It takes a lot of a man to pull off a brilliant restoration. Just ask Mike Fennell, who slaved and toiled for the car he loved: a 1964 Pontiac Tempest. Having bought the car back in 2005, Fennell initially just did some minor upgrades to make it drivable: fresh brakes, a new carburetor, and an HEI ignition system.
The Tempest, prior to the project.
It wasn’t but a few months in though, when Fennell decided that the car should be something greater. He realized that he had been driving around one of the more unique and enviable cars in the country, and decided it deserved better than three paltry upgrades; the car deserved a place in the sun. And with that, a resto-mod, full-frame, nut-and-bolt restoration was in the works.
This wasn’t to be Fennell’s first rodeo, however. Previously, he proved his mettle with a 1968 Chevy C10 truck, as well as some partial restorations like his ’70 Riviera 455, ’72 Mustang 302, and vintage Mercedes-Benz cars.
He started the task back on the 26th of March, 2006, beginning with the complete disassembly of the car to its bare pieces. The Tempest had spent its whole life sheltered in garages, and had just 26K miles on it. It was traded for the ’72 Mustang he had.
He knew beforehand that the Tempest he wanted wasn’t going to be a GTO clone; as he states on his website, “I thought about making my Tempest into a GTO clone, but that’s what everyone else is doing.”
As we can see from the pictures, this project was a non-sponsored home brew, done right out of the man’s garage. Fennell says that the rebuild was done entirely on his blood, sweat, and tears, except for the paint, which we’ll get to later.
A good shot of what’s been done to the rear.
Starting off, Fennell had the frame media blasted and painted with Por 15 semi-gloss chassis coat. The suspension was stripped in favor of a UMI tubular rear suspension and lower control relocation kits, with poly bushings and Hotchkis adjustable crossmember braces and lowering springs. Some fine Edelbrock shocks and billet tie rod connectors were added as well.
But he didn’t stop there; front and rear sway bars were installed, giving the car some excellent handling potential. To help getting the car slowed down for the corners, the front disc brakes were slotted and cross-drilled.
As for the rest of the drivetrain, he installed a custom driveshaft and three-inch exhaust system with series 40 Flowmaster mufflers. Needless to say, this car has its agility and sound down pat.
So let’s get into the good stuff: the engine. Being a diehard Pontiac motor fan, only the best would suffice – that being the beefy, respectable 455 first seen in 1970 Pontiacs. Rock and Roll Engineering, whose main calling is their devotion to old Pontiac engines, blessed Fennell’s car with their ’71 Super Duty round port HO heads.
At left, we can see the engine about halfway done; at right, the engine rests, awaiting its new radiator.
The motor packs in more power with its Harland Sharp roller rockers, a Lunati Voodoo camshaft with a 284 intake/292 exhaust, a nodular steel .010 under crankshaft, a Doug Nash Warrior High Rise port matched intake, and a Proform 950 CFM carburetor.
Added to this were Program Billet 4-bolt main caps, and the badass JE forged pistons with valve reliefs (.010) and a compression ratio of around 10.75:1. Also installed was a March billet serpentine belt system. The trannie is a race-prepped manual-shift automatic turbo 400 with a 2,400 stall converter. On the dyno, the car puts out more than 500 rwhp and 500 lb-ft of torque.
Fennell and company take on painting the car.
With regard to the aesthetics of the car, Fennell media-blasted most of the body parts and the body itself was chemically stripped. He sourced out the work to the Mel Grata Chevy Dealership in Hermitage, Pennsylvania.
They applied a suave copper pearl shade used on the 2005 Dodge Viper, painted over the 2010 Camaro black, and finally applied the clear coat. To save weight, Fennell replaced the factory hood with a fiberglass one, and installed on it a Harwood pro aero scoop.
Inside the vehicle, he threw in Pro Car front seats and re-upholstered the rear seats, along with OEM carpeting. A mahogany steering wheel, made by Grant, blended well with the Ididit chrome column and custom-made ’65 GTO center console. His Stewart Warner electrical gauges round out the cockpit, and look terrific in their engine-turned panel.
A shot of the custom interior.
For his shifter, B&M’s Quick Silver shifter was his first choice. The sound system is powered by a Sony stereo, with front kick panel speakers and trunk-mounted subwoofers for blasting bass all over the place.
Fennell had a lot of metallic items custom-made for the interior by his friend, Mike Palmer, of Metal Design Four U. These included the stainless gauge panel, switch panel, rear shelf, and glovebox insert to house the stereo. Engine-turning was done by Palmer to add that extra level of flash and coolness.
The electrical system was updated to a Painless Wiring unit combined with a 100 AMP Power Master alternator, and the battery was relocated to the trunk. The polished wheels are Foose Legends: 17×8 in the front and 17×9 in the rear, all equipped with Riken tires.
A point of pride for Fennell was the extensive powder coating done throughout the Tempest; as he states, “If I could fit it in my oven, it was powder coated!”
Take all that, and you have the perfect storm.
But Fennell doesn’t want to stop there. He says he still has some things to work out, among them the headliner and a rear end upgrade (3.73 Posi, he hopes), as well as installing disc brakes all around with big ones in the front, and topping it off with a nitrous system. He hopes to have the Tempest in peak, 100% completion within weeks, as time and money permit.
Nonetheless, in its current state, the car has received its due attention, whether winning 1st place and the People’s Choice award at a car show in Mosquito Lake, Ohio, or getting featured in High Performance Pontiac. Fennell has his sights set on having it compete in time for the Pontiac Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, in August, as well as the Summit Racing “Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac Show” in Tallmadge, Ohio, in September.
We wish him the best. Maybe someday he’ll make his way to a car show in Southern California. Till then, we’ll just have to settle for watching Fennell’s YouTube videos and checking out the updates on his website. To see more of Fennell’s Tempest, check out more pictures in the gallery, below.