MILFORD, Conn. / Its story is shrouded in mystery and intrigue, but one fact about the extremely rare 1964 Pontiac Banshee Firebird prototype car is undisputed: it is literally one of a kind. Only two Banshee prototypes exist of the car that was once so feared by General Motors, it cancelled its public debut just hours before the 1964 New York Auto Show so the Banshee Firebird wouldn't threaten the sales of Chevrolet's prized Corvette sports car. One of the surviving concept cars, the 1964 Pontiac Banshee coupe, is now available for purchase for a limited time on eBay Motors in what is sure to be one of the hottest automobile auctions of the year.
The brainchild and pet project of top Pontiac executive John Z. Delorean, the 1964 Pontiac Banshee was commissioned by General Motors to compete with the Ford Mustang that had burst onto the American sports car scene the same year. Instead of a five-passenger car, however, Delorean used his role executive powers to push instead for a less expensive two-seat Corvette alternative. At times, he had to hide his project from the top brass at General Motors, and even gave the project a secret name known by car enthusiasts and rare automobile collectors the world over as "XP-833."
"Concept cars rarely get sold by the manufacturers, especially a car with this kind of history," says collector car expert Mark Knass. "Whoever wins this auction is going to own a piece of our country's automotive past that should really belong in an automobile museum."
As anyone who has seen the famed 'Back to the Future' movie series can attest, however, Delorean's automotive designs were beyond the scope of anything that was being conceived at the time. With a long nose, short deck, cockpit interior, bulging fenders, triple slit taillights and hidden headlights leading to a suggestive power bulge in the hood, the Banshee was perceived as too much of a threat to the Corvette so the 1964 prototypes never reach production. Instead, Pontiac introduced the Firebird in 1967, and the Banshee's body style was instead later mirrored in the redesigned third generation Corvette in 1968, excluding the distinctive Pontiac front grille and tail panel. The Banshee has long been the subject of an intense love affair with Corvette aficionados, and has even been shown at major Corvette auto shows like Bloomington in 1990, and was invited to be displayed at the Meadow Brook Hall Concourse d'Elegance in 2001 as a legend of automotive history.
The two drivable Banshee prototypes had to be hidden in shipping crates to avoid destruction after GM halted their development project, and the cars were eventually sold to GM employees that were closely involved in the XP-833 project. Bill Killen purchased the coupe that is currently up for auction on eBay Motors and the Killen family continued to own the car until it changed hands a few years ago. The 1964 Pontiac Banshee prototype still has just an amazing 1,498 miles on it, with its original interior, paint and drivetrain intact.