Ask anyone to make a list of the most iconic cars of all time, and the Ford Mustang is going to be somewhere near the top. A hit since it debuted in 1964 and instantly recognizable even to people who don’t know a V8 from an I4, the Mustang continues to be one of the best-selling sports cars in the world to this day. The Pontiac Banshee, on the other hand, a vehicle built specifically to rival Ford’s original pony car in the ‘60s, will likely make no one’s list.
That’s because the Pontiac Banshee, originally codenamed the XP-833, never made it to production. Only four concept cars were made, only two of which were drivable prototypes, and only those two still exist today. The good news is that one, a silver coupe built in 1964, is currently up for sale courtesy of Napoli Classics in Milford, CT.
Ben Branch has the full story of the Banshee’s development and some details about this model specifically over at Silodrome. When Ford shocked the world with the unveiling of the Mustang, other automakers scrambled to respond. The XP-833 project at Pontiac, which was then a division of General Motors, was overseen by John DeLorean (yes, that DeLorean, who was a savant at GM before leaving to start his eponymous car company). A few concepts were made, including the coupe that still exists today with its inline-six engine, as well as a V8-powered convertible model and a four-door design.
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“The performance of these cars, particularly the V8 version, became a major worry for GM executives,” Branch explains. “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.”
In other words, as the likely rose-colored history here would have us believe, the problem with the Pontiac Banshee was that it was just too damn powerful. But according to Bill Collins, former staff engineer of Pontiac’s Advanced Engineering group who worked on the car, and who was interviewed by MotorTrend about it in 2013, the problem was more that the XP-833 was designed as an affordable two-seat sports car, and it would have siphoned off lower-end Corvette sales, rather than being a direct top-performance competitor.
While most concept cars get sent to the junkyard, the two driveable Banshees were purchased by Pontiac employees — the V8 convertible went to Collins, and the straight-six coupe to Pontiac master mechanic Bill Killen. The latter was purchased for $214,500 by car dealer Len Napoli in 2006 at a Barrett-Jackson auction, according to Automotive News. Curiously, it seems to have changed hands a couple times since then, ending up back in Napoli’s hands by 2015, per the same publication.
The long and short of it is: it sold for around $200,000 in 2006, but now Napoli is asking $1.2 million for it. I know inflation has been high, but that jump seems a little preposterous.
But hey, this is a 1-of-1 DeLorean-led, Mustang-fighting, Corvette-inspiring (the Banshee design inspired a number of cars that actually made it to production) concept car. It’s less of an automobile than a piece of history. So if you’ve got $1.2 million to buy this drivable relic, by all means.
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