Pontiac Banshee

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The Pontiac Banshee is a line of concept cars designed by Pontiac. Beginning in 1964 they assumed the role previously established by General Motors' Firebirds of the 1950s. Four Banshee "dream cars" were fabricated through 1988 as design exercises intended to establish exterior and interior themes that could be modified for production versions of Pontiac sports and performance cars.

Banshee I[edit]

In 1964 Pontiac unveiled their newest concept car, which they dubbed the Banshee. During its development it was called the XP-833 project. This car was a small two-seater with a long, sweeping hood and a short rear deck. Several different versions were constructed, but only two drivable prototypes were ever built. One was a silver hardtop with a straight six engine and the other is a white convertible with a V-8.[1] Both survive today and are in the hands of private collectors. The silver hardtop version of the Banshee can be seen in the classic car section of Napoli Indoor Auto, In Milford, CT.

The styling on these cars is highly reminiscent of what appeared on third-generation Chevrolet Corvettes in 1968. Another styling cue that made production was the design of the taillights, which are nearly identical to that found on first-generation Pontiac Firebirds. Indeed, the high performance and sensuous styling of the Banshee may have led to its demise. Head of Pontiac John DeLorean called this car the "Mustang Fighter" and rumor has it he fully intended to bring it to production. However, his bosses at GM felt that it would be a threat to the Corvette, cannibalizing its sales, and (if DeLorean had his way) outperforming it as well.

This did not sit well with GM execs who had marketed the Corvette as their top performer; even today, recent models such as the Camaro and Firebird - even though using the same engine as Corvette - have those engines de-tuned slightly so they will not have as high a horsepower rating as a Corvette. The Banshee would have had equivalent horsepower, yet weighed 500 lb (227 kg) less than the Corvette and so would have been a potent package. It was able to reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in second gear. GM executives instructed DeLorean to cease further development in 1964. In a move loaded with irony, a memo to GM's head of design, Bill Mitchell, dated September 10, 1965, instructed Mitchell to have his staff update the XP-833 exterior clay and interior bucks “reflecting a Chevrolet design for the two-passenger version coupe." And so it was that the XP-833 project was revised to become the C3 Corvette against which it had been forbidden from competing.

Banshee II[edit]

Made in 1968, the Banshee II was the second in the Banshee series.[2]

The 1968 Pontiac Banshee II had aerodynamic fiberglass skins over stock Firebird inner panels and a near stock black interior.

In 1969, the Banshee II was modified with white paint and graphics, including a decal on the nose. It was then re-christened the Firebird Fiero.

It had flush wheel covers, a deep louvered hood, cut down glass, brake cooling vents, minimal ground clearance, and separate headrests for the passengers and the driver. It was powered by a 400 C.I.D. V8 engine.[3]

Banshee III[edit]

Made in 1974, the Banshee III was the third in the Banshee series. The front end bears some similarities to the later Trans-Ams.[4]

The 1974 Pontiac Banshee III was developed from the Pontiac Firebird platform with a long sloping front end and more aerodynamic rear styling. The front was a smooth blend of bumper sheet metal and covered headlamps for improved aerodynamics. The soft face bumper system consisted of body color urethane over an energy absorbing foam base, and the quartz halogen rectangular headlamps had a three-beam system, low, freeway and high.

The side glass was fixed and flush to sheet metal for improved aerodynamics and reduced wind noise, and an electrically operated access panel or toll window, was provided in the fixed side glass design.

The interior had red leather upholstery. The trunk can be accessed by a hatch, that the rear seats can be folded for additional luggage space and the seat harness system was anchored in the structural seat. A 455 CID Super Duty V8 Pontiac engine powered it.

The metallic maroon Banshee III made its public debut in 1974. It had four slit style taillights, but these became twenty “high-tech, round-hole” taillights when it was updated in 1976.[5]

Banshee IV[edit]

Pontiac Banshee parked outside the Dayton airport hotel, mid 90's.

Known within GM as the "Banshee IV", this car was unveiled in 1988 [6] the two-door, four-seater Banshee IV had a sleek and sensuous futuristic design. Its fiberglass body was painted bright red, while its triangular hood was matte black. A 230 horsepower fuel-injected, single overhead cam V8 engine powered the rear wheels. A heads-up display system (HUD) projected information about speed, engine RPM, and fuel level on the windshield in the driver's field of vision. The dashboard featured video displays and numerous buttons; the steering wheel alone contained about twenty. The dual rear wings were also adjustable. Like its predecessors, it was intended to establish exterior and interior design themes that would be modified for the production version of the Pontiac Firebird. The Banshee IV successfully influenced the overall appearance for the fourth generation of the Firebird, as well as extending to the fourth generation of the Chevrolet Camaro. It was 201" long.[7]

The Banshee in the media[edit]

  • The March 1989 issue of Motor Trend magazine included a three-page article describing the Banshee IV.
  • A vehicle heavily modeled after the Banshee IV appeared as the "Knight Industries 4000" in Knight Rider 2000 (1991) sequel TV movie, although a customized 1991 Dodge Stealth ES was actually used.
  • Revell released a 1:25 scale plastic model kit of the Banshee IV.
  • Hot Wheels released several variations of their die-cast 1:64 scale model of the Banshee IV.
  • The Banshee IV can be seen in the 1989 movie Back to the Future Part II.
  • The Banshee IV is featured briefly in the 1993 movie Demolition Man with several other GM concept cars.
  • The FZR 2000 in Need For Speed 2 SE, the fastest car in the game, was modelled after The Banshee IV.


  1. ^ - Hotrod.com's Banshee Article (by: Jeff Koch) (2006) Hotrod.com.
  2. ^ "1968 Pontiac Banshee II". Carstyling.ru. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  3. ^ "1968 Pontiac Banshee II Concept - Generations of GM". Wiki.gmnext.com. 2009-11-18. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  4. ^ "1974 Pontiac Banshee III". Carstyling.ru. 2007-07-02. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  5. ^ "1974 Pontiac Banshee III Concept - Generations of GM". Wiki.gmnext.com. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  6. ^ "1988 Banshee Article (by". NetCarShow. 2011-11-16. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  7. ^ "1988 Pontiac Banshee Concept performance data, specs & photo". Automobile-catalog.com. Retrieved 2011-11-20.