De Tomaso Pantera – 1970

If anyone were foolish enough to claim that the De Tomaso Pantera (a Panther in England) came from any country but Italy, they would instantly be branded as a liar —this stylish flyer is quite clearly a quintessentially Italian sports car. But appearances can be deceptive. Beneath that wedge-shaped fastback body lurked a powerful Ford Cleveland V8 engine, so the Pantera represented a unique cross between cutting-edge Italian styling and American muscle-car performance. Introduced in 1970, it would remain in limited production for more than two decades, initially aided and abetted by a formal tie-up with Ford of America that sold Panteras through the Lincoln-Mercury network.

The design was by Ghia (a company also controlled by Alejandro de Tomaso), with American Tom Tjaarda taking the lead. Unlike its predecessor, the Mangusta with its conventional chassis, the Pantera was of all-steel monocoque construction, with a mid-engine powertrain layout. There was independent suspension all round and the 5.8 litre V8 was teamed with five-speed manual transmission. The bodies were fabricated by Vignale in Turin and Panteras were assembled at De Tomaso’s Modena factory.

It all started rather well, with a thousand cars shipped in Year One. Shortcomings soon surfaced — the cabin was cramped and tended to overheat rapidly, the driving position was rather strange and build quality left much to be desired — but these were offset by a combination of blistering performance, Italian supercar prestige and a low ticket price. But it ended badly. Despite shifting around 6,000 Panteras in the USA by 1974, De Tomaso had paid little heed to upcoming regulation changes. Reworking the car to meet them would have been prohibitively expensive, and the oil crisis was dampening demand for greedy cars. No Panteras were exported to America thereafter, though they continued to be made and sold into European markets.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

Italy

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1970 (until 1991)

ENGINE:

5,763 cc V8

PERFORMANCE:

Top speed of 159 mph (km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.5 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Build quality of early Panteras wasn’t great – a triumph of style over substance – and celebrity owner Elvis Presley once became so frustrated when his yellow Pantera wouldn’t start that he blasted it with a gun.

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