The 1978 Concept Car El Skitbird
Hi, I'm Lawrence Moriarty, and this page is an unofficial home
page for The Pontiac "El Skitbird" station wagon, which was never
From 1971 on Pontiac entertained serious thoughts of releasing
a station-wagon version of their classic Firebird. The car never made it to
the mass production stage, but it got pretty far along in the concept development
Design in America was out of the question, so two prototypes were specially constructed at a special plant in Iceland for GM's Design vice president Markus Frankel. The concept was to put out the most aggressive station wagon in existence, that would appeal to what Frankel considered a sizeable market of performance-crazed, drag-racing housewives. The machines sported TWO V8 engines each, and were rumored to be capable of unprecedented speeds. One model was gold with a black interior, the other silver with beige interior (pictured here).
The gullwing back hatches were a masterwork of hydraulic engineering.
Another striking feature was the inclusion of a on-board
navigating buddy, which was essentially a small monkey trapped inside
the cars dashboard. The driver could ask the animal for directions,
and tickle the animals face. It was unclear how effective the animals
were at this task.
Several problems prevented the El Skitbird from ever reaching the public. Inflation, along with several questionable design choices, had caused the estimated retail price of the vehicles to soar to $210,000 (1978 dollars.) Also, Frankel insisted the vehicle carry the skitbird hood decal rather than the traditional Firebird. When Pontiac GM Harry Stalls saw the skitbird graphic, he apparently hated it and flew into a rage. The project was scrapped. Frankel resigned and soon after went missing; the gold car was crushed, for internal company reasons. The silver car was taken on a tour of car shows in 1979. However, it was stolen from the Tampa Auto Convention of that year, and driven into the sea by persons of unknown origin.
The skitbird hood graphic
The reason for Frankels decision to go with the skitbird
graphic is debated to this day. Some say he claimed the man-headed bird had
appeared to him in a dream. Others point out that he had a high
fever for months leading up to the concept cars completion.
Nonetheless, research shows that the skitbird may in fact predate the better-known firebird design. Early sketches by Pontiac designers seem to indicate a blurry, man-like head or head-style growth atop the bird. In fact, myth and fable tell of a fantastical creature not unlike the skitbird:
And yea, before me doth appear an royal Bird of Prey; and His
Plumage doth radiate. Gold and Brown doth it project forth, like An Golden-Brown
Sun. But atop the Great Birds body is verily a Man-Head, and his Brows
doth connect at the Center; smoothly doth his Locks connect to his Whiskers
and to his Glorious Brows.
This quote of unknown origin appears to be quite old. Other primitive
myths refer to a magical, brown and gold bird with the head of a man, it was
said to breathe fire and heal two types of poisoning.
Be that as it may, Frankels whereabouts were unknown up until 1996, when health workers discovered him living amongst a primitive, swamp-dwelling tribe in East Rutherford, Brazil. He apparently couldnt speak but had been leading the tribe as some sort of religious figure.