Story of my 1954 Canadian Pontiac Tempest


Tempest script

Tempest script

I am the 3rd person who has worked on customizing this vehicle which has been best described as being a basket case. It was for sale for over 2 years when I purchased it and had been sitting outside untouched for about 5 years. Here is front and rear pictures of the car as it looked in June 2000

This is the front view as I found it

Here's the rear view.

Here's what was in the trunk - a parts puzzle!.

The car was pretty rough but I liked the effect that the 3" chop gave and the 60s gasser look with the limited front chrome. The roof was primed and there is mucho surface rust. No interior, glass, engine, tranny, steering and no brakes. The body is very straight and solid. except for some rust on the rocker panels and quarter panels

1st Vision - Prostreet Look

What's taken a long time (2 months) for me to realize is the effect accidentally given by the primered roof over the dark body to the body lines. The two tone effect has visually reduced the waist height at the doors and flattened the car. I've seen many 54s that were one solid body color and I didn't like them because of the high waist height.

I also liked the low stance (due to missing front springs and 2x4 wood lowering blocks in the rear!) and the mild rake. I especially liked the 1960s ET 5 spoke mags on the front.. Looking at the rear picture, I originally thought that the taillights were frenched and I liked the way that they appeared. Unfortunately, there's really no taillights present but now I know exactly how I want them to look.

kustom color scheme

I used a negative image so I could envisage my original "Pro Street" look

Riveria chrome

I was going to use side chrome similar to this Riveria to separate the two tone

The above picture is a negative of Bob Hierlmeier's car and shows roughly how I had envisioned the paint would look - blue bottom and white top. I've since changed my mind. One of the custom magazines happened to have a pageful (8 cars) of white 54 Chevs, pictured to show the effect of different wheel and tire combinations. I photocopied it and spent a couple of days coloring different paint schemes. Everyone, I knew, wanted to try coloring a page or two of cars. I got a lot of new ideas on paint schemes and have come up with one that I'm particularly happy with. It's a two tone blue with the lower body panels and roof painted a medium blue and the middle painted white as shown on the rough drawing a little farther down this page.


The front will have bullets and a tube grill like this Buick

Packard Bullet

1955 Packard Clipper Bullets

2nd Vision - 70s Custom Look

I was originally going to go with a Prostreet look like Bob's car (see above link) but came across the Buick and really liked the 50s retro look. I plan on doing something similar using minimal chrome. I picked up 55 Packard Clipper bullets at the wreckers (almost broke a finger doing it - OW!). I'm going to use 54 Chevy park light housings with aftermarket amber lens for signal lights under the headlights, the chrome runners will run into the bullets. I'll make my own tube grill.

prototype drawing

Rough drawing (took 2 hours to do!) of the most beautiful 1954 Pontiac Tempest to ever be built!

I love the way the tube grill widens the front of the car. When I drew the picture, I had a smile on my face for 3 days. I wonder why no-one has done it before. It seems like such a common thing to do on 50s cars. Anyways, I have 69 Cadillac hubcaps instead of mags ($$) with tri-bar spinners, the front bumper will be hung upside down on the rear and the rear bumper upside down on the front. The bumpers will be located very tight to the body and interestingly fit tighter to the body this way. Frenched taillights, license plate and shaved door handles/drip rails of course. The hood has given me untold grief for ideas on what to do with the middle channel. I'll bite the bullet and fill it so that I have twin peaks running down the middle.

Final Vision - 60s Look

I came across an old picture of my Pontiac with the original grill and fell in love with the styling. I waffled for two years between the original grill and the custom grill. I bought and sold two sets of bullets until I finally settled on the original grill choice. I feel that it gives it a more period retro look that I'm looking for.

60s retro aggressive rake don't mess with me attitude

  • Here's a picture gallery of the 1954 Pontiac Tempest after rechroming.
  • Here's the build sheet that shows all of the work and do-it-yourself junkyard messing around to put this car together.

I find that the car reminds me of either a vintage police car, taxi or a NASCAR race car. Doesn't matter cause it's built exactly the way I wanted.

Why own this car?

Well, after seeing this car and realizing that it wasn't going any where soon, I decided to shop around. I really wasn't looking for an early Chev or Pontiac , I consider myself more of a Ford guy (67 Ford LTD) even though I have owned several Chevs including a 55 210, a 72 Vette and a few Triumphs. Previously, I had been looking at a 48 Ford Thames Panel Delivery with a Ford Prefect front which the more I looked the less I liked of the work/butcher job done on it. I was also looking for a 62 Mercury Comet or 55/56/57 Ford Fairlane.

I liked the potential in the Pontiac and started comparison shopping by looking at other more complete vehicles for sale and realized that every one cost at least 3 to 4 times more and would have to be stripped down to this level in order to do what I wanted. All would require a top chop. This meant a lot of extra work and money versus buying this car. As you might of guessed I'm not planning on restoring it but customizing it (cheaply!).

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Copyright May 2011 Eugene Blanchard