The Pontiac Banshee: Killed By America’s Sports Car

Banshee 02The Corvette has a reputation for being highly competitive. From the get-go, it began establishing its legacy as not only a venerable sports car but as America’s favorite sports car. It was Chevy’s golden child – designed and developed to be on a level all its own, both in performance and soul. Both Chevy and GM felt strong about this; so much so, in fact, that it even pulled the plug on some of its concepts to keep the spotlight on the Corvette.

Banshee 01The early ’60s saw a general rise of interest in the two-door, two-passenger sports car market – which happened to be the Corvette’s territory.

“Idea cars” began to emerge, such as Chrysler’s XNR in 1960 and the Mustang I concept in 1962, which threatened to spawn serious competition for the Corvette. Shortly after, Pontiac joined the running as well.

In 1963, head of Pontiac Motor Division John DeLorean gave the thumbs-up for the development of the XP-883 concept.

Funding was approved, and it was off to the drawing board. The concept was nicknamed the “Banshee I”, and would be the first of four total “Banshee” concept models.

For the body styling, DeLorean and his team drew direct inspiration from the ’63 Corvair Monza GT show car. Along with the borrowed physical features, the Banshee also received much the same spirit as the Corvair. It was designed to be a unique and affordable sports car, focused on offering a fantastic driving experience.

And, had it ever reached production, it would’ve done just that. Two working, drivable prototypes were hand-built, each demonstrating the potential of the Banshee. The first prototype was a fiberglass coupe, painted metallic silver and given a vibrant red interior. The car weighed in at roughly 2,200 pounds and sported a straight six-cylinder engine with a four-speed automatic transmission.

The second prototype was intended to show off a bit more. It was a pearlescent white, two-passenger, convertible roadster, with a 326-cubic inch V8 under the hood. Performance-wise, this V8 Pontiac concept was capable of outmatching the Corvette of the time by offering the same power in a smaller, more nimble package and with a lower price tag. Hence, Chevy’s fear of the Banshee.

Banshee 07Both GM and Chevy alike felt threatened by the car, suspecting that it would mar both the Corvette’s sales and reputation. Thanks to the upcoming Mustang, as well as other imminent sports coupes, GM and Chevy were already feeling the pressure from rising competition.

So, sensing that the Corvette’s title as America’s sports car was in danger, GM pulled the plug on the XP-883 altogether.

At the time all of this was taking place, the C3 Corvette was also in the works. And as if GM terminating one of Pontiac’s potential home runs wasn’t ironic enough, the corporation then commandeered the Banshee designs for use on the next generation of Corvette.

Recognizing the worthiness of DeLorean’s concept, GM gave the order to revise the designs to constitute a new generation of the Corvette. The Banshee ended up becoming the very car it was forbidden to compete against.

From left to right: the Banshee II, III, and IV concepts.

As for the two prototypes – both were tucked away in storage for years and still exist to this day. They have been flawlessly preserved and are in practically the same state as when they were pitched to GM officials.

The coupe and roadster alike exist as timeless artifacts in a collection of classic concepts and show cars, touring various shows and auctions. They appear at auctions around the 300,000 dollar range.

Though the first Banshee was killed only a short time after its birth, the Banshee concept line would carry on to generate other Pontiac models, such as the Fiero and the fourth-generation Firebird. And, epitomizing how influential the Banshees’ designs were, they even reached as far out as to influence the fourth-generation Chevy Camaro.Banshee 08

About the author

Joshua Phillips

Josh has always been captivated by cars, from legendary classics and late-model American muscle, to European supercars. is passionate about discovering ways to tune the internal combustion engine, and to make it stronger, and push its limits. Born and raised in Southern California, some of Josh's fondest memories were made in a garage with his grandfather. He also has a passion for motorcycles and enjoys spending weekends hunting for the best roads.
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