Saturday, July 28, 2012

1964 Pontiac Banshee
Cars That Were Never Made #7
GM executives saw this sports 
car as a threat to the Corvette

And rightly so...

The early 60s were an exciting, heady time for car manufactures and consumers. The muscle car - as well as lightweight track cars - were being born left and right.

In 1964, John DeLorean was much more than just a designer of the Back to the Future car, absconder of Irish hope and unrepentant coke dealer...he was Pontiac's genius, their wonder boy. 

You see, DeLorean had many, many hare-brained schemes swimming around in his head that didn't work.

But occasionally, he had one that did.

Yes, DeLorean was indeed a maverick, but as you will see with the Banshee, he certainly knew his onions.

1964 Pontiac Banshee

DeLorean was the man behind Pontiac, and their ever-increasing line of balls-to-the-wall muscle cars that were aimed to crush the Mustang under their heel. 

He came up with the GTO and the Firebird. The engine of the Trans Am and the Firebird - to this day - are still de-tuned so they don't steal sales from the heavily-marketed Corvette.

On to the Banshee...

If you thought at first you were looking at photos of a Corvette, that is perfectly understandable. 

The Banshee was originally designed to be a stepping stone between the Camaro and the Corvette. Unfortunately for us, it was little too good at what it did.

The Banshee prototype weighed 500 lbs. less than a Vette, but was equipped with the same engine. 

GM had a lot of money invested in the Generation 1 and Gen 2 Corvette, and GM execs didn't want DeLorean screwing that up with his project XP-833....the Banshee. 

The sweeping hood and short rear deck of the prototype screamed speed. The fiberglass body was joined to a steel sub-frame in such a way to drastically reduce weight. 

And at 2,200 lbs., the Banshee put the Generation 2 Corvette to shame. Whether powered by the Chevy straight-six or the small-block V-8, the car was a speed demon. 

GM execs took one look, rubbed their hands slyly, and ordered DeLorean to cease work on the Banshee.

1964 Corvette

But, you can't really blame DeLorean for trying.  The man seemed to possess an uncanny view of what cars the American public would be yammering for a few years down the road. 

A two-second glance at the 1968 Stringray Corvette is proof of that.

It is obvious, now, that the Generation 3 Corvette borrowed heavily from Delorean's did the 68-69 Firebird.

1968 Corvette

It doesn't matter. 

During the Space Race of the mid-60s, the entire country had their eyes on America's first men to go to the moon - as well as what they drove. 

And the Stingray was a NASA astronaut's car of choice. It was a true American icon, and pretty much sealed the fate of the Banshee.

The Banshee would go on to influence the GM design bureau for decades. A shame, really...but that's how it works out sometimes. 

You see it all the time in radical aircraft design. 

A bunch of money is sunk into somebody's vision for the future - take the B-70 Valkyrie for instance - and watch that idea reappear a couple of years down the road as something the case of the Valkyrie, it became the Concord SST.

The Banshee strikes a special cord with me, and not just because of its good looks. 

I'm just a plain, old Pontiac fan. From the GTO Judge to the Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am - I really admire the brand. 

I tell everyone that my first car was a 240Z, which is partly true. The first car I ever drove on public streets was a 240, but my first car was actually a 1974 Pontiac Le Mans with the 400 big-block. I got it when I was 14, and fiddled with it for years before selling it.

Today, there are only two running example of the Banshee - both of which are in private hands. 

One of them sold at auction in 2001 for a cool half there are evidently other motorheads that think this is a significant car to collect.

Personally, I'm not a fan of the Generation 3 Corvette, which has its roots in the Banshee. 

I think the Banshee is far better looking, and screw GM for not knowing a good thing when they see it.

No comments: