The Stan Antlocer-piloted '63 421 SD LeMans has been painstakingly restored to its as-race
Back in November of 2008, it seemed like the entire Internet and collector-car worlds were abuzz about a certain eBay auction that defied all logic. A thrashed and neglected '63 Pontiac LeMans was suddenly generating bids that at the surface, seemed completely insane. Why would multiple parties all vie for this rather humble-looking machine?
The bidding actually surpassed $50,000 by the third day; by the time it ended, the top bid came in at a whopping $226,521.63. This was a serious windfall for the owner, who so underestimated its value that he initially put a $4,000 "Buy It Now" option on the auction, believing that figure was well above its worth.
Though the person listing the car did not seem to understand what he had, he nonetheless offered some tantalizing clues. First, the car was white with a blue interior, had a plexiglass windshield, and the odometer showed just 3,165 miles. Lastly, a rear shot of the coupe showed some very unique damage to the rear bumper.
Apparently the owner of the car had put it in storage for an extended period but died before doing any restoration work. The storage fees piled up, and his widow decided to simply forfeit the car to cover the storage costs. In retrospect, it proved to be an ill-advised move on her part.
Scott (driving) and John take a hot parade lap down the Summit Motorsports Park strip afte
Meanwhile, the Pontiac message boards were ablaze with speculation; was it one of the six 421 SD LeMans coupes or just another old race car that sat neglected for decades? It certainly looked like one, though the aluminum front end was replaced with a regular steel nose.
Many Pontiac fans quickly scrambled for their copies of Pete McCarthy's Pontiac Musclecar Performance 1955-79 to check the VIN supplied in the auction description against the list of VINs and shipping manifests reproduced in the book. The VIN turned out to be of one of the six factory race cars-it was, in fact, the very car campaigned by Stan Long Pontiac in Detroit and driven by Stan Antlocer. The bidding intensified.
Almost immediately everyone from Autoblog.com to various news organizations had picked up on the story. Even though it had been established that this was one of the rare and elusive factory 421 Super-Duty LeMans coupes, not everyone understood the car's historical significance. Many dismissed it as just some weird and dilapidated old car, and other "experts" proclaimed that since the original drivetrain was no longer with it, it was essentially worthless. How wrong they were...
The 421 Super-Duty was built by SD expert Doug Hughes. It uses the same headers George DeL
Those in the know, of course, understood that this was the hottest automotive archaeological unearthing of the past decade, especially for Pontiac fans. They knew that the auction still had a lot of ground to cover and the final price would likely be a record-breaker. What that final number would be was a matter of speculation at that point.
That speculation would be answered in a very exciting way. The bidding war that ignited the week before escalated to $95,000 with seven minutes to go and then seemed to stall momentarily. It started up again and surged to the sale price in the last 15 seconds.
It was a very wild and bumpy ride, but in the end, Pontiac collector John Riconda won the auction, narrowly beating out a Chicago-based consortium that also valued the LeMans' rarity and unique history.
"I learned about the history of the Super-Duty LeMans and Tempest wagons from Pete's book," Riconda said in an interview for this article. "I was really intrigued with the idea of finding one of the missing cars, but it seemed like a long shot."
The correct Harrison "stack-and-plate" radiator was a design shared with the Grand Sport C
A Super-Duty Catalina appeared to be like a more reasonable goal to John, and he started collecting Super-Duty engine parts on eBay and elsewhere. He ended up buying a '63 Grand Prix and planned for the 421 SD to go in it. Then the eBay auction began and his plan changed. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing, but there it was," he recalled. "As you might expect, the last minute of that auction was a real nail-biter."
After winning the auction and paying the owner for the car, he enlisted the services of Scott Tiemann of Supercar Specialties, who picked it up from the storage unit in Harrison, Michigan, and towed it back to his shop in Portland, Michigan, to begin the restoration.
How Should It Be Restored?
John had begun researching the LeMans' history but was conflicted as to how it should be restored. Should it go back to its as-delivered condition, complete with the PowerShift transaxle and simple white paint job or its as-raced condition?
This particular 421 SD LeMans originally came with the optional transistorized ignition sy
While the conventional wisdom would be to restore it with the Powershift and paint it as it was raced, there was a fly in the ointment-the car never raced with a Powershift. Stan Antlocer, seeing the trouble that other racers like Arnie Beswick were having with the exotic but fragile transaxle, decided to forgo the traction advantage that the rear-mounted transaxle would provide, and so installed a conventional three-speed transmission with a 2.28 first gear and a 4.30-geared, full-sized '57 rearend.
Then there was the question of the front end. At some point, possibly around 1972, the aluminum front end was liberated from the LeMans. It passed through an unknown number of owners before landing in the hands of a Florida Pontiac collector in 1979. Though both parties were initially interested in reuniting the car with the nose, a price could not be agreed upon, as the pieces were not in very good shape and would need an immense amount of refinishing. The owner reportedly wanted $50,000 for the front end.
Realizing that the restoration of the somewhat beat-up front end was going to cost half again as much, he commissioned Randy Ferguson of Ferguson Coachbuilding in Robinson, Illinois, to build a new replacement front end. Ferguson has attracted a lot of attention in recent years building replacement front end pieces for Z-11 Chevys and complete replacement front ends for '40 Willys. His work is truly amazing. Randy built a new hood, fenders, lower valance and grille surround.
The factory lightweight steel bumpers were too damaged to reuse, so duplicates were made b
How was he able to build such authentic and correct pieces? Starting with NOS steel panels, Randy used them as plugs for building large, heavy epoxy dies, which looked very much like the metal stamping dies that pounded out new fenders by the thousands way back when. From there, he used single pieces of correct-thickness aluminum sheets to expertly form the fenders in the dies.
It is easier said than done, and obviously took an immense amount of labor and expertise to pull off, but the end result is absolute perfection. Ferguson is able to build more panels for other restorations or race cars, though the price will likely buy a nicely-equipped new car. How much? About $25,000-a lot of money but half the amount of the bent-up originals John needed. In retrospect, John believes the restoration would have suffered had he used the original pieces, as they could never be as straight as the new ones.
The second part of the equation was the selection of the driveline configuration. Since the car had such a rich race history, the idea of returning it to stock would obliterate that. Simply painting its race livery on an otherwise stock car would be presenting it in a configuration it never existed in previously. John's approach was genius in its simplicity-restore the car as it was raced, meaning it would have the conventional Big-Car three-speed transmission and rearend, then display it with a correct PowerShift transaxle alongside the car. Problem solved. On with the restoration...
The interior was beautifully restored by Dale Dawson at LA Trim in Lowell, Michigan, using
Back at Supercar Specialties, Scott and his crew carefully disassembled the LeMans, taking careful notes and photographing the entire restoration process. Though the LeMans was not exposed to road salt, there was a good deal of corrosion damage, particularly in the windshield area, where the factory butyl-rubber gasket trapped and retained moisture. There was also some rust damage in the floorpans and around the quarter-panels. The rest of the Pontiac was surprisingly well-preserved, owing to it being kept from regular street duty.
Tiemann located a parts car to donate the necessary panels, throttle linkages, bolts, and hood latches, but more importantly, to give up its factory wiring harnesses. The wiring in the LeMans was very dried out, falling apart, and had been significantly butchered over its racing career, so a replacement was necessary.
"Those harnesses aren't being reproduced," Tiemann said. "That was the main reason we looked for a parts car-the rest of it was a bonus. This car was absolutely not a rebody and I want to make that perfectly clear before any speculation starts up by the 'Internet experts,'" he added. "We were able to restore the unibody back to original without a large amount of panel replacement. We patched here and there using factory sheetmetal from the donor car."
The Big-Car three-speed stick uses a 2.28 First gear and Hurst shifter. A photo exists tha
As mentioned earlier, the 421 Super-Duty had been intended for a different car, but with everything happening so quickly, John "reassigned" it to the LeMans. Super-Duty authority Doug Hughes had been called in to build the engine. It consists of all the necessary '63 Super-Duty parts, such as the code-544988 four-bolt block, the 980 heads, 990 crank, and 859 dual-quad intake. The engine was rebuilt to mostly stock condition, but the exhaust system posed some challenges.
John managed to locate a set of correct 421 Super-Duty stamped-steel headers for the Tempest/LeMans chassis from fellow Pontiac crazy Tom Schlauch, but amazingly, they wouldn't fit. The reason? The Tempest-specific design didn't clear the swapped-in '63 Big-Car bellhousing-the left side interfered with the starter. The rear-mounted transaxle incorpo-rated the starter as well, so that area was available for the exhaust system. Moving the starter back up front made the headers unusable.
The solution was yet another page out of Pontiac history. Antlocer had undoubtedly run into the same problem before and had George DeLorean custom-build a set of Tri-Y headers for the combination. Reportedly, DeLorean only built two or three sets of these headers, and the set built for this car stayed with it for all of these years. They were refinished and pressed back into service.
The inspection cover for the PowerShift transaxle was retained for the restoration but is
This particular LeMans was equipped with the exotic transistorized ignition system, and the version used on the 421 SD was unique to that engine. It used a specific distributor, which Scott managed to locate, as well as an NOS amplifier, coil, and resistors. Among the parts that came with the car was an NOS mounting plate to fasten the amplifier to the core support.
Also, the radiator was a bit of a problem. Super Duty Tempest/LeManses used a special Harrison modular "stack-and-plate" radiator, the same unit used on the Grand Sport Corvettes. The Harrison label even faces to the rear of the car so it could be seen from the Vette's forward-opening hood. Obviously, these radiators are rarer than hen's teeth, but with his previous experience restoring the Union Park wagon, Scott obtained a perfect reproduction from Tom DeWitt in Howell, Michigan, and expertly reproduced the specific mounting brackets using the originals from the Union Park Wagon as a template.
The rear suspension and '57 full-size rearend also stayed with the LeMans. The axle was suspended by parallel leaf springs, and a Mopar-style pinion snubber was added to control spring wrap-up. A subsequent owner fitted a pair of long lift bars that extended forward almost to the front wheels; they were not retained.
HPP Editor Thomas A. DeMauro (right) presents the HPP Editor's Choice Award to John Ricond
Another tricky part of the restoration was the bumpers. Like their production counterparts, they were steel, not aluminum, but the metal was a lot thinner. Because of the nature of the stamping process, Tiemann believes that if thinner steel was put in the die, the metal would have torn. He is almost positive they were actually acid-dipped to reduce weight. The parts car donated those items, as the originals were beyond repair. He had Dave Kulasa of Sterling Heights, Michigan, acid-dip the replacements until they were the exact thickness of the originals.
The interior was masterfully restored by Dale Dawson at LA Trim in Lowell, Michigan. He stitched up the new seat covers and door panels using original material obtained from SMS Auto Fabric in Canby, Oregon. The carpeting was also replaced with the correct weave, as was the headliner.
Once the bodywork was completed, the new front end was test-fitted. The panels were aligned to perfection, and then removed for painting. Scott and his crew resprayed the body and bolt-on panels in factory Cameo White, this time in the PPG basecoat/clearcoat system. The race livery was replicated by referencing original photos and some of the remaining paint on the car. Topped off with a set of period-correct, 10-inch M&H slicks, the restoration was complete. Now it was time for the LeMans' debut.
The missing aluminum nose was perfectly replicated by Randy Ferguson of Ferguson Coachbuil
The scene at the 2010 Concours d'Elegance of America at Meadow Brook this past July was one of awe for Pontiac fans in attendance. Many had been around when these cars were new, and some remembered seeing them run at Detroit Dragway and elsewhere. The fact that this car was sitting alongside other factory race cars looking just as it did in 1963 gave it the same level of impact as if infamous plane hijacker D.B. Cooper had just stepped off the plane, still wearing the same black suit and sunglasses as the day he parachuted off of Northwest Airlines Flight 305 on November 24, 1971. It was a timewarp moment if there ever was one.
The same sort of welcome occurred at the 2010 Ames Performance Pontiac Tri-Power Nationals. John and Scott proudly displayed the LeMans along with several other historic Super-Duty race cars and HPP's editor Thomas A. DeMauro, who was also very familiar with its history and significance, crowned it with the High Performance Pontiac Editor's Choice Award.
John is enjoying his resurrected eBay auction win; the fact that he invested another $120,000 into the project above the initial purchase price doesn't bother him a bit. It is still less than the SD would fetch at auction. To him, having such a rare and incredible artifact of Pontiac history is-in a word-priceless.
Stan Antlocer is living in California. He is seen here at the 2007 Pontiac Heaven Drags in
A Chat With Stan Antlocer
With all of the hoopla surrounding the eBay sale of his '63 LeMans race car, Stan Antlocer must have been surprised on several levels. One, that the old LeMans was still largely intact, and two, its eBay auction literally knocked the collector-car world on its ear. We had a chance to catch up with Stan by telephone from his home in Southern California. He had quite a lot to say about it.
"There are very few people who know that car as well as I do," Stan said. "About the only other guy who would is Ted Henke, who helped me build it back in 1963."
Stan Antlocer took delivery of the LeMans directly from Pontiac Engineering back in February of 1963. Unlike some of the other SD cars in that series, this LeMans was delivered with standard production tires, not the 10-inch M&H slicks. "I ran out of gas about 8 miles or so from Pontiac Engineering," Stan recalled. "The gas tank had been cut in half to clear the PowerShift transaxle and had very little capacity."
Though the LeMans showed a lot of promise, it didn't run as well as Stan had hoped. The engine had been blueprinted after they received it, and during initial testing, they found that the Pontiac was hard-pressed to even dip into the mid 12s, and it was not an easy car to drive. In order to be competitive, it would need to be a lot quicker.
Here is Stan and the LeMans back in the day.
"For a 3,200-pound car with that much power, it should have been running a lot better," Stan explained. "Ted asked me, 'Why don't we do what Mickey Thompson did?' That meant, converting the car to a conventional driveline. I contacted Bill Klinger at (Pontiac) Engineering and told him what we wanted to do. He said that was fine, but to be sure to let him know what parts we used in the conversion. That way, he could assign factory part numbers so the car would be NHRA-legal."
The conversion proved to be a success. Logghe Stamping Company in Fraser, Michigan, set up the '57 rearend with 4.30 gears (compared to the 3.90s in the PowerShift). With a set of 10-inch slicks, the little Pontiac was running consistent low 12s, with a best of 11.87 at 123.95 mph at U.S. 131 in Martin, Michigan. The "World's Fastest Tempest" logo on the rear quarters was certainly earned.
Stan continued to run the LeMans for the rest of the season but was eager to sell it. The car changed hands in October of 1963 and essentially disappeared. "I thought I sold it to a guy named Peck in Ohio, but apparently that wasn't the case," he explained. "I'm not sure where it ended up."
Like many of his fellow GM racers, the implementation of the racing ban meant that Stan would have to look elsewhere for a factory deal. "The overhead cam and Pontiac hemi engines were the next step, but of course, it never happened."
After that, the game changed a lot. "We were always looking for the next race car," he said. "I moved on to Mopars and stayed with them for several years. We ran Stage II and Stage III Dodges, and later a '68 Hurst Hemi Dart." He added, "I had a Dodge 9-passenger wagon that would run 11.90s with a Stage III. People couldn't believe how quick that car was."
Stan left Detroit, moved to California in 1974, and got out of racing. Like so many others though, the bug never really went away. In 1994 he read about the Outlaw Pontiac Racing Association and went to a meeting. He introduced himself and was surprised to find the group applauding. "I couldn't believe they knew who I was," he said with a chuckle.
At that time, he reunited with John O'Hare, who was just a kid when Stan took him along to the races back in the '60s. All grown up and now running a ReMax realty office in Valencia, California, he and Stan joined forces and now campaign a replica of Stan's old '61 Catalina-the original was lost in a towing accident. John owns and drives the car, while Stan built and maintains it.
Stan never forgot his old LeMans, though. "I searched for five years for that car without any luck," he said. "One day, I was on the way back from Las Vegas when a guy called me and said, 'They found your car-it's on eBay.' It was going to be sent to the crusher but they didn't have room on the truck, so they kept it and eventually ran the auction on it." He added that he had spoken with Scott Tiemann, who contacted him for photos and advice on the restoration of the LeMans. "I called Scott after seeing the photos from Meadow Brook and told him what a great job he did restoring the car," Stan said. "I've known Scott for a while, and I'm glad he was the guy who did the job."
Here is how the LeMans arrived. Aside from the missing engine and transmission, it was fai
About The History
Once John had legal ownership of the LeMans, he didn't even lay eyes on it before he had Scott Tiemann of Supercar Specialties pick it up and bring it back to its shop. According to John, Scott was the logical choice to restore the LeMans; after all, he had performed the award-winning restoration on the '63 Union Park Pontiac 421 Super-Duty Tempest wagon for then-owner the late Randy Williams. His research, experience, and parts locating skills for that Pontiac would also benefit the Antlocer-raced coupe. Scott provided photos of the LeMans coupe's restoration, and we have compiled a few of them to chronicle what the car's condition was when Scott picked it up and some of the work needed to bring it back. -DJK
Like the rest of the car, the interior was mostly complete but run down. Dale Dawson at LA
The undercarriage was scaly but everything was still there, including the '57 Pontiac rear
Once stripped of all bolt-on sheetmetal, interior, and rear, the bare unibody could be ass
Rusted and torn metal from sledgehammer "massaging" in the rear wheelwells was cut out. So
Replacement metal from the donor car was expertly welded in. In order to clear the larger
The replacement floorpans were welded in at this point, and the body was primed.
Red oxide primer was used to coat the underside of the LeMans, correctly replicating the p
This photo illustrates the main reason for the purchase of the donor car-the correct faste
Correct aluminum front brake drums were still with the LeMans when John bought it. They we
The original pinion snubber that Antlocer built simply bolted to the floorboard just above
The 421 Super-Duty engine was a separate project already under construction by Doug Hughes
John managed to locate a set of original stamped-steel 421 SD Tempest/LeMans headers and h
It's mind-blowing to know that this aluminum front header panel, grille surround, and lowe
The Antlocer-engineered rear suspension has been restored, and the original sectioned-out
Using period photographs, the original livery was replicated by Gary Flote of St. Johns, M