Image Gallery: Concept Cars
Image Gallery: Concept Cars

Image Gallery: Concept Cars The front end of the 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car carried the familiar Pontiac vee shape. See more concept car pictures.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Introduction to the 1988 Pontiac Banshee Concept Car

After the debut of the 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car at the 1988 auto shows, many automotive pundits believed what they were seeing was the next generation Pontiac Firebird.

No concept vehicle ever goes from display stand to assembly line intact, of course. But sizable elements of the Banshee's shape, particularly the front fascia and tail treatment, did show up over the years on the 1993-2002 generation Pontiac Firebird.

Like all concept cars, part of the the 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car's purpose was to enhance its creator's image. In Pontiac's case, that meant "sporty, fun-to-drive personal transportation." At the same time, it let the company toss out styling ideas in three-dimensional form, then listen to public reaction before committing to a real-life design.

Pontiac admitted Banshee's test-bed role from the beginning, noting that it was a "futuristic performance coupe with realistic design and engineering features that could appear in the next generation of the popular Firebird."

Sure enough, a close look revealed nearly all the expected Pontiac styling cues, albeit in futuristic dress. The familiar Pontiac front-end vee-motif, for example, took on gigantic form, serving as the centerpiece for the hood.

The the 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car's gaping mouth, created by the presence of a "floating wing" near ground level, looked ready to suck up all the available air anywhere near its path, after the sharp nose sliced its way through the atmosphere.

In tandem with the outboard aero sponsons, the front end displayed a fresh interpretation of the traditional Pontiac split-grille formation. The movable wing had a function, too, altering the airflow into the cooling system.

For more on the design of the Pontiac Banshee concept car, go to the next page.

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No mirrors or door handles marred the smooth bodyside contour of the 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

1988 Pontiac Banshee Concept Car Design

Dramatic styling strokes marked the 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car design. Dual gaping cutouts at the tapered tail certainly fit this description, even if their purpose was less evident. Pontiac claimed they "direct air from under the vehicle." They also allowed a peek at chassis components, if you were so inclined.

Atop the rear deck stood a pair of wraparound, super-thin wing-style adjustable spoilers, separate from each other and extending all the way forward into the doors. At rising speeds, they could adjust to a position that increases downforce, giving traction a boost. Tail lamps were mounted right in the split wings, rather than tacked onto the back panel.

Throughout, the profile of the Pontiac Banshee concept car was an imaginative blend of graceful curves and assertive angles. John Folden, head of Exterior No. 2 Studio, said the potential F-car "had to be low and slippery with an intensely provocative personality." Furthermore, the traditional front-engine/rear-drive layout had to be maintained, since the public would expect Pontiac-level performance from the car.

A movable front wing near ground level controled intake airflow on the drivable Banshee prototype.

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Like many concept vehicles, the Pontiac Banshee concept car body was made up of fiberglass skin stretched across a tubular frame. Smoothly flowing bodysides were devoid of breaks or interruptions. Not even a mirror or a door handle blocked the line from front to rear. Doors opened in response to a signal from a wristwatch-size remote control unit. Flush-mounted glass and doors added to the one-piece effect. So did the concealed headlamps.

Under the futuristic front hood lay a 4.0-liter double-overhead-cam aluminum V-8 engine, capable of producing 230 horsepower. Because of the engine's integral block/head design, which needed no head gaskets, it was never a strong bet for evolution into a production powerplant. The design was actually a leftover from an engine program that was abandoned.

A five-speed manual gearbox fed power to the rear wheels, as it had been on Firebirds for more than two decades. Chassis features included independent suspension all around, but twin control arms replaced the current Firebird's MacPherson struts up front. At the rear was a composite leaf spring, not unlike Corvette's. Four-wheel disc brakes came with an anti-locking system.

The Banshee looked as if it could have been a midengine concept car. Instead, it carried this front-mounted 4.0-liter V-8 under its low hoodline.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Goodyear 17-inch tires handled the ground-hugging duties with wheels that looked sharp and ready for the next century. But a closer look revealed that they were merely fiberglass covers atop everyday aluminum wheels. Such was the way of concept cars.

The designers of the 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car paid as much attention to the interior of the car as they did the exterior. Go to the next page to learn more.

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The 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car interior gave the driver a cockpit-style environment. Gauges were electronic and included a 3-D head-up display.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

1988 Pontiac Banshee Concept Car Interior

The 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car interior looked as cool as the car's exterior. The 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car interior was a blend of 1988 and 2008: high-tech gadgetry and conveniences, but using technology that existed when the car was built.

A head-up instrument display (HUD) projected a holographic image ahead of the windshield, so the driver could check speed, fuel level, turn signals, and the like without looking down at the dash. The HUD appeared to float at the front edge of the hood, just below the horizon line, visible in the driver's peripheral vision.

Projected below the HUD information was a virtual image display (VID) that showed an optically-enlarged 3-D portrayal of the Pontiac Banshee concept car's analog cluster (speedometer, oil pressure, temperature, voltage). This one appeared to lie just a little closer than the HUD. Closer yet was an image of the shift indicator and rear-view monitor. These in-the-windshield images were optical tricks, of course, since the instruments themselves were inside the car.

Wraparound front seats had a center pivot, and differed from the ones on which we normally park our posteriors. The contoured lower portions hooked onto the floor and console, in the normal manner. Swing-away backs had a cantilever-type hookup to another portion of the console, and didn't appear to be fixed in place at all. Well, you probably had to sit in them to get the full picture.

The unusually busy steering wheel of the Banshee was jam-packed with buttons.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Seats adjusted only up and down, but pedals and steering wheel completed the personalization. Set the memory switches for your favorite position and the steering wheel, pedals, and seat pulled themselves into perfect alignment.

The Pontiac Banshee concept car's steering column tilted and telescoped electrically. Pedals adjusted fore and aft, while both front seats had position-memory.

But technology was not limited to smart seats and steering columns on the 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car. Learn more on the next page.

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The 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car's ETAK navigation system showed a computer-generated view of the road ahead.

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1988 Pontiac Banshee Concept Car Technology

The 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car technology story was all about freeing the driver to concentrate on the business of driving.

Controls to adjust the radio, interior climate, and other functions were at the flick of a wrist, being located on the steering wheel hub. Headrest-mount radio speakers contained individual volume, tone, and balance controls. Mobile entertainment included a CD player with remote-control disc storage in the car trunk.

Video played an expanding role in driving convenience. Rear-view monitors replaced the customary mirrors, for starters. The Pontiac Banshee concept car's ETAK navigational system also used a TV monitor, ready to display weather data, road conditions -- even a computer-generated overhead view of the road ahead. When fully developed, the system gave a picture of the surrounding terrain and traffic, data on incoming cars, and even suggested the best speed for current conditions.

The Pontiac Banshee concept car was a fully operational prototype, but because test drivers had been limited to a governed 55-mph speed, performance predictions were speculative at best. With the right powertrain under that shapely skin, though, onlookers imagined that they prove mighty tempting. Hot Rod magazine estimated a development cost of $1.5 million for the Banshee project, and the result looked well worth the investment.

Estimates of the development cost for the Banshee ranged up to $1.5 million. That figure wasn't unusual for a modern, running, one-of-a-kind concept car.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

As far as the production Firebird, the 1993-2002 generation did pick up on some of the styling cues of the 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car, if not a whole lot of its video and communications technology. Still, the 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car was a window into the Pontiac's approach to excitement, and the red-and-black wedge wouldn't look at all out of place on a 21st-century highway.

Check out the specifications of the 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car on the next page.

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Design elements of the 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car were anticipated by many to be eventually implemented in the Firebird.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

1988 Pontiac Banshee Concept Car Specifications

More than one onlooker made the connection between the 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car and future Firebirds. Their wishes were not completely fulfilled, but a look at the 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car specifications below shows their anticipation was justified.

Manufacturer: Pontiac Division, General Motors Corp., Pontiac, MI

Body design: 2+2-passenger, 2 -door coupe; fiberglass body on tubular steel frame

Powertrain layout: front-engine, rear-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 105.0 inches

Overall length: 201.0 inches

Overall width: 80.0 inches

Overall height: 46.2 inches

Track, front: not available

Track, rear: not available

Weight: 2,990 pounds

Approximate price: not available

Engine type: dohc V-8

Displacement (liters/cubic inches): 4.0/244

Horsepower @ rpm: 230 @ 5600

Torque (lbs./ft.) @ rpm: (est.) 300 @ 4000

Fuel delivery: port fuel injection

Transmission: 5-speed Getrag 290 manual

Suspension, front: unequal-length A-arms, coil springs

Suspension, rear: independent; 4-link leaf spring

Brakes: front/rear discs, anti-lock

1988 Pontiac Banshee Concept Car Performance

Top speed: 55 mph (governed for test purposes)

0-60 mph: not available

Quarter-mile: not available

mph @ quarter-mile: not available

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out: