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Last Remaining Pontiac Banshee “Mustang Fighter” Prototype Up for Auction

There’s An Incredible Pontiac Banshee For Sale…

Updated September 27, 2018

Shockwaves ripped thru GM in ’64 with the launch of the Mustang. The Pontiac Banshee was to have been a Mustang fighter but never got its chance to get in the ring.

Can you imagine  the reaction when General Motors learned that Ford had taken orders for 22,000 Mustangs on the first day it went on sale, and went on to sell 417,000 the first year? This was a market that GM needed to enter and quickly.

Pontiac Banshee 1

One candidate was the Pontiac Banshee, given the GM code name XP-833. If a long hood and a short rear deck made Mustang a hit, then the Banshee would go even further in that styling direction. While from some angles it may look like the C3 Corvette and its inspiration the 1965 Mako Shark II concept car, the Banshee predated them both.

Unlike so many concept cars, Banshee number one was saved and is in literally the same condition as when it was built in 1964 for the 1965 show circuit. And you have the opportunity to bid on the car at the Dragone Auction in Greenwich, CT on Saturday, May 30. The auctioneers expect the car to sell for as much as $650,000.

Pontiac Banshee 2

Now back to our story: There couldn’t have been a better place for the Banshee to germinate than Pontiac’s Advanced Engineering department, reporting to Pontiac Motor Division Head John DeLorean. The son of poor immigrants, DeLorean had a rags to riches backstory as well as a keen engineering mind and a salesman’s charisma.

There were actually four Banshees constructed, the first of which is our subject here. The second car is the only other that remains in existence. Construction of the Banshee was unique: the body was welded to its steel frame, creating an extremely rigid chassis. As it was to be a running demonstrator, every knob, switch, and light bulb was sourced from the GM parts pin, especially components from the  Tempest and Corvair; seat belts display a Cadillac crest.

Pontiac Banshee 3

Power for the Banshee comes from Pontiac’s overhead cam inline six, which is a great story by itself. While Buick struggled with its aluminum V-8 and Chevrolet with the air-cooled Corvair, DeLorean took the Chevy straight six, made a few mods, topped it with a SOHC cylinder head and drove it with a glass fiber-reinforced cogged rubber belt instead of chains and gears. This simple update made the engine high tech at low risk and lower investment than the Corvair or Buick.

Pontiac Banshee 4

Despite have to cobble the interior together from mismatched  parts, DeLorean’s team created a stunning cockpit with red leather featuring bucket seats and an aircraft inspired dashboard with an array of gauges mounted in the center.

In the end GM’s answer to the Mustang turned out to be the Camaro and Pontiac was assigned its platform as the Firebird. The Banshee never made it into production for several reasons, not the least of which was concern on the part of Chairman Ed Cole that it would steal sales from his beloved Chevrolet Corvette. The Banshee was 500 lbs. lighter than the Corvette, and the Pontiac SOHC would eventually develop 230 HP versus Corvette’s base 300 HP, so in reality the performance may have been closer than many at GM may have liked. And that spelled the end for the Banshee.

 

 

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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