTOs were still quite affordable, though I wish it was at times like this. GTO in driver condition cost substantial money nowadays.

1967 Pontiac Tempest

Under the hood was generally clean, but could use some further detailing. Note presence of optional power-assist for the steering and the lack of it for the drum brakes.

However, this car had the look of a well-maintained driver circa the 1980s in my mind. Plenty of patina, but not too worn out. Despite its Washington state license plates, which normally don’t make one think of a rust-free 50-year-old car, this Tempest’s body appeared to be all metal and sounded like it. When lightly tapped in typical rust-out areas, there was a resonance that’s not heard when great gobs of body filler are present. There was light surface rust visible here and there and a highway-sandblasted look to the hood, fenders, leading edge of the roof and a few other areas. It also appeared that the header panel had been recently repainted.

Instantly my mind began create the scenario where I actually bid on the car, win it, and drive it from Arizona to Pennsylvania with a substantial part of the trip spent visiting the tourist areas and abandoned artifacts that remain on patches of Route 66. I did this pondering despite the fact that my pipedream was doomed before it began—the Tempest was already sold.

1967 Pontiac Tempest

A radio block-off plate! Gotta love it… at least I do, anyway. The gold interior is correct according to the cowl data plate trim code. It was clean overall except for some rust showing on the steering column.

After I returned home, a call to Silver Auctions confirmed that it sold for $8,000. I’m sure some of you are surprised by how low the winning bid was, while others feel that it was too high. Nevertheless, the Tempest’s body appeared to be quite solid, but would still need some work and a repaint to look really good. The interior was driver quality and the undercarriage was not detailed or particularly clean. Of course there is no way to know how well it ran because I never saw it drive to the block. And since the cars can’t be test driven, there is also no way to determine the condition of the drivetrain and suspension or the braking, cooling and electrical systems.

1967 Pontiac Tempest

Here’s the underside near the driver-side rear quarter panel. A typical rust-out area, this one like the other side looks pretty clean and relatively undisturbed—yes, I also saw the newer hardware for the lower quarter-panel trim, so some recent work may have been done there. Note the body-mount bushing near the bottom of the photo that also still looks intact instead of severely dry rotted.

Regardless of reality putting the nix on my imagined cross-country road trip with a nearly rust-free vintage Pontiac, it was still fun to peruse the possibilities at the auctions in between photographing specific examples for upcoming coverage in Hemmings titles.

Dreaming doesn’t cost anything, and that seems to fit my budget just fine.

Do you have a “buy-it and-drive-it-cross-country” dream that you would like to share? Here’s the place to do it.