Plagued by soaring fuel costs at the end of the fifties, Detroit answered with smaller car options. At the beginning of the Sixties, factory racing, NASCAR, and NHRA, were still the domain of large block engines in full-sized sedans. Pontiac was running their 421 Super Duty Catalinas through their factory sponsored racing teams but were starting to face competition from lighter weight cars with similar horsepower. Facing a GM ban on racing due to be implemented on 23 January 1963, Pontiac developed the 421 Super Duty LeMans as a drag-only factory car over the Christmas holiday of 1962. Six 326 badged LeMans coupes and 6 Tempest Station Wagons were built and for the brief time Pontiac stayed in the game, these cars made legends out of the likes of Arnie Beswick, Jess Tyree and Arlen Vanke.
This diecast is of the first "Mule" car shot in Silvermist Metallic with Blue interior. These were the test beds for the program. This "Mule" was just stripped of trim, badged for a "326" V8 and even retained a stock single exhaust, although the exhaust was now routed to twin dumps. The look was clean (sans hood scoop) and nondescript, but with the tires and suspension upgrades, somewhat muscular in appearance. It was arguably the ultimate sleeper and the forerunner of the classic muscle car. Later cars were to have aluminum front sheet metal, front bumper and a hood scoop lifted from a competitor's medium duty truck line then given a Pontiac part number for the SD project.
Highway 61 has nailed that badboy look in their latest offering from their '63 Tempest series. The paint is even and the clearcoat is slick. As on the real car, the window trim has been removed and the rubber gasket is visible. The Tempest script and deck "326" are tampo'd; the grill badge and quarter panel Pontiac logo are 3-D. Open the hood, which operates on a really intricate springloaded sliding scissor hinges, and the SD 421 is all there, with 2 4bbl carbs, special sealed radiator, heater delete plate, firewall mounted coil and bare bones manual braking cylinder. To see how all that power gets to the rear wheels, head to the rear. The stock gas filler cover remains on this variant and is operational.
Open the trunk and you'll find it stripped of liner, spare and jack. However, it now contains a Heavy Duty Delco 12V battery. A special access cover can be lifted to expose the transaxle, which was retained for weight distribution. Flipping the car over is a better way to see the transaxle along with the heavy duty suspension. The mystery lies in just what type of transmission this particular car has. The final products had a clutch operated 4spd that was set up for clutchless shifting during runs, but the floor mounted shifter is a straight gate automatic type marked with the classic "PRND21". Adding to the confusion is the clutch pedal.
The interior is nicely done. All I can see missing are the interior doorlocks. Even the roof is nicely modeled with acoustic liner, dome light and working visors. There's some nice touches like the Fisher logo on the sill, carpeted floor and all chromed hardware, horn assembly and dash plate. When all is said and done, the old SD may look meaner, but the new kid means business. This is another fine addition to the H-61 stable. As always, their choice of subject matter is outside the box, but very desirable.