In 1964 a car was developed under the watchful eye of John DeLorean, then the head of the Pontiac division at GM. It was codenamed XP-833 then later renamed the Pontiac Banshee – it was developed as a “Mustang Fighter.”
The XP-833 was designed to outperform the new and wildly successful Mustang in no uncertain terms. Unfortunately, it would also have outperformed the Chevrolet Corvette and as a result GM guillotined the project, but not before using it as an inspiration for the 1968 C3 Corvette.
Fast Facts – The Pontiac Banshee Prototype XP-833
- The Pontiac Banshee, originally codenamed the XP-833, was a project developed in 1964 as a direct answer to the then-new Ford Mustang. The Mustang’s skyrocketing sales had taken everyone by surprise, including Ford, and the other major American automakers were all hard at work on competitors for it.
- The XP-833 was the first of four Banshee concept cars developed by Pontiac between 1964 and 1988. They were similar in theme to the futuristic General Motors Firebird concept cars of the 1950s, that had showcased styling and technology that occasionally made it onto GM production cars.
- The XP-833 was developed in a few different versions including a hardtop coupe, a convertible, and a four-door. Two driving prototypes were made, each with a steel chassis, a fiberglass body, and either an inline-six or a V8 engine.
- Just one of the two prototypes survives today, it’s the car you see pictured in this article. After the XP-833 project was cancelled due to GM fears of it cannibalizing sales of the Corvette, one of the cars was sold off to a GM employee who kept it for the rest of his life.
Building The Banshee
The project to build the Banshee was started in somewhat of a rush, Pontiac needed an answer to the then-new Ford Mustang, and it needed it fast. The Mustang was breaking sales records across the country, taking everyone by surprise including Ford themselves.
The styling of the XP-833 was first laid down on paper, then full scale clay models were made. The car’s sweeping lines were stunningly beautiful, and thanks to head of Pontiac Division John DeLorean overseeing the project, the performance of the car was planned to be exceptional.
A number of different versions of the car were designed and built including a two-door hardtop, a two-door convertible, and a four-door car. Just two driving examples were built – a silver coupe powered by an inline-six and a white convertible powered by a V8.
The performance of these cars, particularly the V8 version, became a major worry for GM executives. The V8 was significantly lighter than the then-current C2 Corvette and it was powered by an equally powerful engine – as a result it was notably faster.
There was concern about the XP-833 cannibalizing Corvette sales, probably well-warranted, and as a result the project was cancelled. This wouldn’t be the end for the car though, a year later in 1965 the Mako Shark II (XP-830) concept car made its debut at the Paris Motor Show and it seems clear that many of its styling cues came directly from the XP-833 Banshee.
Above Video: This amateur YouTube video shows the Pontiac Banshee at a car show in 2019. There’s very little footage of this car available, hopefully the new owner will put that right.
The Mako Shark II would become the C3 Corvette which was released in 1968, and so in some small way the XP-833 Banshee, or styling elements of it at least, did make it into production in the end.
The Opel GT should also get an honorable mention here, the European sports car from General Motors division Opel has styling that’s also very close to the Banshee.
The Pontiac Banshee XP-833: Specifications
As a division of General Motors, Pontiac had access to the engineers behind the Chevrolet Corvette – a car famous for its lightweight fiberglass body.
It was decided to use a similar layout for the XP-833 Banshee with a steel chassis, a fiberglass body, independent front suspension, a live axle rear end, front disc brakes, rear drums, and a front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels.
Both inline-six and V8 engines were offered, both sourced from the General Motors pool of engines. These engines were paired with manual transmissions, they were intended as sports cars after all, and sports-tuned suspension to take on the Mustang.
The weight of the V8 version of the Banshee was approximately 2,862 lbs – 500 lbs less than the comparable C2 Corvette. Performance was brisk to say the very least, in fact it was fast enough to get itself cancelled – much to the chagrin of John DeLorean who had high hopes for the model.
Of the two driving prototypes just the six-cylinder car survives today. Interestingly, the six-cylinder engine was planned to be a relatively advanced design for the time, it started life as Chevrolet six-cylinder that was redeveloped by DeLorean’s Pontiac engineers.
This newly uprated engine was given a single overhead cam design and a cross-flow cylinder head for better breathing. A fiberglass-reinforced toothed timing belt was used to turn the cam, one of the first applications of this in a car.
The engine was also given a performance cam and a four-barrel carburetor creating what Pontiac called “Spirit” tune, which offered drivers 215 bhp. Sadly only a detuned version of this engine remained and was used in the Banshee, making a less entertaining 155 bhp.
The 1964 Pontiac Banshee Shown Here
The car you see here is currently being offered for sale for the not-insignificant sum of $1.2 million USD. That may seem steep to some but this is the last surviving Pontiac Banshee XP-833, making it one of the most collectible American concept cars of its age.
As the story goes, both of the driving Banshee prototypes were destined for the crusher however one GM employee managed to talk his way into buying the car you see here. Sadly, the V8 version of the XP-833 wasn’t so lucky.
Interestingly the new owner put fewer than 1,500 miles on the car, mostly just taking it to shows. He kept the vehicle for the rest of his life and after passing away in 2006 his family offered it for sale for the first time.
The car is now being offered for sale once again, this time by Napoli Classics out of Milford, Connecticut. If you’d like to read more about it or enquire about buying it you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Napoli Classics
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