The Sporty Pontiac Monte Carlo Concept Car We Wish Made Production

In 1959 and 1960, many American automakers released a "compact car" in some form or fashion in order to take on the jolly German (Volkswagen) giant and its wildly popular Beetle. In 1961, Pontiac popped out the Tempest, which had a unique flexible driveshaft (aka the "rope-drive").

However, none of those cars came with a convertible option, something Bill Mitchell (GM's styling department director) took to heart. Thus was born the "Monte Carlo," internally known as project code "XP-741." One might say it was Pontiac's own version of a tempest in a teapot.

The Monte Carlo started life as a '61 Tempest with the standard Y-body utilized in several other General Motors cars of the time (think Buick Skylark, Olds Cutlass, Pontiac Le Mans, etc.). Then GM proceeded to lop off about a foot of wheelbase length in order to make it a two-seat roadster. It was just the start of many changes for the Monte Carlo, a name that wouldn't be used again until 1970.

The two-door concept convertible cruised the auto show circuit (including Chicago) in 1961 and 1962 (via Mac's Motor City Garage). It featured a wraparound plastic windscreen that stopped just above the steering wheel. It was so stubby that the driver's head stuck a good six inches above the top edge. A fiberglass tonneau (hiding the convertible top) behind the seats featured dual aerodynamic racing "bubbles" that swept back towards the car's rear.

This Monte Carlo concept was oh so tempting

A pearlescent white paint job with double blue racing stripes wrapped the body, and Halibrand wheels tied together the Pontiac's race-inspired look.

Many of the Monte Carlo's features were experimental and custom-made, including "stainless steel cove moldings," an instrument cluster with competition gauges, dark blue bucket seats, and a wood-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel. Even the inner headlights were reported to be forerunners of long-distance Xenon lamps. The show car was said to have a ready-to-race modified, slant-four Tempest powerplant with a supercharger mated to the Tempest's stock four-speed manual.

So, why do these two cars look so different? After it logged its final mile on the show circuit, it was stripped of its street racing credentials and converted into an everyday driver.

The squat windscreen was replaced with a full-sized windshield (complete with wipers), the Halibrands got swapped out for chrome spoked wheels and whitewall tires, and an "all-weather" soft top was installed. And the final dagger? An aluminum 215ci BOP V8 replaced the souped-up heart of the former beast. When the transformation was complete, the tamed Tempest was used by Edward Cole, President of General Motors, who eventually passed it on to his son. It later sat in a museum in San Antonio, Texas (via Huntington Ridge Motors).

According to data provided by Huntington Ridge Motors, the Monte Carlo cost GM $250,000 to make (equivalent to $2 million as of this writing). It was sold in a 2007 Barret-Jackson auction for $40,700 and may again be up for sale.