a fan favorite in the 1971 Trans Am series was the “Grey Ghost”, a ‘64 Pontiac Tempest, prepared by Pontiac Special Projects Engineering Manager Herb Adams and a group of his young proteges (Tom Nell/Jeff Young-Engines, Joe Brady/Harry Quackenboss-Chassis, Ted Lambaris-Body, Tom Goad-Logistics).
The boxy six-year-old Tempest had once been Adams’ wife’s daily driver, with over 80,000 miles (130,000 km) on the odometer when it was turned into an A Sedan racer. It proved to be surprisingly fast, at a time when even a one-year-old car was considered out of step with the competition.
Using his own money, Herb Adams set about converting Mrs. Adams grocery getter into a competitive race car. Using a 389 destroked to a Trans-Am regulation friendly 303 cubic inches (producing a whopping 475hp), Adams and his skeleton crew added larger tires on the front, a few degrees negative camber on the rear to make the big Tempest hook up a little better in the corners, and a fresh coat of dull silver paint. To drive their beast, Adams convinced the hard charging Bob Tullius.
It was entered in the opening round of the 1971 Trans-Am Championship. Unable to qualify, the car was allowed to start from the back of the pack. With Bob Tullius behind the wheel, it mowed through the field, and was running second behind eventual winner Mark Donohue’s factory-supported Penske Racing AMC Javelin when the engine expired.
We had gained a lot of knowledge especially about chassis development from the 70 SCCA season. They (Pontiac) would not give us any parts but at least by then we knew what to get. The car was a joke to them (the other race teams) until we were running in second place right up until the end, then we blew a head gasket. We were chasing down Donahue at the time. We did some things that they laughed at. Like, we ran big tires on the front because the car was nose heavy. It turned out that in the rain the car was really, really competitive. Bob Tulius was the driver. He had a lot of experience driving in the wet. So every time it rained we did really well. It was also competitive in the dry. We usually ran in the top five.
Doesn’t this mean it was the seminal beginning of the Optima Street Car type of car? I believe so
there is even a book about it:
the Grey Ghost Pontiac Tempest began life as the daily driver of the wife of Pontiac’s special projects engineering manager, then it became a track monster that consistently nipped the heels of the newest SCCA cars, and best drivers