FEATURED – Odd Beast – Phil Riley

| September 8, 2020 More

Rear end of brown car on an angle, from an articleIn 1963, upper management at General Motors sent word from on high that none of their divisions would be allowed or authorized to have formal corporate involvement in auto racing. Long known as a performance-oriented brand, Pontiac was left only one option: turn their attention to production platforms or rebrand altogether. Thankfully for musclecar enthusiasts, Pontiac’s leadership opted for the former. The GTO was launched as a larger cubic inch version of the Tempest in 1964 and went on to become one of the most recognized and sought-after models of the musclecar era.

You could consider Phil ‘Flip’ Riley of Martinsville, Ind. a bit of a Poncho performance junkie. After all, the owner and operator of Riley Customs has had either a Pontiac Tempest or Lemans in the driveway ever since his high school days. However, his latest version—a 1963 Tempest treated to a host of pro street and street rod touches—is undoubtedly one of his favorites, even if it happens to be just one year shy of the iconic GTO moniker. “My wife Cindy had a ’63 Tempest that was in desperate need of restoration,” Riley said. In 2002, he found another ’63 for just $500 and purchased it as a donor car to help in the restoration effort. After the donor car had been pilfered and plundered for two years for the sake of Cindy’s car—an eventual award-winning all stock beauty with only 45,000 miles—all that remained of the $500 car was a title and what was left of the well-worn shell. However, Riley saw the potential and the opportunity. He decided to use it as the starting point for a wild all-Pontiac ground pounder. After eight years of hard work and long nights, the results are stunning.

The first order of business was to get the chassis in order. “The body was very rough— no engine, chrome, or glass, so I finished gutting it and sent it to Keith Burgen who does some work for John Force Racing,” he said.

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