It is, like most things, Freiburger’s fault. Shawn and Sara Jones used to live a perfectly normal life as Volkswagen employees, and then Shawn saw ROADKILL.
“After watching Freiburger cover Drag Week live a few years ago, I decided to look up this ROADKILL YouTube channel he kept talking about,” Shawn said. “I watched every single episode back to back.”
Since that day, Shawn and Sara decided to do away with the stainless trim and shiny paint life and start throwing parts at an old beater to get it on the road RK style—cheap, fast, and dirty. Right around this time their close pal Marc Osvold was moving out of state, so the Joneses found themselves with a bunch of his old Pontiacs, including a 1967 Tempest.
The car spent its early years in Memphis, and Shawn proudly points out the dealer tag from Douthit Carroll on the rear. “It ended up in a little junkyard in Dixon, Tennessee, and sat on the edge of the lot in a small pond for years,” Shawn said. “From there, it was rescued by Marc in 2012 as a donor car for his basket-case ’67 GTO that may or may not have been a drunken eBay purchase.”
From drunk Marc to sober Shawn, the Pontiac ended up with a new home in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with the Joneses. They dubbed it the Tempest S**t Storm, and it took three months to get the frame off and undo all the hard work Mother Nature did while the Pontiac was in its junkyard bathtub. Shawn and Sara blasted and painted the frame gloss black, putting in new floors and patching up all the other “speed holes,” but they left all the cosmetic stuff. “We decided not to polish this turd,” Shawn said. “We let her live in all her 50 years of hard-life and nearly-left-for-dead glory.” This included some brilliant bodywork by the forklift driver that had yanked the car out of the junkyard, giving it a few panel-mangling love taps along the way.
Underneath, the Tempest got some new suspension bits, a power-disc conversion up front, a Jeep Grand Cherokee quick-ratio steering box, a freshened rearend, and new black steel shoes and rubber. And finally, because the original inline-six was locked up for good, a 4.8-liter LS mill was deemed a good replacement. Just mate that up to a 4L60E and voilà, good to go. Right?
Maybe not. Shawn had a few challenges, including that poor impulse control we all know so well. “The factory exhaust manifolds wouldn’t fit without hitting the frame, so I started searching online,” he said. “I found some knockoff headers for only $199, and then by chance I looked at the ‘Customers Also Bought’ section and saw a $600 turbo kit. I should have stopped right at that point.”
Yeah, we’ve all been past that point. The three-month project ballooned out to about two years, but that’s totally cool if it means you end up with a turboed LS storm hiding in your Tempest teacup. Shawn got a lot of his turbo inspiration from sloppymechanics.com, and the snail in the Pontiac is a low-buck GT45 Denmah “AKA MATT SLOPPY MECH HAPPEL” Turbo Kit from VSracing.net. (Yes, that’s the actual part name—look it up.)
It was another couple months of turbo work before things started coming together. With the help of buddy Brandon Radloff, it took nearly 20 shipments of tubing, a TIG welder purchase, and subsequent TIG practice welding aluminum in order to get the custom cold- and hot-side pipes fabbed and squeezed between the hood and fender wells.
Making it fit is just part of the process. Like most car folk out there, the Joneses wanted to make sure the tops of the pistons and pretty much the rest of the engine stayed intact under boost—a reasonable desire. The realization that the GM mill might need a bit of inside lovin’ meant it had to come back out of its nest. “I took it all down, opened up my ring gaps, took a look at all the bearings—not too closely—installed new APR rod bolts, head studs, and new gaskets, and put her back in. I got it fired up around April … and then I realized I live in the South.”
If you don’t live in the South, let’s just say it gets warm in the summer and warmer still when you have a turbo motor jammed up against your legs. Sure, they could have only driven the Tempest at night, but to attain true daily drivability (it’s a scientific term) Shawn and Sara needed to be able to chill out on even the grossest, hottest, most humid Southern summer days. Unable to find any kind of A/C kit that suited, Shawn made his own out of T6 aluminum. Once it fit neatly inside the bay, he routed a swish Vintage Air number under the dashboard for maximum coolness.
The rest of the interior has aged gracefully, though the blue vinyl pews have been decked out in matching Mexican serape blankets picked up at a truck stop. The dash doesn’t really work, but an Amazon Fire tablet with a BAFX OBD/OBD2 interface app provides all the instrumentation they need.
With the build finally coming to a close only days before Hot Rod’s 2017 Power Tour, the set of chrome lug nuts—you gotta add at least some shine—were tightened up for the last time before pounding the pavement across the country with the rest of the PT17 devotees. That is when the fun began.
“After missing our exit near Davenport, [Iowa], we took a slight detour and ended up on a dirt service road leading to our hotel,” Shawn said. “As any red-blooded American would do, I gently slammed the throttle to the floor, slid her around the bend, and drove mostly sideways up the straightaway. After we came to a very dusty halt, Sara looked over at me. I was expecting an earful, but she just said ‘Get out, my turn to drive.’ ”
They ran into transmission problems the next day as they were leaving Davenport, forcing a pit stop at a parts store that soon swelled into a parking lot torque converter swap in 100 degree, 150 percent humidity conditions. Armed with only the most lightweight tool kit, a borrowed floor jack, and a passerby named Carl Duck, the crusty Poncho was back on the road by about 9 p.m. and continued strong for the entire Power Tour trip.
Never the pair to miss an opportunity to beat on the old girl, Shawn and Sara are happy to leave the Tempest pretty much as it is, take it out to events such as Power Tour or the Zip-Tie Drags (where we met them in Memphis), and enjoy the occasional photo op in a dirt- or water-covered environment. Other than that, it’s just a matter of arguing about who gets to drive it to work each morning. Maybe they need two.
When we first met Shawn, Sara, and the crusty Tempest at the Zip-Tie Drags in Memphis, Shawn had just finished up sneakily welding a trailer hitch to the rear of the car. Managing to stay under Sara’s radar the whole time, including loading tow bars and extra wheels in for the trip to Memphis International Raceway, Shawn conned Sara into stopping at an old VW repair shop under the guise of helping their friend pick up another car. Little did she know they would be leaving for home flat-towing a 1965 VW Beetle that Shawn had picked up for her.
“We proceeded to tow the little Beetle home, and it just so happened to match the Tempest patina perfectly,” he said. “We counted about 35 thumbs up from passersby. And one frown of disgust.”