The Pantera had disk brakes at all four corners, which was an advanced specification for 1971. Unfortunately in an era when even the Mustang and Cougar where equipped with ventilated front disks, the Pantera had unventilated (i.e. solid) front disks, thus the Pantera’s brakes ran hotter. To cope with the heat the front brake pads were equipped with high temperature (i.e. race car) linings. Unfortunately those linings didn't stop well until they were heated-up.
The rear brake calipers were undersized; it was impossible to lock them up under any circumstance even though there was no proportioning valve in the rear brake hydraulic circuit. After testing the brakes Ford engineers decided to better balance the braking performance by installing a proportioning valve in the front brake hydraulic circuit, thus limiting the power applied to the front brakes … rather than improving the rear calipers! Thus the Pantera’s ultimate stopping capability could not be controlled by the driver; no matter how hard the driver stomped on the brake pedal braking force was limited by a hydraulic valve.
Hurst/Airheart, a leading manufacturer of racing brakes, tested the OEM Pantera brakes back in the 1970s. The first stop from 60 mph required 219 feet and 225 pounds of pedal effort, which is an extremely high amount of pedal effort. With each consecutive stop both the braking distance and the pedal effort decreased. Upon the eighth consecutive stop the Pantera achieved its advertised stopping distance of 133 feet (from 60 mph), and pedal effort had fallen to 115 pounds. Of course, in a “real world” situation such as a “panic stop” a driver does not have the opportunity to “pre-heat” the brakes with seven practice stops.
As the test progressed brake-fade set-in with the next (ninth) consecutive stop. There was therefore a fine line between optimum braking performance and the on-set of brake fade. One last point I wish to mention, Hurst/Airheart concluded from their test that a Pantera’s ultimate stopping capability was limited by the brakes, rather than being limited by the amount of traction provided by the tires (PI News, volume 3, no.4, pages 27-32).
Citing this test, Pantera International’s founder Fred Matsumoto referred to performing a panic stop with the Pantera’s OEM brakes as a religious effort; he wrote you stomp on the brake pedal and PRAY that you stop in time (PI News, volume 14, no.2, page 14)! It befuddles me that these are the same brakes that some magazine testers praised, in fact one tester described them as “the best production car brakes in the world” (Motor Trend, March 1972, page 106).
There is however an explanation for the variance in opinions regarding the Pantera's braking performance. Panteras (and other Ford/Lincoln/Mercury vehicles) delivered to magazines for testing were maintained by Bill Stroppe's shop on Signal Hill in Long Beach California. Bill Mason, a Stroppe employee at that time, explained that they were aware of the Pantera's brake issues, and thus they would "pre-heat" the brakes before handing the cars over to the magazine editors for brake testing … to insure the best results during the magazine's brake fade testing. The results were therefore "skewed" in the Pantera's favor.