Pontiac Phantom Concept
Pontiac Phantom Concept

Forgotten Concepts, Forgotten Concepts This is an installment in a series of posts looking back on show cars that we feel deserved a little more attention than they got. If you have a suggestion for a Forgotten Concept topic, please shoot us a line or leave a comment below.

Pontiac Phantom

First Shown: General Motors Milford Proving Grounds in 1977

Description: Large 2-passenger luxury coupe

Sales Pitch: “An expression of personal taste, without regard for division, or current consumer trends.”

More Forgotten Concepts

Pontiac Phantom Concept
Pontiac Phantom Concept


First seen at the General Motors Milford Proving Grounds in 1977, the Pontiac Phantom (corporate internal code name “Madame X”) was the creation of company design chief Bill Mitchell. Mitchell created the car as a retirement gift to himself, and conceived it as, “…an expression of personal taste, without regard for (corporate) division, or current consumer trends.” Indeed, the Pontiac moniker was dropped from the vehicle’s name at some point in its development.

Development of the Phantom was halted when then GM Vice President of Product Planning Howard Kehrl saw the concept and demanded that it be immediately removed from the Milford facility. The Phantom was thus never fitted with an operational drivetrain.

Mitchell, who had been responsible for such legendary GM designs as the first Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado, as well as the 1963 and 1968 Corvettes, had grown despondent as GM adapted to rising fuel costs and changing buyer tastes by downsizing its product line. Mitchell had described designing downsized cars as, “tailoring a suit for a dwarf.”

Deemed by GM management to be wildly out of step with the changing times, the Phantom was never seen on the auto-show circuit, nor publicly displayed in any way. The vehicle was preserved, however, and is part of GM’s corporate vehicle collection.

Forgotten Concept: Chrysler Phaeton

Pontiac Phantom Concept
Pontiac Phantom Concept

CG Says:

Bill Mitchell crafted some of the best-looking cars of the Sixties and Seventies, so it is painful to think of him as in-decline and out of favor at long-time home General Motors. Still, the Phantom is tough to look at, knowing how incredibly tone deaf the design was.

By 1977, General Motors had redesigned its full-size B-Body sedans and coupes, and the result was a series of cars that were trim, crisply rendered, and spot-on perfect for the times. Mitchell’s long, heavy-looking, and thickly sculpted Phantom seemed more a product of 1967, not ’77, and had no place in the modern GM lineup. Even the Deco-inspired wheel covers on the concept car appeared curiously from a different era, if not epoch.

I will always be curious about the rectangular headlamps, which are the only element of the Phantom Concept which appear contemporary—and also seem otherwise at odds with the car’s overall design.

Forgotten Concept: Dodge Super8 Hemi

Follow Tom on Twitter

Pontiac Phantom Concept Gallery

(Click below for enlarged images)

Forgotten Concept: Chrysler Chronos

Car Stuff Podcast

Consumer Guide Car Stuff Podcast Episode 215: Off-Road in the Toyota Tacoma, GM is Moving, Why Electric Vehicles Need Special Tires

Share this: