One of the most-famous what-might-have-been tales in General Motors history is that of the 1964 Pontiac Banshee concept car. The stylishly aerodynamic and lightweight fiberglass sports car, code-named XP-833, was designed under the guidance of the visionary John Z. DeLorean, then head of the Pontiac division, as a modestly priced competitor to Ford’s wildly successful Mustang.
Although the Banshee was enthusiastically praised by the press and public, and was declared a go by DeLorean, internal GM politics – primarily fears from Chevrolet that it would cannibalize sales of the similar Corvette – doomed the car to the scrap heap of dead-end prototypes that would never reach production.
The one-of-a-kind 1964 Banshee concept coupe comes up for sale later this month at the Dragone Auction in Westport, Connecticut, held in conjunction with the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance weekend.
One of two survivors of the first-generation Banshee concept, the other being a convertible version in the longtime care of the famed Joe Bortz collection in Chicago, the bright-silver coupe will be offered May 30 at Dragone’s exclusive collector-car auction, which assigned an estimated value of $600,000 to $650,000 to the car.
The Banshee may never have been produced, but it did have an impact on future GM products, notably the C3 Corvette (also influenced by Larry Shinoda’s 1965 Mako Shark II concept). The Banshee’s taillight clusters reappeared later on the production Firebird. And the Opel GT, introduced in 1968, seemed to take the Banshee concept and ran with it.
Using some of Pontiac’s touchstone elements of the era, such as independent rear suspension from the Tempest and the division’s spirited overhead-cam straight-six engine, the 2,200-pound Banshee is said to perform as well as it looks.
The Banshee is in all-original preserved condition with just 1,500 miles on its odometer, Dragone says. The red interior reportedly looks great, and power from the 165-horsepower engine is fed through a four-speed manual transmission.
Like so many GM concept cars, the Banshee coupe and convertible had been slated for the crusher after their auto-show careers, but a group of Pontiac insiders hid them away in shipping containers for nearly a decade. Then each was sold to members of the Pontiac design team who had created them.
The owner of the silver coupe kept it until his death, after which his survivors consigned the car for sale at Barrett-Jackson’s 2006 Scottsdale auction. The concept car was purchased by Pontiac collector and classic car dealer Len Napoli of Milford, Connecticut, for what seemed like a bargain price of $214,500, including buyer fees.
By then, concept cars had become hot commodities at collector-car auctions, which made the Banshee sale all the more surprising. Consider that at the same 2006 Barrett-Jackson, the 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special concept car sold for $3.3 million and the 1950 GM Futurliner tour bus reached $4.4 million, including auction fees. A year earlier at Barrett-Jackson, the 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 concept sold for $3 million.
Napoli said later that he was surprised at how little he had to pay for the Pontiac Banshee, which he views as an important piece of GM history. He has attempted to sell the car several times at auction but with no success. Last year, the car was advertised by Napoli on ClassicCars.com, where in July it served as the Pick of the Week and carried an asking price of $750,000.
Len Napoli confirmed Monday that his business, Napoli Classics, still owns the Banshee and has consigned it for the upcoming Dragone sale, which he noted is just down the road from his showroom.
For more information about the sale, see the Dragone Auction website.