The 1964 Pontiac Banshee coupe, a one-of-a-kind General Motors prototype, is our Pick of the Week as it makes an unprecedented appearance among the ads on ClassicCars.com.
The Banshee was created under the guidance of John Z. DeLorean, then-head of the Pontiac Division, to go up against Ford’s new Mustang. Two working prototypes, a coupe and convertible, were built by Pontiac’s in-house designers and engineers, boasting sleek aerodynamic fiberglass bodies that were futuristic and highly original.
Codenamed XP-833, the prototypes awed when they were unveiled in 1964. But the small two seaters with their long hoods and short rear decks were immediately seen by GM bean counters as unwelcomed competition for the Chevrolet Corvette, the automaker’s halo sports car, and DeLorean was ordered to pull the plug on the project.
GM also ordered that both prototypes be destroyed, as was the normal procedure in those days, but the Banshees were too cool to die. Instead of scrapping them, the Pontiac people hid them away in shipping containers. Eventually, they were sold to members of the division who had taken part in creating the prototypes. Both cars still exist today.
Although it was never produced, the Banshee did seem to have a strong impact on future GM products, such as the C3 Corvette. Later editions of the Pontiac Firebird also show styling cues from the Banshee, as did the Opel GT.
The Banshee coupe was soon sold to a new owner who kept the car until his death. In 2006, it was consigned by his family to Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction. The car was purchased by Pontiac collector and classic car dealer Len Napoli of Milford, Connecticut, for what then seemed like a shocking bargain price of $214,500, including buyer fees.
Shocking because at the same sale, the 1954 Pontiac Bonneville concept car sold for $3.3 million and the 1950 GM Futurliner tour bus reached $4.4 million. A year earlier at Barrett-Jackson, the 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 concept sold for $3 million. Napoli said later that he viewed the Pontiac Banshee prototype coupe as just as important a piece of GM history, and was surprised that he had gotten it for so little.
Napoli has offered the Banshee coupe several times in the past, and now has it for sale on ClassicCars.com for $750,000. That’s certainly unaffordable for most people, but it still seems like a relative bargain for a unique and attractive GM prototype considering what such cars go for these days at auction.
The Banshee is in pristine all-original condition with less than 1,500 miles on its odometer, according to Napoli Classics. Silver with a red interior, the Banshee coupe is powered by a straight-six (in attempted deference to Corvette’s performance image) and four-speed manual transmission. The 165-horsepower rating should be plenty for the Banshee, which weighs only around 2,200 pounds.