High bid of $325,000 at 2010 RM Sothebys. (did not sell)
Semon E. 'Bunkie' Knudsen began working for General Motors in 1939 with the Pontiac Division. In 1955, he became general manager of the Detroit Diesel Division, and in 1956 he became a vice-president of the company and general manager of Pontiac Division. He was tasked with improving sales and to improve the dull, pedestrian appeal of the product lineup. It was the second lowest selling GM brand in 1958; a year later it had been rejuvenated and overtook Oldsmobile and Buick thanks, in part, to an improved line of vehicles and an array of power engines.
With Bunkies success at Pontiac, he was given a promotion to head the Chevrolet Division in 1961. He was succeeded at Pontiac by Pete Estes. At the time, Pontiac's chief engineer was John Delorean, an individual who would oversee such innovations as the flexible driveshaft and the independent rear suspension, the Tempest compact, the Le Mans GTO, a single overhead camshaft inline six-cylinder engine, soft bumpers and the Grand Prix.
In the early 1960s, the Banshee concept was conceived and given the GM Project designation XP-833. The car had insight and backing from Delorean and Pete Estes. This new design was positioned as a response to Ford's new Mustang, and had it gone into production, would have been positioned between the Chevrolet Corvette and the coming Camaro.
The Banshee Concept was based on the mid-sized A-body coil spring, live rear axle suspension that could be found on the redesigned 1964 Chevelle and LeMans cars. It was given a 90-inch wheelbase steel platform chassis, instead of the heavier A-body perimeter frame, and clothed with a fiberglass body conceived by PMD designer Jack Humbert under the corporate design leadership of Chuck Jordan. A coupe and convertible example were created.
The design of the Banshee featured a long front nose with a power-bulged hood, a short deck layout, and a elegant 'coke-bottle' profile. There were dramatic chrome bumpers, a steeply raked windshield, fastback roof, bulging fenders, and a raked cut-off rear fascia. Its design foreshadowed the third generation Corvette and gave hints of future Pontiac designs.
The engine that lurked under the hood was based on the re-designed Chevrolet block. The single overhead camshaft cross-flow cylinder head aided in providing better performance to the six-cylinder unit. It was equipped with a fiberglass-reinforced toothed timing belt to drive the camshaft. While the engine could be equipped with a four-barrel carburetor and a high-performance camshaft bringing the horsepower to a mighty 215, the base unit was installed, delivering 155 HP. This was done to tame corporate fears that this concept may poach on Corvette's turf.
Additional innovations unique to the Banshee included cooling air intake under the nose and fixed seats with movable pedals.
The Banshee Concept Coupe was painted in silver and upholstered in bright red and fitted with Rally II styled wheels. Two complete, running prototypes were built. The convertible was painted in white. Though both the coupe and convertible have survived, the project did not. Part of the reason for the demise was Chevrolet's strong opposition, stating that they were GM's purveyor of high performance sports cars.
This example, the coupe version, is a well preserved example. It was shown at the 2001 Meadow Brook Concours d'elegance where it was joined by several other prestigious classic and important concept cars. The car's odometer shows barely 1,500 miles from new. It wears its original paint and many other original components throughout.
In 2010, the car was offered for sale at the 'Automobiles of Amelia Island' event presented by RM Auctions at Amelia Island, Florida. The car was estimated to sell for $400,000 - $600,000. The car would leave the auction unsold, as the $325,000 high bid was not enough to satisfy the reserve.By Daniel Vaughan | May 2010