You might be wondering why a website dedicated to being the “Ultimate Corvette Database” would care about the 1964 Pontiac Banshee? If you are asking yourself that question, please read on. Even if you aren’t, because you know that the Banshee was Pontiac’s answer to the Corvette, we still encourage you to read on anyway, because this story is one of those interesting tales of an ultra-rare, one-of-a-kind concept car that has found its way out of the hands of General Motors and into the world at large!
Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about Corvettes that we’ve found for sale on the internet. While it’s true that this Banshee happens to be for sale, we aren’t promoting this car with the thought that one of our readers would be interested in buying it (though it would be a spectacular buy if someone did snatch it up). Instead, we’re bringing you this story as one part history lesson and one part, well, just plain cool.
As mentioned earlier, what we’ve got here is the world’s one and only 1964 Pontiac XP-833 Banshee coupe prototype. When first introduced to the world by Pontiac in 1964, the car showed so much promise that Chevrolet (allegedly) put a swift end to its development to prevent its production from hindering the sales of the Corvette. Afterall, with the introduction of the 1963 Split-Window Corvette, Chevrolet was finally seeing an increase in sales numbers, something that had been lacking for most of the first-generation’s 10-year production run. As a result, just two Banshees were created – one coupe and one convertible.
Before we go any further, we ask you this – where would you expect to purchase such a rare and valuable piece of automotive history? You might suggest Barrett Jackson, Mecum or RM Sotheby auctions. Others might naturally think that its part of a larger collection or maybe part of an estate sale. If your mind gravitated to one of these, you’re not entirely wrong, though we can tell you that its not being sold via an auction house and its not currently listed as part of a private collection….it’s being sold at a Kia Dealership!
We should explain…
One-Of-A-Kind Pontiac at a Kia Dealer?
The dealership in question – Napoli Kia of Milford, Connecticut – is owned by the Banshee’s current owner, Lenny Napoli. The Napoli’s did acquire the 1964 Pontiac Banshee in 2006 when they did, in fact, purchase it from Barrett-Jackson in Scotsdale, Arizona. The family acquired the car from the world-famous auction house for an impressive $214,500! Also, at the time it was purchased, Napoli Kia was still operating as a prominent Pontiac dealer, and so having a Banshee in the showroom actually made a lot of sense. Besides, the car was just plain cool, so there was no doubt that it would attract people into the showroom (not unlike Corvettes have been doing for generations!)
So yes, while a Kia dealership is technically selling the Banshee (by the way, its actually listed as part of their Classic Car division), this car does come from a private collection and it was acquired (by its present owner in this case) via a world-class automotive auction house.
Here’s the next twist to the story: Since the Napoli’s purchased it, and moreover, since Pontiac went out of business in the late 2000’s, the family has attempted to sell the Banshee at auction several times – on Ebay in both 2010 and 2011 and via an automotive auction in 2015. Napoli has never been able to successfully sell it. And why not? The Napoli’s are currently asking $750,000 for the 1964 Pontiac Banshee. That’s more than triple what they paid for it in 2006 and $150,000 more than RM Sotheby’s estimates its current upper-end value.
But what is the Pontiac Banshee anyway?
The 1964 Pontiac Banshee
In addition to being a one-of-a-kind Pontiac concept vehicle, the XP-833 Banshee was the branchild of then-Pontiac CEO John Z. DeLorean (yes, the same DeLorean that became famous for designing a gull-wing, “time-travelling” sports car in the early eighties). Delorean’s intent behind the Banshee was to develop a sports car that would compete with Ford Mustangs, not Chevy Corvettes. After pressing GM brass for years to let him build a sports car, Delorean turned to GM designers Larry Shinoda and Tony Lapine and their 1962 Corvair Monza GT concept car for inspiration. When these same GM executives laid eyes on the 1964 Banshee that DeLorean had created, they moved quickly to kill the concept and destroy the prototype.
However, while the Banshee made its way thru the 1964 auto show circuit, one GM employee convinced GM’s top brass to sell him the Banshee instead of destroying it. Incredibly, General Motors agreed and the car was sold to said employee, who kept it until he passed away in 2006. It was after his death that the car was sold to Len Napoli via Barrett Jackson for the hefty sum of $214,500. At the time of its sale to Napoli, it had less than 1,500 miles on the odometer.
The 1964 Pontiac Banshee coupe is interesting for a lot of reasons. First, under its hood, the Banshee has an innovative 3.8 liter inline six-cylinder engine with a bolstered overhead cam. Known to some in automotive circles as a “Cammer”, this 3.8 liter engine was paired to a four-speed manual transmission. While the Banshee never saw life beyond this single entry, the “Cammer” engine/transmission setup would go-on to power a number of GM’s future vehicles, including the Pontiac Tempest, Le Mans and Firebird. Interestingly, this engine setup came in two flavors – a base economy variant rated at 165 horsepower that included a single-barrel carburetor and a four-barrel version known as “the Sprint” that pumped up a more-healthy 215 horsepower.
The Banshee coupe received the less-powerful 165hp engine.
Some have argued that Delorean had built the Banshee with the lower-powered engine to show GM brass that a bare-bones car like the Banshee could still be compelling. Considering the car’s design, which featured a sweeping hood and short deck styling, it was more than capable of attracting an audience. Additionally, the car weighed in at just 2,200 pounds thanks to its fiberglass body and steel some-assembly. This led some to believe that Delorean was demonstrating innovation thru the use of a smaller engine and a lighter chassis to produce a car that could still perform at the level of a Corvette.
In reality, Delorean was probably trying to get the Banshee concept approved by intentionally underpowering it with the small, inline six-cylinder engine. The belief is that DeLorean wanted to avoid the perception of building a car that could threaten the Corvette, so he made the Banshee prototype appear less threatening by sticking a small engine in it. Truth be told, the long-term plan for the Banshee included introducing the final production version of the car with some of the largest engines that Pontiac manufactured at the time. This last bit has been confirmed by members of the original Pontiac Banshee team.
Of course, it was never meant to be.
Future History of the Banshee
The 1964 Pontiac Banshee is culturally significant. It influenced a number of GM cars like the future C3 Corvette in 1968. Additionally, design elements of the Banshee were incorporated into the Firebird and the Camaro, both of which would go on to serve as GM’s answer to Ford’s Mustang (for which the Banshee was originally intended.)
What also makes this particular Banshee coupe more valuable is that is still comprised of the original parts first used when this prototype vehicle was being developed. While the car may not have made it to production, it has been a significant part of GM’s history – not only in relation to the Corvette – but in the development of vehicles throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Given the extreme rarity of this car, it would be incredible if it found its way into a museum where it could continue to live its life without alteration or molestation. The car is a highlight in the history of both Pontiac and the Corvette. It deserves to find a home where it can continue to tell its amazing story.
Whoever intends to buy the Banshee next will need deep pockets. At the time of this writing, the 1964 Pontiac Banshee is still for sale at Napoli Kia in Milford, Connecticut with an asking price of $750,000. Incidentally, that prices includes a $3,950 discount.
Given the state of the world today, especially considering the economic impact that COVID-19 has had on all markets globally, we wonder if Napoli might consider selling the car for less. We at Corvsport.com think the car should find its way to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where it can live its days as part of the National Corvette Museum’s collection. Perhaps this article will find its way to an interested party who would fund this purchase and help preserve a true piece of Americana – and a rare piece of automotive history.