Off-road racing back in the ‘60s and early ‘70s was filled with all kinds of wild and wacky machinery. One of the wildest pieces of iron to mix it up in the dirt was the Banshee, a vehicle based loosely on a 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass.
We say loosely because even the body, which was a one-off fiberglass piece, was shortened 14 inches. The car was built by legendary Baja builder Vic Hickey. Hickey had been involved with General Motors in an engineering capacity and had long been known to be a tinkering, inventive hot rodder type.
After having James Garner as his primary driver for several seasons and being happy with his skill level and performance while operating modified stock entries (one of which was production Cutlass), Hickey decided to go with the gusto on this one and see if Garner could handle it.
The car is a total freak. It was built in the span of 45 days by Hickey and sported a frame of 1 ¾ chrome moly tubing; a mid-mounted, 500hp, aluminum-block Olds 455 originally developed for dragstrip action; a beefed Turbo 400; leaf spring rear suspension and coils up front; a massive custom dual-core radiator; and Goodyear tires developed for use on tractors. The car could run in excess of 140 mph before running out of breath.
The car hauled ass and was a threat to win at nearly every race it showed up to. It only managed one top finish with Garner behind the wheel though, and that was during the Riverside Grand Prix in 1972.
After Garner finished with it, Mickey Thompson gave driving it a go but never found the winners circle. It now sits in a museum, intact in it’s mostly original form.