Pick of the Week: 1964 Pontiac Banshee prototype

The unique 1964 Pontiac Banshee never got past the prototype stage | Napoli Classics
The unique 1964 Pontiac Banshee never got past the prototype stage | Napoli Classics

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.

The Banshee coupe was saved from the scrapyard | Barrett-Jackson
The Banshee coupe was saved from the scrapyard | Barrett-Jackson

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.

Banshee design influenced later GM cars | Barrett-Jackson
Banshee design influenced later GM cars | Barrett-Jackson

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.

Future classic: Pontiac Firebird’s final years

The 2002 Trans Am Collector Edition has shown rising values at auction. (Photo: Barrett-Jackson)
The 2002 Trans Am Collector Edition has shown rising values at auction. (Photo: Barrett-Jackson)


The final four years of the Pontiac Firebird also marked the last gasp of the classic muscle-car era that started in the 1960s. Like its corporate cousin of Chevy Camaro, the Firebird rode the ups and downs of the horsepower wars with boundless enthusiasm.

The last of the fourth generation of Firebirds that were introduced in 1993, the 1998 models received an expressive front-end restyling and honeycomb taillights that continued through the end of the line. A bit over the top for some, but spot on for others.

The 1998-2002 Firebirds managed to up the ante in performance despite strangling environmental restrictions and a young driving public whose attention was turning elsewhere. Formula and Trans Am models were treated to the latest Corvette LS1 small-block V8 along with an aluminum driveshaft and dual-piston front-brake calipers.

A menacing black 2001 Trans Am with the WS6 package. (Photo: General Motors)
A menacing black 2001 Trans Am WS6. (Photo: General Motors)

In standard trim, the V8 package cranked out 310 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque. But those in the know ordered their Firebirds with the high-performance WS6 Ram Air option that boosted horsepower to 325 and torque to 350 pound-feet. Plus, it added the most audacious quartet of hood scoops ever seen on a production car

In glossy black and with its massive rear spoiler that looked like the turned-up collar of an automotive Dracula, they have a bulging presence that’s hard to ignore.

The Trans Am WS6 cars from 1998-2002 already have shown strength at collector-car auctions, and their values should rise as overall interest in Detroit muscle comes roaring back after the market collapse of 2008. Witness the recent gains of Trans Ams from the “Smokey and the Bandit” days.

Non-WS6 Firebirds from the final years have languished, most becoming just used-up old cars or falling prey to extreme customizing efforts. In great original condition, they should see some upside in the future. Those equipped with the Hurst-shifter six-speed manuals are favored over the automatic versions.

High-quality Trans Ams in standard trim could see rising values. (Photo: General Motors)
High-quality Trans Ams in standard trim could see future gains. (Photo: General Motors)

A 205-horsepower V6 was also available for lesser Firebirds, but those values are expected to lag accordingly.

The last hurrah for the Pontiac Firebird was the 2002 Collector Edition Trans Am – known as CETA to their fans – with all of the coupes and convertibles equipped with the WS6 package and painted an aggressive shade of bright yellow. A relatively toned-down rendition of the emblematic “screaming chicken” motif from earlier years flows over the hood and onto the flanks. These attention grabbers have done fairly well at auction, with sales reaching the mid-30s at Barrett-Jackson sales.

For the final 2002 model year, all WS6-equipped Firebirds were produced in fairly high numbers, which does affect their values. Many of them were squirreled away with low miles by those expecting a big return in the future for the last-year performance Firebirds.

In terms of rarity, only a limited number of WS6 coupes and convertibles – something in the order of around 250 – were produced during the 1998 model year, and these are becoming noticed by collectors.

My Classic Car: Grandmother would like Gary Loar’s ’54 Pontiac

Photos courtesy of Gary Loar
Photos courtesy of Gary Loar

I have owned this car, a 1954 Pontiac Chieftain Deluxe, for 20 years. I got the car to save her from the previous owner, who could not afford to restore the car and it was just sitting and deteriorating more and more.

Why this car? Because my grandmother had a ’54 Star Chief convertible, so I wanted one for many years. This is the only ’54 I could find at the time, but then good luck finding a convertible.

It took about one year to complete the restoration, which was done with the help of friends in the Pontiac Oakland Club International, the Antique Automobile Club of America and other friends who own classic cars.

We took the car down to bare metal, rebuilt the engine and transmission. I don’t think there was a bolt or screw that wasn’t turned.

Now, this car is just wonderful to drive.

The car made its “debut” in June of 1994 at a national car meet in New Hope, Pa.

I drive it to and from local car shows, though lately I’ve been trailering it to long-distant shows, though I have driven the car as far west as Indianapolis and as far east at Cape Cod.

I think my grandmother would be pleased.