Welcome. You're about to embark on an exciting and, often times, exasperating journey. Your question about the best years is very subjective. So, let the exasperation begin.
The cars are generally broken up this way:
1971 through mid-'72 (midway through 72 the 5 mph bumper mandate changed the design and were designated as "L" models). These are called the 71s and the pre-L 72s. The very early 71s had push-button door openers.
Mid-72 through 79. These are the L (Lusso) models.
GTS's were made from 72 through 79.
There are also GT3 and GT4 variants.
During the early years of production design changes were made, shall we say, inconsistently. For instance the early cars had a two pod dash which was replaced by a single pod dash. Although this may have happened first on VIN XXXX (we use the last 4 digits to identify a car) the very next car may have the 2 pod dash. The factory was known for putting unfinished cars aside then coming back to finish them with the current inventory of parts. Then throw in the variations between models designated for the European market and those for the US market.
Part of your answer also depends on your budget. The GT5 (1980) and GT5-S (1985) are beautiful cars and go for the most money due to their very limited availability. The Si model (1991-1996) is even more rare.
panteraplace.com is an excellent site and has a buyers guide.
So, to answer your question, it really depends. Some prefer the two pod dash over the single pod. Some like the bumperette design of the early cars to the 5 mph bumper design. Some prefer the flat deck lid to the ribbed deck lid. Some love the original look, some like the more radical changes. The beauty of these cars is you can make changes to the car to make it "yours". We're not as encumbered to originality as say, the Corvette community. When you go shopping you'll find quite a wide variety. From very original to some with very radical (some would say questionable) changes.
The most important advice I can give you is be patient and get to know the know the people on this forum (and I might recommend the DeTomaso forum server.detomasolist.com) and the cars. Have you seen the youtube video with Jay Leno's Pantera? It "stars" a well known member of our community, Mike Drew.
Questions are always welcome! You won't find a more fanatical group of owners!
location is USA Utah. Budget is undecided. I have restored several motor vehicles and aircraft over the years. Somewhere mine and others I helped. I' m getting ready to retire from the military with over 21 years. I figured after trying to get one of these when I was in high school age 17 that I would see if I could get one now and restore it.
you have used the term “restore” in two of your posts. By that are you looking for an original survivor that you are going to seek out all of the correct original OEM pieces to restore to concourse condition?
are you looking to do a visual restoration to OEM but upgrade the mechanicals and electrics, etc. ?
or do you mean to find a Pantera and do a custom hot rod build to your personal tastes?
there are so many flavors to these cars, and after 40 years probably no more than 2% of them remain completely stock. We can guide you with Tips and knowledge far better if we can tailor our recommendations to what you are actually envisioning
If your vision is still a bit fuzzy I would urge you to do as much online reading and research as time allows. These are cars with idiosyncrasies uncommon to a Mustang or a Camaro. Without knowledge there is a very real chance of making an ill informed purchase that sadly is not fully revealed until the restoration/rebuilding starts
on this forum you can go to any of the individual topics and scroll through the archived postings. pick a topic and start scrolling and click on postings that look to be of interest. I used that method back in 2001/ 2002 to establish my baseline knowledge level.
there are owners likely near you in Utah and if you get to the point of needing an inspection on a distant car there often are nearby owners that will volunteer an inspection for you
Larry I like the single pod dash. I have some knowledge of pantera but not much on restoring a pantera were the problem areas are. I have restored several vehicles to include aircraft. I', a 30 + year aircraft mechanic. I would like a car with little to no rust out spots. I can fix the spots if needed. Hope this answer some of your questions.
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