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Forum member and past POCA president John Buckman. John and his wife Kathy are dear friends, and good people. John is the original owner of his 1971 "Pre-L" Pantera, chassis number 1490. This photograph was taken at the Concorso Italiano, in Monterey, California.
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The Pantera is an Italian sports car designed in 1969 at the request of Lee Iacocca on behalf of US Ford. It was designed for the North American automobile market to replace the Shelby Cobra as US Ford's sports car. Like the Cobra, the Pantera was powered by a high performance Ford V8 motor. Power was transmitted to the rear wheels via a five speed manual transaxle manufactured by ZF of Germany; the same transaxle that had been utilized in Ford's Le Mans winning GT40 race car. The Pantera's monocoque uni-body combined captivating coachwork designed by Ghia (Tjaarda) and a mid-engine chassis designed by De Tomaso (Dallara). The Pantera had the qualities of both an Italian sports car and a muscle car, it was beautiful and at the same time brutish.
Panteras were manufactured in Modena, Italy by De Tomaso Modena S.p.A. beginning 1970. They officially went on sale in North America and Europe in the spring of 1971. Those imported to the US and Canada by Ford were sold at specially selected Lincoln/Mercury dealerships.
The agreement between Ford and De Tomaso gave Ford exclusive sale rights in North America, but De Tomaso was free to sell the Pantera elsewhere around the world, and so they did. The Pantera was refined beyond Ford’s specification for sale in Europe, resulting in the November 1971 introduction of the Pantera GTS model. From the GTS sprang two racing models and a succession of four wide body models.
Ford terminated its Pantera sales program in August 1974. Altogether, 5262 Panteras had been imported to the US by Ford between May 1971 and August 1974. Although Ford’s interest in the Pantera had ended, its beauty and performance had earned the car throngs of admirers around the world; De Tomaso continued selling their iconic sports car in Europe and other international markets for another two decades. The Pantera's reputation as one of the most bad-ass car ever assembled endures to this day, 19 years after the last Pantera was constructed.
... the history of the Pantera begins with events that transpired in 1959 ...
Jack Brabham piloting his Cooper T-51 in 1959
1959 was the year Jack Brabham won the prestigious Formula One series championship driving a mid-engine Cooper T-51 race car. This is the first auto racing championship won by the driver of a mid-engine race car. Brabham's series victory marked the beginning of the domination of mid-engine race cars on the world's racing circuits. By 1961 all the regular competitors in Formula One were driving mid-engine race cars. Other milestone victories for mid-engine race cars included the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans won by Ludovico Scarfiotti and Lorenzo Bandini driving a mid-engine Ferrari 250P; and the 1965 Indianapolis 500 won by Jim Clark driving a mid-engine Lotus 38.
Alejandro and Isabella DeTomaso
In 1959 mid-engine race cars were constructed by innovative British companies like Lola, Lotus and Cooper. The established Italian race car constructors like Ferrari, Maserati and OSCA were conservative and reluctant at first to experiment with mid-engine race cars. Alejandro and Isabella DeTomaso were husband and wife race car drivers who both drove for OSCA. Alejandro DeTomaso was an innovator, he was eager to be involved in designing, constructing and racing the latest innovation in auto racing, mid-engine race cars. Not to be deterred by the reluctance of their employer, Alejandro and Isabella DeTomaso left OSCA in October 1959 and founded DeTomaso Automobili (later DeTomaso Modena S.p.A.) in Modena, Italy with the purpose of designing, constructing and racing their own mid-engine race cars. The DeTomaso's upstart company was therefore the first Italian constructor to design and construct mid-engine race cars; years ahead of the better known Italian competition.
The logo of DeTomaso Modena S.p.A.
Although DeTomaso Modena S.p.A. is an Italian car company, Alejandro DeTomaso was not Italian, he was born in Argentina. His family was very wealthy; his father was a prominent politician and his mother was a member of the Ceballos family, one of Argentina's oldest and wealthiest families, with vast land holdings originally granted to the family by the King of Spain. Alejandro's father passed away when he was only 5 years old; as a consequence he grew up on a large estate belonging to his mother's family. The logo DeTomaso chose for his automobile company was a tribute to his beloved home country of Argentina and his family heritage. The blue and white stripes of the logo's background are the colors of the national flag of Argentina. The symbol in the foreground that looks like a letter "T" is the branding symbol of the Ceballos estate where Alejandro grew up. This was the symbol branded upon the horses and cattle belonging to the estate in order to identify who owned them.
The ATS 2500 GT was the first mid-engine sports car
The DeTomaso Vallelunga was the second mid-engine sports car
The Miura by Lamborghini
The Mangusta, DeTomaso's second sports car
The Dino by Ferrari
With the superiority of mid-engine chassis architecture established in auto racing it was not long before innovative companies and those seeking the highest level of performance would apply the same chassis architecture to sports cars. Although DeTomaso's original focus had been the construction of race cars the company's focus shifted to high performance sports and luxury cars as time progressed. DeTomaso's first sports car, the Vallelunga, made it's auto show debut in 1963; the same year another new sports car company known as ATS introduced its first sports car named the 2500 GT. Just as DeTomaso had been a vanguard and innovator in the construction of mid-engine race cars, the company proved equally pioneering and innovative in the world of sports cars. Both the DeTomaso Vallelunga and the ATS 2500 GT featured mid-engine chassis architecture. The ATS 2500 GT went on sale in 1964 but only 8 to 12 cars were manufactured before ATS went out of business. DeTomaso was more successful with the Valelunga which went on sale in 1965; over 50 Valelungas were manufactured between 1965 and 1967, and in 1967 the Valelunga was replaced by DeTomaso's second sports car, the Mangusta. The Vallelunga's introduction was closely followed by the introduction of the Lamborghini Miura in 1966. The Mangusta's introduction in 1967 was followed by the introduction of the Ferrari Dino in 1968. Thus the first five Italian mid-engine sports cars went on sale between the years 1964 and 1968, and two of them were DeTomasos!
The impetus to build the Pantera came from Lee Iacocca
Ford had relied upon the Shelby Cobra as its entry in the North American sports car market since 1962, but Shelby ceased manufacturing Cobras in 1967. Ford needed a new sports car to replace the Shelby Cobra. Lee Iacocca was president of the Ford Division of the Ford Motor Company at that time. Mr. Iacocca was the driving force behind Ford's "Total Performance" program and one of the American auto executives responsible for the American "muscle car era" of the 1960s. Ford's mid-engine GT40 race car had placed first, second and third at the 24 hours of LeMans in 1966, and first place again in 1967. Considering the recent success of the GT40 and the rising popularity of mid-engine sports cars, Mr. Iacocca ruled that Ford's next sports car would be a mid-engine design. Furthermore he wanted Ford to be the first American auto manufacturer to offer a mid-engine sports car to the North American sports car buyer.
A Ford GT40 Mark III
The General Motors XP-880 mid-engine concept car of 1968
The American Motors AMX/2 mid-engine concept car of 1969
DeTomaso offered their second sports car, the Mangusta, to Ford as a replacement for the Cobra. The reader should note that DeTomaso's choice of the name Mangusta for their second sports car revealed their hope for the car to replace the Cobra. Mangusta is the Italian word for mongoose; in nature the mongoose preys upon the cobra. Ford seriously considered DeTomaso's proposal, but after examining the car the proposal was rejected. Ford's next plan to secure a mid-engine sports car was to adapt its LeMans winning GT40 race car for the road; resulting in the creation of the GT40 Mark III in 1967. Ford aborted the entire GT40 program in 1968 after finding it did not adapt well for use as a road car. Meanwhile General Motors began showing the stunning Astro II (XP-880) mid-engine proto-type that same year and American Motors began showing the beautiful AMX/2 mid-engine proto-type in 1969.
Alejandro DeTomaso at Ford Headquarters
Feeling the heat from his American competitors, Mr. Iacocca returned to DeTomaso and suggested the design and manufacture of a third mid-engine sports car for Ford. And so DeTomaso's third sports car was conceived at Iacocca's request, it was designed to meet Ford's criteria from it's inception and it was targeted specifically for the North America auto market. A business contract between the two companies was signed on September 9, 1969 after a suitable design had been agreed upon. Ford was given the sole right to import and sell DeTomaso's new sports car in North America. The key players had both attained what they had been seeking. Lee Iacocca and Ford had their mid-engine sports car. Alejandro DeTomaso and his company had established a business relationship with Ford which included a contract for a large order of sports cars.
The Pantera's name complimented Mercury's "sign of the cat" advertising of the era
The name "Pantera" is the Italian word for Panther. This name was was conceived by Rick McBride, the photographer who was responsible for the photos of the yellow Pantera amongst the statues and columns of ancient Rome. When McBride suggested the name to Alejandro DeTomaso he approved it immediately. We can only guess why Alejandro liked the name, perhaps because the Panther is a wild, powerful, agile and fast cat; having the qualities DeTomaso wanted people to associate with his new sports car. Perhaps because the Italian version of the name gave the car an exotic sound and emphasized to American buyers the Pantera was built in Italy. Or perhaps because the cat name fit in with Ford advertising of that era, which advised consumers considering a visit to a Lincoln Mercury dealership to "look for the sign of the cat". Besides the Pantera, other vehicles sold by Mercury included the Cougar, Lynx and Bobcat.
Tom Tjaarda, the Pantera's Coach Designer
The Pantera's coach was designed by Carrozzeria Ghia under the direction of Tom Tjaarda, who had recently resigned a position at Pininfarina prior to taking the helm at Ghia; a position vacated by Giorgetto Giugiaro in 1969. Other coach designs credited to Mr. Tjaarda in that period include the Ferrari 365 GT California Spyder, the Mercedes 230 SL Coupe and the Fiat 124 Spyder. Mr. Tjaarda has enjoyed an enduring and prolific career in the automotive design industry and remains active in the industry to this day.
Gian Paolo Dallara engineered the Pantera's chassis
The Pantera's chassis was devised under the direction of Gian Paolo Dallara, who had resigned a position at Lamborghini to design race car chassis for DeTomaso. The Pantera's mid-engine chassis was a monocoque design featuring a classic 2500 mm (98.4 inch) wheelbase, 4 wheel independent suspension with unequal length A-arms and coil over shock absorbers, anti-sway bars front and rear, 4 wheel disk brakes, magnesium wheels shod with V rated radial tires and manual rack and pinion steering. Only 42% of the Pantera's 3100 pounds rested upon the front tires. Other sports car chassis devised in that period under Mr. Dallara's direction include the Lamborghini Miura and the BMW M1. Mr. Dallara's present-day company is one of the motorsport industry's eminent design houses of race car chassis.
Bill Gay posed with two versions of the 351C cylinder heads, circa 1970
The Pantera required a high performance motor to compliment its exotic coachwork and the extraordinary capabilities of its chassis. The motor responsible for the Pantera's brutish performance was Ford's 351C 4V (also called the 351 Cleveland), a V8 displacing 5.75 liters (351 cubic inches). It was a member of Ford's 335 series of motors which included the US manufactured 351C, 351M and 400; and the Australian manufactured 302C and 351C. Conceived at the peak of Ford's "Total Performance" era, the 335 series motors were the last OHV V8s designed by the Ford Motor Company. The motors were designed under the management of Ford's executive engineer for advanced engines, Bill Gay, the engineer who had managed Ford's 1963 through 1965 Indianapolis racing motor program. The 4V version of the 351C was a 520 horsepower, 7200 rpm endurance racing motor detuned to serve as Ford's performance option for production vehicles of the 1970s. The air flow capabilities, valve size, valve geometry and combustion chamber design of the 351C 4V canted-valve cylinder heads enabled them to support more horsepower per cubic inch and more rpm than the heads found on any other mass produced motor manufactured by any US or Australian automaker at that time. The motor is noted for having a wide powerband extending from idle to 7000 rpm that is punctuated by a strong mid-range rush of power; it is also noted for weighing 1 pound per horsepower in racing trim even though the major castings were all cast in iron .
Several versions of the 351C were installed in the Pantera through 1989, they were sourced from both US Ford and Ford of Australia; all featured a single four barrel carburetor for metering fuel and air and hydraulically self-adjusting valve train. Power ratings ranged from 266 net horsepower to 350 gross horsepower.
Ford's 351C V8 and the ZF 5 speed transaxle are mounted behind the passenger compartment
Finishing the Pantera's drivetrain was a German manufactured ZF model 5DS-25 five speed manual transaxle with limited slip differential; the same transaxle that had been installed in Ford's LeMans winning GT40 race cars, as well as race cars built by Maclaren and Lola. It was also installed in the Lancia Rally 037, the Maserati Bora, the BMW M1 and DeTomaso's Mangusta.
A Pantera ad, circa 1971
In 1971 the Pantera trumped its musclecar, Corvette, Jaguar and Porsche competition both in looks and in performance; it was the ultimate muscle car and sports car and ruled the streets on two continents. It accelerated to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, covered the 1/4 mile in 13 seconds flat and had a top speed of 150 mph at red-line with the standard 4.22:1 final drive in the ZF (a top speed of 150 mph was fast enough to place a car in the "super car" category in 1971). Automotive journalists of the time were unanimous in praising the Pantera's handling, claiming it set new standards for responsiveness and road holding in production automobiles.
The Pantera was initially designed to "Ford specification" for the average American driver and to a price point and level of trim that made it competitive in the American sports car market where the primary competition was the Corvette, Jaguar and Porsche. Although other Pantera models quickly developed for the international market , the Ford spec Pantera was the only Pantera imported to North America by Ford. Some major features and many minor details of the Ford spec Pantera evolved during its 4 years of production.
A Pantera coach being assembled at the Vignale coachworks in Turin Italy
DeTomaso gained control of the coachbuilding firms Carrozzeria Ghia and Carrozzeria Vignale in the aftermath of a series of corporate stock buy-outs and trades in 1967 and 1969. The companies involved were DeTomaso, Rowan Industries (DeTomaso's financial backers) and Ford. Ghia was known for its design prowess, Vignale for its modern manufacturing capability. Having these 2 coachbuilders at their disposal enabled DeTomaso to design and construct coaches in-house. As previously mentioned, the Pantera's coach was designed by Ghia. The coachworks at Vignale was to play an equally important role in building Panteras for Ford.
A motor and transaxle are being installed in a Pantera coach on the assembly line at DeTomaso headquarters in Modena Italy
Ford planned to sell 5000 Panteras per year, which required a manufacturing capacity of 96 cars per week. Neither DeTomaso nor Vignale had ever assembled cars in the numbers expected by Ford. DeTomaso's strategy for assembling cars on such a large scale was to divide the assembly process between two facilities; the coaches would be assembled at the Vignale coachworks in Turin Italy and then transported 185 miles by truck to the DeTomaso headquarters in Modena Italy where the drivetrains and suspensions would be installed. This strategy required two assembly lines, one at the Vignale coachworks and one at DeTomaso headquarters, plus a fleet of trucks.
A push button Pantera on stage at the Concorso Italiano in Monterey, California
DeTomaso was ready to begin assembling Panteras months before construction of the assembly lines was finished. Rather than wait for the completion of the assembly lines, DeTomaso began assembly of Panteras at the Vignale Coachworks using "old world" methods; artisans pushed each car from station to station within the coachworks on large dollies, the parts were hand fabricated rather than stamped out by machinery. The earliest Pantera prototypes used for testing and promotional purposes had been fully assembled at Vignale in just this fashion. The Panteras with hand fabricated coaches are known as push button Panteras due to the push button door operating mechanism they were equipped with. This unique mechanism was a carry-over from DeTomaso's previous sports car, the Mangusta. Push button Panteras have chassis numbered 1001 to 1382.
Push button Pantera assembly began in earnest in January 1971, only 16 months after the signing of the agreement between DeTomaso and Ford! A few of the push button Panteras have 1970 assembly dates, but most of those in the various registries have assembly dates falling within the months of January through April 1971, before the assembly line began operating. Several push button Panteras have 1972, 1973 and 1974 assembly dates. The coaches with late assembly dates were probably only partially assembled when the assembly line began operating, so they were set aside and finished later as time and man-power permitted. A push button Pantera, chassis 1286, is considered the lowest numbered Pantera imported to the US by Ford. It is possible up to 97 push button Panteras were included in the earliest shipments of Panteras to North America (chassis 1286 through 1382).
A 1971 Pre-L Pantera amongst the fall colors of Canada
The assembly lines in Turin and Modena began high volume assembly of coaches and finished Panteras in April of 1971. Many parts that had been hand fabricated on the push button Panteras were fabricated by stamping or other high speed methods for the assembly lines. Many details such as the rear hood release mechanism were redesigned. It is assumed the chassis number of the first Pantera coach to roll off the assembly line in Turin was 1383. The Ford spec Panteras assembled on the assembly line prior to the Pantera L (encompassing chassis numbers 1383 to 4268) are referred to within the Pantera hobby as Pre-L Panteras.
Soon after assembly line production began a flaw in the plan to build 5000 Panteras per year was discovered. The supplier of the transaxles, ZF of Germany, was capable of supplying only 40 model 5DS-25 transaxles per week, far short of the 96 per week required to meet Ford's production goal. DeTomaso's capacity to assemble Panteras was limited by the supply of transaxles to under 2100 Panteras per year; in fact approximately 2100 Panteras were assembled during the 1972 and 1973 model years.
A 1973 Pantera L photographed at Lake Tahoe California
A 1974 Pantera L, looking very classic in black and chrome
The US federal government required all passenger cars sold in the US to be equipped with front and rear 5 mph impact resistant bumpers and lower emission engines for the 1973 model year. The Ford spec Pantera evolved again in August 1972, beginning with chassis 4269, to comply with these mandates. Large, black, front and rear impact resistant bumpers were installed. The coach was revised with integral front turn signal pods. The compression ratio of the motor was dropped to 8.0 to 1 and exhaust gas recirculation was fitted. The fuel filler was relocated from the engine compartment to the "fish gill" on the left hand side of the car (an improvement in both safety and convenience). Ford also specified a switch from 70 series radial tires (Michelin or Pirelli) to wider 60 series Goodyear Arriva bias ply tires. This third version of the Ford spec Pantera was named the Pantera L.
Visually similar to the GTS sold in Europe, the US GTS lacked the mechanical improvements of the European model.
DeTomaso was marketing a higher performance Pantera for the European market called the GTS. The car featured wheel well flares, wider wheels, 50 series Pirelli P7 tires, engine and suspension upgrades, a racier looking paint scheme and improved materials in the interior. When Pantera enthusiasts in North America learned of the GTS offered in Europe they urged Ford to import the GTS to North America. Instead of heeding their appeal and importing the European GTS, Ford offered its North American customers a Pantera L painted and badged to look like the European GTS. None of the mechanical changes made to the European GTS were made to Ford's GTS, it was mechanically identical to the Pantera L. The Ford GTS was the fourth and last variation of the Ford spec Pantera. Ford sold 138 GTS Panteras during the 1974 model year. Like many Panteras sold in California during 1974, it was necessary to redocument the 40 GTS Panteras sold in California as 1973 vehicles as Ford chose not to obtain 1974 California exhaust emission certification for the 351C 4V.
The climate of the US auto market drastically changed in the latter seventies. Having sold Panteras in 1971, Iacocca and DeTomaso were marketing Dodge Omnis as sports cars in 1980
By 1974 the climate of the US automobile market was vastly different and more volatile than it had been in 1969 when the Pantera was designed. The US was experiencing its first interruption in oil supply (an embargo). There was increasing public awareness in regards to air pollution, fuel economy, consumer protectionism and passenger safety. Market shares were shrinking due to European and Japanese imports. The US economy was entering a severe recession. These factors created a rapidly changing business environment for the US auto corporations. The priorities of Ford management had shifted to keep pace with the political, social and economic priorities of the times. The Pantera was never assembled in the volume expected by Ford, therefore Pantera sales had never reached the numbers Ford had projected. The public demand for performance cars had subsided. 1974 sales numbers had declined from the levels of 1972 and 1973. At the end of the 1974 sales year many unsold Panteras remained in dealer inventories. Therefore US Ford decided that 1974 would be the final year they imported and sold Panteras. The last Pantera imported to North America by Ford, chassis 7380, was assembled in August 1974.
Although the Pantera had been designed to Ford's specification for the North American market DeTomaso found there was a demand for the Pantera in Europe and other international markets as well and was selling Ford spec Panteras in these markets through their own network of distributors. Not satisfied with the specification of Ford's Pantera, a flurry of development occurred from fall of 1971 through spring of 1972 that resulted in 3 new models for the European market and a racing program for the 1972 World Endurance Racing Series. The evolution of the Pantera for the European market began only seven months after the high volume assembly lines had launched in Turin and Modena. I assume DeTomaso wanted to improve the Pantera's viability in the European market and prepare it to survive without Ford as a customer. Whereas the first Pantera had been Ford's Pantera, these new models were DeTomaso's Panteras!
A European GTS Pantera
DeTomaso's first new Pantera was unveiled in November 1971, as previously mentioned this model was named the Pantera GTS. The competition for sports car sales in Europe included vehicles offered by Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati. Better performance and more refinement were required for the Pantera to be competitive against these rivals. The first GTS was assembled on chassis 2014. The GTS offered performance improvements such as wider magnesium wheels (15" x 8" and 15" x 10") with 50 series Pirelli P7 tires (225/50VR15 and 285/50VR15), ventilated brake disks, higher rate suspension springs, an improved exhaust system and Holley model R4777 Carburetor. The mounting location of the steering rack assembly was relocated to reduce roll understeer. Cosmetically it featured small wheel well flares and a paint scheme that blacked-out the sides of the car below the beltline and the trunk and engine compartment hoods (bonnets). The interior featured the use of higher quality upholstery materials instead of the man made materials employed in the Ford spec Pantera. The Pantera GTS became the foundation for a series of wide body Panteras and 2 racing Panteras.
A GT4 Pantera
Pirelli's premium line of street legal tires, the P7, had just added tires with aspect ratios less than 50%. These new ultra-wide low aspect ratio tires were all the rage amongst sports car enthusiasts. The widest tire made by Pirelli had a 345 mm cross section, 345/35VR15! DeTomaso designed a wider set of wheel well flares and wider 15" x 13" ten spoke magnesium wheels to fit this tire on the rear of the GTS. The front of the GTS also received wider wheel well flares, 15" x 10" wheels and 285/40VR15 tires. It is common in the auto trade to refer to cars with flared wheel wells or bulging fenders as "wide bodies" and this is the nickname enthusiasts have given these Panteras with the flared wheel well arches. Wide body Panteras were customarily fitted with higher gear ratios in the ZF transaxle, 4.01:1 or 3.77:1, because the 345/35VR15 rear tire is only 24.5" in diameter, compared to the 26.2" diameter of the 285/50VR15 rear tire of the GTS. This wide body option for the GTS was named the GT4 by DeTomaso; however some Panteras so equipped were still documented as GTS Panteras by the factory. The first six GT4 Panteras were assembled in December 1971 through April 1972; the chassis numbers are 2263, 2342, 2343, 2344, 2823 and 2824.
A Group 3 Pantera
The Group 3 race car was the first of the two race versions developed. Beyond the improvements included with the GTS it added further features strictly for racing including a plexiglass rear window that allowed supports for the rear suspension to pass through holes in the window and attach to a roll bar in the passenger compartment. It also included deletion of sound deadening material, a brake system employing Lockheed 3 piston calipers, heavy duty rear axles, racing seats, stiffer suspension with Koni shock absorbers and adjustable anti-sway bars, tail pipes with modified "straight through" mufflers, a high capacity intake manifold and carburetion system and a high capacity oil pan. The Group 3 Pantera was available by special order from the factory from 1972 through 1984. The group 3 Pantera with the earliest assembly date known to me is chassis 2661, assembled in February 1972. A second group 3 Pantera was assembled on a left-over push button chassis, chassis 1070. This group 3 was assembled in March 1972 so while it has the lowest chassis number it has the second earliest assembly date.
An authentic Group 4 Pantera, chassis 2342
The decision was made around November 1971 to race the Pantera in the 1972 season of the World Endurance Racing Series, the series in which the LeMans 24 hour endurance race is run. The Pantera would race in the GT class (group 4), a class dominated by Ferrari and Porsche. Ferrari race car driver and development engineer Michael Parkes was hired away from Ferrari to develop the Pantera for this series and drive the Pantera too. Each of DeTomaso's 5 European distributors were asked to field a team in the series.
Another Group 4 Pantera, chassis 2824
The features that are the backbone of a race car are reduced weight, a powerful motor, the best tires allowed by the rules and brakes with tremendous stopping power. The Group 3 Pantera was the starting point for the development of these Group 4 race cars. The chassis were lightened with holes everywhere. Aluminum panels for the doors and bonnets replaced the steel panels of the production cars. A 351C racing motor was sourced from Bud Moore engineering of the USA and an unmuffled exhaust system was attached to it. Installation of the GT4 wheel well flares allowed Mike Parkes to fit class leading Goodyear racing tires. The magnesium wheels from the front of the GT4 were utilized, but wider ten spoke 15" x 14" rear wheels were installed in the rear. Four piston Girling brake calipers and massive disks performed the stopping chores. Other details included a stripped interior, plexiglass side windows, an air to oil cooler for the motor oil and bronze suspension bushings. The Group 4 Pantera was not intended to be a new model offered to the public like the Group 3 Pantera, it was a one time run of race cars for the 1972 and 1973 seasons of the World Endurance Racing Series. A fixed number (eight) of Group 4 Panteras were built in April through December of 1972; the chassis numbers are 2858, 2859, 2860, 2861, 2862, 2872, 2873 and 2874. When the demand for Group 4 Panteras exceeded these eight cars, the six GT4 Panteras mentioned previously were brought up to Group 4 specification and sold to race teams.
Ford had acquired full ownership and control of both the Ghia and Vignale coachworks by 1971, making DeTomaso the only non-Ford link in an otherwise 100% Ford chain. Vignale (owned by Ford) delivered finished coaches to DeTomaso, who installed the drive train and suspension and then shipped the completed vehicles to a North American Distribution company that was also owned by Ford. That is a very unusual business arrangement.
US Ford did not want to remain involved in any phase of the Pantera manufacturing business when the decision was made to stop selling them. Besides putting an end to Pantera shipments to North America in August 1974, Ford also shut down the coach assembly operation at Vignale in July 1974. DeTomaso not only lost their major customer, they lost their coach supplier at the same time. DeTomaso no longer needed the high volume assembly line in Modena so it was shut down as well. They scaled back assembly from 40 Panteras per week to about 2 per week when Ford stopped buying them. They ceased assembly of the Ford spec Pantera and made the Pantera GTS the base road version. DeTomaso continued to assemble Panteras throughout 1974 and 1975 using a reserve of about 175 left over and unfinished coaches purchased from Ford/Vignale. Few Panteras were assembled in 1976. In addition to the GTS, DeTomaso continued to offer the Group 3 race car and the "wide body" GT4. This 3 model line up remained the same through out the last 5 years of the decade of the 1970s.
It was necessary for DeTomaso to contract other coachbuilders to assemble the Pantera coaches when the reserve of Vignale built coaches had been depleted. They had no coachbuilding facilities of their own and by 1976 Vignale no longer existed. Vignale's new owner, Ford, had opted to close down the business completely. The first coachworks contracted was Carrozzeria Maggiora, and about 2 years later they contracted Carrozzeria Embo. DeTomaso and Carrozzeria Embo went on to have a long and amicable business relationship. DeTomaso made a jump in chassis numbering between the last Vignale coach, 7554 (?), and the first Maggiora coach, 9001. Bill Van Ess, an esteemed historian of the DeTomaso marque, claims the Pantera with chassis 9001 was assembled on June 13, 1976. One odd-ball Pantera has a chassis number that falls within the gap in the chassis numbers, a group 3 Pantera with chassis 8472.
A GT5 Pantera
Lamborghini introduced a "wide body" version of the Countach in 1978, the LP400S, and fitted it with Pirelli 345/35VR15 P7 tires; the same tires DeTomaso had used for the GT4 in 1972! I assume DeTomaso thought it was time to spruce up the wide body Pantera and keep up with the competition at Sant'Agata. So the GT4 evolved into a new model known as the GT5. The GT5 was officially introduced to the public in 1980, DeTomaso claims the first GT5 was chassis 9250; however several GT5 Panteras bearing lower chassis number are known to exist. Like the GT4 the GT5 featured the same mechanical specification and coachwork as the GTS with the addition of fiberglass flares to the wheel arches, a deep frontal air dam, ground effects side skirts, the same 10 spoke magnesium wheels and those outrageously wide Pirelli P7 tires. The GT5 interior was more plush than that of the GTS. A popular option offered with the GT5 was a large delta wing rear spoiler, similar to the spoiler found on the Countach. Whereas the wide body GT4 had been an option for GTS buyers, the GT5 was considered a "stand-alone" model, the upscale version of the Pantera. In the 1980s the wide body look was "IN"!
The first GT5-S Pantera, chassis 9375
The last GT5-S Pantera, chassis 9562
The wide body GT5 evolved again in 1985 with the introduction of the GT5-S. I assume this evolution was inspired by the subtle lines of the 1984 Ferrari Testarossa because the GT5-S replaced the distinctive fiberglass wheel arch flares of the GT5 with steel flares more subtly integrated into the lines of the coachwork including rear wheelhouse "strakes" reminiscent of those found on the Testarossa. The first GT5-S, chassis 9375, was assembled in 1984 and was used as a show car; the remaining GT5-S Panteras have 1985 or later build dates. The final GT5-S, chassis 9562, was assembled in 1990. Pantera assembly had by that time slowed to a pace of one every two weeks. With only a few exceptions, all of the 188 Panteras assembled between 1985 and 1990 were GT5-S models.
It became necessary to find a substitute motor for the Pantera during the latter half of the 1980s. US Ford had last manufactured the 351C in 1974, and Ford of Australia ceased manufacture of the 351C in 1984. DeTomaso's Australian distributor had stockpiled a large number of the 351C motors prior to the end of its production and DeTomaso had sourced 351C motors from their Australian distributor since that time. However, the reserve of motors stored in Australia was depleted in 1986 and DeTomaso made the transition to Ford's 351W V8 sourced from US Ford; the first Pantera with a 351W motor installed is chassis 9483, a GTS special ordered by a US customer with a build date of September 1986 (technically this Pantera's motor was a "Clevor", a 351W block topped by Australian 302C heads).
The gentleman on the right is Kirk Evans, proprieter of Amerisport. The squinty fellow is your author.
The last new Pantera imported to the US, an Amerisport, chassis 9494
Although Ford had not imported Panteras to North America since 1974, a substantial number of the later model Panteras were made available to North American enthusiasts due to the efforts of several American businessmen who were Pantera enthusiasts themselves. These gentlemen imported and sold small numbers of GTS, GT5 and GT5-S Panteras in North America as grey market vehicles between 1979 and 1990. Grey market importers included the California based duo of Barry Gale and Steve Hitter (Panteramerica), George Stauffer of Wisconsin (Stauffer Classics Ltd) and Steve Wilkinson of California (Panteras by Wilkinson). Kirk Evans of Ohio (Amerisport Industries) played a big part in bringing Panteras into the US during the 1980s by assisting the importers with the governmental red tape of exhaust emissions certification. Mr. Evans also imported GT5-S Panteras directly to the US in a unique arrangement with DeTomaso, his Panteras are known as Amerisports. Although DeTomaso transitioned to 351W motors in 1986, Amerisport continued to install 351C motors in the GT5-S Panteras they imported to North America. One of Kirk's GT5-S Amerisport Panteras, chassis 9494, was the last new Pantera imported to the US.
The front view of a Pantera Si
The rear view of a Pantera Si
GT5-S assembly was phased out in 1990 with the introduction of a new and final version of the Pantera, the Pantera Si. The coachwork of the Si was updated by Marcello Gandini, who had created the coachwork for the 1990 Lamborghini Diablo. The coachwork of the Si is reminiscent of the Daiblo's in some aspects, although the rear spoiler is often compared with the spoiler of the Ferrari F40 (1987 - 1992). The Si also has a spoiler at the base of the windshield like the one found on the Maserati Shamal, another sports car designed by Gandini (DeTomaso controlled Maserati 1975 - 1993). Along with the new coachwork the Si offered further mechanical refinement to the Pantera, including improved front suspension geometry, a tubular steel rear sub-frame, 17 inch magnesium wheels, 235/45ZR17 front tires, 335/35ZR17 rear tires, Brembo brakes, a 5.0 liter fuel injected Ford V8 motor rated at 305 horsepower and the transition to a Getrag six speed transaxle in the last four cars assembled. The pace of Pantera Si assembly averaged one car every four weeks. There is a small gap in chassis numbering between the last GT5-S, chassis 9562, and the first Pantera Si, chassis 9601. The last Pantera Si, chassis 9641, was assembled in 1993. Pantera construction was phased out that year as a new sports car named the Guara was unveiled before the public. Guaras went on sale to the public in 1994.
Two events occuring in 1993 made that year a turning point in the fortunes of DeTomaso Modena. 1993 witnessed the signing of the Maastricht treaty that marked the formal beginning of the European Union. DeTomaso found acquiring government loans to fund automotive ventures more difficult under the European Union than it had been with the Italian government. As a consequence it seems DeTomaso began liquidating assets in 1993 in order to acquire needed capital to fund its operation and new projects, such as construction of the Guara. The first asset to be liquidated was their stock in Maserati; the DeTomasos sold their controlling interest in Maserati to Fiat in 1993. Sadly, Alejandro DeTomaso was afflicted by a stroke in 1993 that left him permanently physically impaired and made it impossible for him to keep the pace he was accustomed to in operating his many businesses. Eventually Santiago DeTomaso, Alejandro DeTomaso's son, took his father's place at the helm of DeTomaso Modena S.p.A.
The Pantera went on sale in North America and Europe in the spring of 1971. 5262 Panteras were imported into the US by Ford from 1971 through 1974 (based upon US DOT data). During that same period 1118 Panteras were sold outside the US by Ford in Canada and by DeTomaso in Europe and other international markets. Pantera assembly averaged 40 cars per week while DeTomaso was supplying Panteras to Ford.
DeTomaso continued selling Panteras in markets outside North America when Ford ceased North American importation, assembly slowed however to about 1 or 2 cars per week; only 275 were assembled between 1975 and 1979.
By 1980 the public had become infatuated with exotic Italian sports cars (i.e. supercars) attributable to the exposure of the Ferrari 308, Ferrari Daytona, Ferrari 512BB, Ferrari Testarossa and Lamborghini Countach on television and in movies. The Pantera competed successfully as a supercar with Ferrari and Lamborghini during the 1980's with the GT5 and GT5-S models. Many teenage boys (and their fathers) had posters of Panteras on their bedroom walls during the 1980s. 503 Panteras were built in this era (1980 - 1993); many of them were indirectly imported into North America as grey market vehicles, and some were directly imported by Amerisport.
Altogether 7158 Panteras were assembled between 1970 and 1993 (production figures are based upon the best information available to us at this time and are subject to revision without notice).