Pro Street Science In A Not So Plain Brown Pontiac Tempest Wrapper

In the modern new world of powerful domestic supercars, old school hot rodding still flourishes in thousands of small shops and garages where personalized visions of hot rods and street machines are labored over with a seldom-seen passion. It’s hard to tell if the wing on Phil Riley’s awesome ’63 Tempest Pro Street car disguises or reinforces the fact that this is an altered wheelbase street car with the 9-inch Ford rearend moved forward four inches. Can you spot it? Phil Riley had that vision when he fashioned a Pro Street version of a 1963 Pontiac Tempest A/FX car with a blown 421 cubic inch Pontiac V8.

Phil’s street-friendly version leans a bit to the high-end side as he is the owner of Riley Customs in Martinsville, Indiana. He is used to a high level of detail in the cars he builds. You would never guess that this car was built from the discarded hulk of a parts car he used to create his wife’s ’63 Tempest, which he purchased from her folks. Only the body and trim were used as everything else was custom fabricated.

The stance is one of the most critical factors in a Pro Street car. Phil’s vision ensured this Poncho had the right attitude with a complete tube chassis fitted within the removable original body. The drag racing look is reinforced with the altered wheelbase. The Ford 9-inch rear axle is relocated four inches forward of the stock location and hung with a custom 4-link system. Mickey Thompson Front Runners are wrapped around Weld Racing 15×3-inch front wheels and super-sized 15×15-inch wheels with Sportsman S/R rear tires roll in the back. This combination obtains the customary “Wall of Rubber” view in the rear, establishes the ideal forward rake, and achieves the proper drag strip stance. It gives the car a bit of a sixties A/FX drag car look, too.

Phil kept it real with an all Pontiac powertrain. The all-iron 421 cubic inch Pontiac was a team effort, with Dan Quinlin performing the essential long-block assembly while Phil took care of hand porting the iron heads. The polished Blower Drive Service 8-71 supercharger is set up at 10-percent underdriven and delivers a moderate boost for pump gas operation. Dual C&S Specialties 650 cfm Holley carbs topped with a polished shotgun scoop feed the beast to the estimated tune of 600 horsepower, which is more than suitable for this application.

The powerplant is backed up by a custom-built Turbo 400 transmission with a Coen 3500 rpm stall speed torque converter. To make it reliable for street duty, a custom March front dress and pulley system is teamed with a massive Be Cool aluminum radiator to disperse engine heat. While capable of 800 horsepower, the supercharged big block Pontiac V8 is configured for reliable street cruising with a mild boost curve, high-capacity cooling system, and moderate, streetable cam timing.

A full Vintage Air A/C system keeps the interior icy cool even on the hottest days. To accomplish the extra cooling capacity, the firewall was moved back three inches. Bill Carter fabricated the trick vented inner fender panels, and Riley added the custom louvers to the front fenders to extract engine heat. Although it is built to a drag racing configuration, it is fully equipped for reliable and continuous street operation.

Incredible details abound in this exquisitely crafted street machine. From the custom exhaust ports ahead of the rear tires to a luxurious and fully functional all-leather interior with an unbelievable trim level for a hot rod, this car is a masterpiece of hot rodding execution. We like to stress the little guy, homebuilt approach wherever possible. Still, there is no way you cannot appreciate the craftsmanship in this car. It took Phil eight long years to build this car because he was so busy building cars for other people. We think it deserves a solid “hell yeah” and two thumbs up for execution. Well done, Phil.

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