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Collector Car News

  • Italian Sports Cars Lead the Charge in Paris +

    The collector car world will turn its attention to Paris in early February. Here are some consignments that are sure to make headlines: A 1954 Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider America (pictured) will come to market at RM's Paris sale on February 4. View all the RM consignments here. Bonhams will offer a 1960 Read More
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Imagine if an unknown Van Gogh was discovered on eBay. In the musclecar community, the discovery of this Super Duty is no less stunning





By the late 1950s, the horsepower race was on, and stock-bodied racing was the perfect place for Detroit to display its latest engineering feats. Pontiac was the car to beat, both in NASCAR and USAC stock car racing, and in NHRA drags. But by the summer of '62, Pontiac's competitive edge was beginning to wear off.

In a sport where a victory can be measured in the blink of an eye, weight was one major component to success. Engineers said 100 pounds equaled one-tenth of a second in elapsed time, and Chevrolet, Ford, and Chrysler were putting their Super Stock and Factory Experimental racers on serious diets while boosting horsepower.

For the 1963 model year, Pontiac created 14 special Super Duty Catalinas in the hope of gaining back their advantage. Many aluminum sheetmetal components were created and the frames had so many weight-reducing holes punched in them they became known as the "Swiss Cheese" cars. But the new Catalina was still at least 200 lbs too heavy, especially when compared to the mid-size Dodge 330s and Plymouth Belvederes. With the Winternationals approaching, Pontiac took drastic winner-take-all measures.

Two Pontiac Tempest coupes assembled in November 1962 were sent to the shops of Ray Nichols and Mickey Thompson. They each installed 421 cu.in. Super Duty engines in the compacts, and replaced the Tempest's unique "rope" driveshaft and rear Corvair-based transaxle with a conventional transmission and narrowed Catalina rear end. The results were beyond fast - Bill Shrewsberry dominated the Winternationals A/FX class with Mickey Thompson's Tempest, his 12.03 best time a good half-second faster than the competition.

On December 12 and 13 six LeMans coupes were built minus radio, heater, and sound deadening. Aluminum front clips were added, and 421 Super Duty engines installed. Pontiac engineers created a heavy-duty "Powershift" 4-speed automatic transaxle that included a 10.6" clutch for launching off the line.

With a trunk-mounted battery and a 12-gallon fuel tank, the Super Duty LeMans coupes weighed around 3,150 lbs and had nearly 50/50 weight distribution. In January 1963, six more Tempest station wagons were given the same treatment, which resulted in bit more rear weight bias. The dozen compact terrors went to the best Pontiac teams and drivers, including Arnie Beswick, Arlen Vanke, and the legendary Mickey Thompson.

Detroit-area racer Stan Antlocer also bought one of the Super Duty LeMans coupes, through Stan Long Pontiac. Stan and his father ran a speed shop in the area, and campaigning throughout Michigan, Stan won often, with an amazing best time of 11.93 @ 123.95 mph. Since the Powershift transaxle could use only a 3.90:1 gear, the Antlocers replaced it with a conventional 3-speed manual and narrowed Catalina rear axle, running a 2.28 first gear and 4.30:1 rear. Stan Antlocer called his racer "the world's fastest Tempest".

On January 24, 1963, General Motors announced that it was suspending all racing activity. With as much as 53% of the American market, The General was always a target for anti-trust action from the Feds. Fearing exposure of their racing activities, GM announced the ban, with severe punishment promised to any employee who dared to ignore the edict. The factory support and engineering was suddenly gone, and spare parts dried up quickly. Some of the original Super Duty owners raced their cars into the 1964 season. Stan Antlocer remembers selling his LeMans to someone in Ohio in 1964, and this car, like most of the other '63 Super Duty cars, was lost to history. Of the dozen Super Duty compacts built, only three are extant.

{analysis}{auto}1229{/auto} This 1963 Pontiac LeMans Tempest, without engine or transmission, sold for $226,521.63 on eBay Motors on November 9, 2008.

The seller wrote:
"1963 PONTIAC LeMANS TEMPEST. WAS MANUFACTURED IN '63 AND ON A 1/4 MILE TRACK IN 64. I KNOW LITTLE ABOUT THIS VEHICLE FOR THE OWNER PASSED AWAY LAST YEAR. THERE IS NO MOTOR, TRANSMISSION, OR KEYS FOR IT.

"APPEARS TO HAVE ORIGIONAL WINDSHIELD, SIDE GLASS COMES WITH IT BUT APPEARS TO HAVE PLEXIGLASS IN ITS PLACE."

The seller, from Harrison, Michigan, clearly had no idea what he was selling (or how to turn off the Caps Lock key). Bidding started at $500, but a day later he wrote:

"OK PEOPLE = ENUF IS ENUF... I POSTED THIS ITEM 24 HOURS AGO AND IT HAS 2000 HITS, OR MY COUNTER IS BROKE.

"ALL I CAN FIGURE OUT IS THAT PEOPLE ARE SEARCHING FOR PICTURES OF MCAIN OR OBAMA. WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME WHY THERE ARE SO MANY VIEWS. I MIGHT EVEN POST IT."

Then someone wrote back:

"FYI You hit the lottery on this one. This is a factory PONTIAC-built Super Duty race car. Whatever you do, let the auction run. The VIN is verified on page 129 in Pete McCarthy's book, Pontiac Musclecar Performance, 1955-79. If you didn't have a 401K, you do now."

That's right. This was the missing Stan Antlocer Super Duty LeMans, the fourth of the Super Duty compacts known to have survived. Imagine the buzz in the art community if an unknown Van Gogh were discovered for sale on eBay. In the muscle car community, the discovery of this Super Duty is no less stunning.

The seller was cleaning out his garage



The 1963 Pontiac Super Duty LeMans Coupe was owned by the seller's next door neighbor, who stored the LeMans for years in the seller's garage. The owner passed away recently, and the seller was able to take possession of the car based on rent owed. Now Dale, the seller, was cleaning out his garage...

Stan Antlocer even chimed in on the online discussion to confirm that it was his car. One bidder tried to get the owner to take $160,000 and call off the auction, which he rejected. Bidding stalled at $95,000 with just seven minutes to go, and it looked like the owner's gamble failed. Then, in typical eBay fashion, bidding took off. In the end the successful bidder shelled out $226,521.63 for the Super Duty LeMans.

The new owner has work to do, of course. The original aluminum front clip is not with the car, though it has been located in Florida. Finding the correct Super Duty engine and other missing components will be expensive, too. But the car is sound, with only surface rust, and many of the rare Super Duty parts were stored in the trunk. A proper restoration might cost $100,000 or more-is it worth it?

On October 6, 2006, Mecum auctioned the Pontiac collection of the late Randy Williams. Williams owned two of the three then-known Super Duty compacts-one coupe and the only known wagon. The Swiss Cheese Catalina coupe sold for $462,000 that day. Also sold was Williams's big Tempest wagon for $656,250. Those prices were validated one year later, when, on October 5, 2007, Mecum again auctioned the two former Randy Williams Super Duty compacts, this time as a set. Bidding reached $925,000 for the pair, but they did not meet reserve.

The automotive world has another Super Duty in its midst, the seller has his 401(k), and the successful bidder has got his hands on a piece of history, which should provide a handsome payback on his investment once the wrenching is finished. {/analysis}

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