The Pontiac Tempest Le Mans Sprint is a somewhat obscure but very interesting and rare car. It was basically a Tempest Le Mans with a heavily modified hot-rodded inline six. The basic design of this engine was based on Pontiac’s regular inline six, but they added an unusual (for the time) belt-driven overhead cam, and modified or redesigned nearly every part of the engine. The least powerful version of the engine had 165 horsepower, which was not bad for the time, but with the Sprint option, you got stiffer suspension and around 207 horsepower. The output grew to 215 horsepower in ‘67, and as much as 230 by 1969, the last year of production.
Performance was on par with the competitive small V8s of the time, making it a pretty good sleeper car. As a nice bonus, the inline-six weighed less than the V8s it competed against, which is always a good thing. In a way, it was like the GTO of inline sixes. They weren’t without problems, though. The oil gallery returns were apparently too small, so if you drove the car the way it came from the factory for too long, the fancy overhead camshaft would suffer from inadequate lubrication and wear down. Enthusiasts say that you can fix the problem by drilling the holes larger, which makes the engine run much better. It seems that these cars are often overlooked because of America’s obsession with V8s, which is a shame, because here was a high-revving inline-six that could embarrass V8s. It’s a fascinating car with a fascinating engine, and I think it deserves more attention than it gets.