A few days ago, this image popped up in my Facebook newsfeed:
At first glance, it appeared to be a scan of an old magazine ad. Nothing remarkable about that; the Internet is lousy with them. But the longer I looked, the more intrigued I became. What the heck is this car, anyhow? The triangular hood emblem is the Pontiac insignia, of course, and the pointy bird’s-beak nose resembles that of a Firebird or Trans Am. But, while I admit I’ve never devoted much attention to the Pontiac line, I’ve never seen anything quite like this.
A little Googling reveals that this is the 1968 Pontiac Banshee II, a concept car also known as the “Firebird of Tomorrow.” As far as I can determine, only one was ever built, and I’ve been unable to track down its whereabouts today, or even confirm whether it still exists. There’s a frustrating lack of information about the Banshees. What precious little I have been able to learn is that this particular Banshee — one of four concept models bearing that name that were created between 1964 and 1988 — was made of fiberglass skin segments mounted over stock Firebird inner panels, and it was 15 inches longer than a production Firebird with minimal ground clearance. In other words, the Banshee II was long and low… a little too long, to be honest. To my eye, the rear deck was ridiculously over-extended, making it seem as if the driver was facing the wrong way:
Still, had the Banshee II gone into production, it probably would’ve fit in nicely alongside Pontiac’s GTO and other muscle-cars of the day, which compensated for their burly dimensions with huge powerplants — this one had a 400 cubic-inch V8 — and super-cheap gas prices.
In 1969, Pontiac repainted the Banshee II white and added some striking red graphics, including the so-called “chicken” decal on the nose, and the car became known as the Firebird Fiero. This apparently had no relation to the production Fiero of the 1980s.
You can see more pics, including one of the car in its Fiero guise, here. And if anyone reading this has any idea where this car might be today, drop a line… I’d really like to know if it’s still around.
Jason Bennion also blogs at www.jasonbennion.com.