Everyone has a different reason for making the decision to get into the sport of drag racing — some of us are born into the sport, while others will find their way into drag racing because they needed a different way to get their racing fix. Longtime racer Dave Hoover got into drag racing because he loves cars and going fast. And his ultra-clean 1964 Pontiac Tempest could be the perfect street/strip car.
Dave grew up during the golden age of the automobile when everything about cars was still fresh and new. The youth of the era were enamored with the freedom an automobile could provide and opportunities that came with it, too. When the time came for Dave to get a car of his own, he jumped at the chance and hasn’t looked back.
“My first car was a Hudson Hornet — that got me into cars and I was fascinated from that time forward. I appreciate the ingenuity and what goes into creating a racecar or even a family car. People don’t realize all the things they have today were engineered through some form of racing. I’m addicted to them and I wish more kids would get into them these days. I just love cars and going fast,” Dave says.
Another incredible period Dave got to enjoy was the Muscle Car era of the 1960s and 1970s. During those years the “big three” were stuffing high-performance engines into every chassis they could and dumping loads of cash into racing programs to earn customers. Dave was in the thick of all the action and that’s where he got his first taste of drag racing, courtesy of GM horsepower.
“The first car that got me into racing was my 1969 Buick Grand Sport. I worked at a facility that made railroad cars and my boss would let me go early on afternoon shifts so I could race. That car was pretty fast for the time and I had a lot of fun racing it when I could. Eventually, I got married and had kids so all of the racing had to get put on the back burner so we could raise a family,” Dave explains.
The fact that it’s a rare car and the history of it is why I ended up getting it. These were the first muscle cars, to a certain degree.
Anybody who enjoys racing knows that no matter how hard you try, it’s hard to quit the sport entirely. You might have to spend a few years or even a few decades away, but when a racer gets the chance to return they pounce on the opportunity. For Dave, when the time came he began the search for a new car to modify, but things didn’t start out as planned.
“I went to a GoodGuys show in Columbus, Ohio to find a car but everything was out of my price range. At a local gas station, I picked up an Autotrader and found this car for sale in Wooster, Ohio. I went to see the guy who was selling it and he said there were 30 people who called about it but none of them showed up. I ended up buying it at a very fair price of $7,500 and I’ve been having a blast with it ever since,” Dave says.
Why a Pontiac over another Buick, you might ask? The answer to that question lies in what this car represents in the history of performance cars.
“The fact that it’s a rare car and the history of it is why I ended up getting it. These were the first muscle cars to a certain degree. I left the Tempest emblem on the back and added the GTO to the front. It has the bench seat of a GTO with a column shift. People love the fact that I have kept it all-Pontiac and race it as much as I do,” Dave explains.
When Dave got the Pontiac it was just a nice weekend cruiser with a Detroit Warriors-built poncho powerplant under the hood. During his time away from the track a lot had changed but that didn’t deter Dave in the least. He jumped right back into the racing world with both feet to learn as much as he could at an expedited pace.
“For the last 10 years, I’ve gotten back into racing pretty hardcore and been playing catch up with everything that’s changed. There’s so much to learn between the new parts, weight transfer, and modifying the chassis that’s different than when I used to race. It keeps me busy, it keeps me young, and keeps me from going to go to the doctor all the time because I’m too busy to get sick,” Dave explains.
After Dave took possession of the Tempest he began to upgrade the car to meet his vision. The goal was to build a car that was reliable and easy to work on without pushing the selected parts outside of their operating abilities. An 8.50 E.T. certified rollcage was added to the chassis along with a new rear suspension that featured a Moser rearend and a new front suspension with aftermarket control arms. Providing the Pontiac power is a 474 cubic-inch engine with Edelbrock cylinder heads that’s backed by a Rossler-built transmission. To suck fuel from the 16-gallon fuel cell, Dave selected an Aeromotive fuel pump.
Dave isn’t afraid to put some laps on his Tempest at the track — he travels all over the Midwest to any track he can to get his racing fix. Dave has been to different nostalgia events at Milan Dragway in Michigan, Summit Motorsports Park in Ohio, and Lucas Oil Raceway in Indiana. Besides the nostalgia racing, Dave loves getting the shoe polish out to slap a dial-in on the Pontiac for some bracket racing action.
“For the past few years, I’ve been doing a lot of bracket racing. It’s hard to get a win so any time I do I’m very appreciative of it. Now I’m starting to look at getting into some heads-up racing with the car. I like any kind of racing, whatever is available that day, I’ll do it. I just check the weather to see where it’s looking good and head to a track in that direction to race. I go where the weather is nice and the people are great so I can have a good time. If I could race seven days a week and my car stayed together I would totally do that,” Dave says.
If I could race seven days a week and my car stayed together I would totally do that.
Dave’s Tempest, despite its racey looks, is still very much a street car. Having the ability to take the car out for ice cream in his hometown of Lima, Ohio was part of the plan from the start. The only time the Tempest sees a trailer is when it’s going on a very long trip, to be raced of course.
“Prior to going to Lights Out 10 I participated in the 2018 edition of Drag Week and had an absolute blast. I’ve done two complete Drag Weeks and plan on doing a third in 2019. It’s fun to just jump in the car and drive it on the tour while racing with some amazing people during the week. I take my car to car shows, I take it cruising, so it sees a lot of street action. I even drove the car all way to Clay City, Kentucky from my home in Ohio to race the car at an event,” Dave explains.
Part of what makes the Tempest see so much street driving is the combination that Dave has put into the car. That makes it enjoyable to drive and race for him so he has no problem putting in the miles or passes whenever he can.
“The car is actually very easy to drive on the street for me and is comfortable to ride in. When I take it to the track it goes straight as an arrow and doesn’t do anything strange. It feels like you’re driving down the freeway when you’re racing it down the track,” Dave says.
With the current combination, Dave has run a personal best of 10.41 at 132 mph in the 1/4-mile and in the mid 6-second range in the 1/8-mile. That will be changing soon, since he has been busy making some big changes to his Pontiac this winter.
“Right now I’m finishing up some upgrades to the car. I’ve added a Vortech YSI supercharger and a blow-through carburetor to the engine. I’m still keeping everything Pontiac and it will still be a street car. The supercharger should make it a lot of fun to drive this year. I think it will be making at least 900 horsepower on pump gas so that will be a big step up. Who knows, I might need a parachute to get this thing stopped,” Dave explains.
Dave Hoover’s Tempest is one of the more balanced street-driven race cars you’ll ever see. By creating a car that matched his goals, Dave is able to enjoy driving his Pontiac on the street while still having plenty of power to make fast passes at the track. It just goes to show that if you really want to spend time at the track you’ll find a way to make it happen.