By 1963, Super Stock drag racing was capturing the attention of competitors, spectators, and manufacturers alike who wanted to claim theirs was the fastest car around. Though Pontiac had started the Sixties strongly with its Super Duty parts program and factory-built SD Catalina and Grand Prix race cars, the competition was posing a major threat
Pontiac initially responded to the 200- to 300-pound weight penalty the Super Dutys suffered by offering aluminum body panels, then by building the Swiss Cheese Catalinas.
Unfortuately in addition to having frames break due to the removal of too much metal, the cars were still too heavy once Mopars got aluminum body parts of their own. Something drastic had to be done to shut down the "Max Wedge" Mopars, so the Tempest was called upon to defend Pontiac's honor on the drag strip.
Actually, Mickey Thompson, Royal Pontiac, and even Pontiac Engineering cooked up their own versions of the dropping Pontiac's brutal 421-cid Super Duty race engine, a 12:1 500 hp motor, in the compact Tempest.
The only problem was that stock transaxles weren't able to last under the shock. Engineers came up with a new 4 speed transaxle known as the "Powershift." The Powershift was essentially two Corvair Powerglide two-speed automatic transaxles mounted inline to offer 4 forward speeds by combining off-the-shelf parts with more than 200 new components unique to this design and then casting a new case to hold it ail together.
Though the Powershift was by no means "bulletproof," it was quite a bit more durable than a stock production unit. The rear-mounted 4 speed could use either a clutch or a torque converter, giving racers the opportunity to choose. The only available final-drive ratio was 3.90:1 and only 14 were built, one for each car produced. No spare cases were built.
To save weight, the Tempests were fitted with full aluminum noses and the doors had much of their inner bracing removed. Production of these racing specials came to 2 prototype Tempest coupes, 6 LeMans coupes, and 6 Tempest station wagons.
Unfortunately, all the effort came to naught. On January 24, 1963, General Motors, fearing an antitrust suit from the U.S. Department of Justice, announced that it was pulling out of all factory-supported racing activities. Apparently, GM's market share was dangerously close to the 60-percent figure that would trigger a federal investigation.
Pontiac's Super Duty program was killed. Those few 1963 Super Duty cars that made it out of GM ended up in the hands of privateer racers and collectors.