An uncomplicated supercar, the Pantera was a charming amalgam of Detroit grunt and Italian glam. Launched in 1971 and sold in North America by Ford’s Lincoln-Mercury dealers, it was powered by a mid-mounted Ford 5.7-liter V8 that could muster 159 mph (256 km/h) and belt to 60 mph (96 km/h) in under six seconds.
The formidable 350 bhp GT5 was built after Ford pulled out in 1974 and De Tomaso merged with Maserati. With a propensity for the front lifting at high speed, hopeless rear visibility, no headroom, awkward seats, and impossibly placed pedals, the Pantera is massively flawed, yet remarkably easy to drive. Handling is poised and accurate, plus that wall of power which catapults the car to 30 mph (48 km/h) in less time than it takes to pronounce its name.
Fat arches, aggressive GT5 graphics down the flanks, 11-in (28-cm) wide wheels, and ground clearance you could not slide an envelope under make the Pantera look evil.
Shape was penned by Tom Tjaarda, who gave it a clean uncluttered nose.
ALL SHOOK UP
Elvis Presley shot his Pantera when it wouldn’t start.
Early Panteras would overheat, and owners would often see the temperature gauge creep past 230°F (110°C).
Lift-up rear panel gave total engine accessibility for maintenance.
Four exhausts were necessary to provide an efficient outlet for all that power.
Americans were not able to buy the proper GT5 due to the car’s lack of engine-emission controls and had to settle for just the GT5 badges.
Do not buy a Pantera if you are over 5 ft 10 in (178 cm) tall—there is no headroom.
The underside was old-fashioned welded pressed steel monocoque.
PANTERA AT SPEED
The huge fender helps rear down-force but actually slows the Pantera down. At the General Motors Millbrook proving ground in England, a GT5 with the fender in place made 148 mph (238 km/h); without the fender it reached 151.7 mph (244 km/h).
Wheel arches strained outward to cover 13-in (33-cm) rear tires.
The Pantera requires a typical Italian driving position—long arms and short legs. Switches and dials are all over the place, but the glorious engine tone is right next to your ears.
With the engine so close to the interior, the cabin temperature could get very hot.
Despite a front spoiler, the little weight upfront meant that when the Pantera hit over 120 mph (193 km/h), the nose would lift and the steering would lighten up alarmingly. Generally, though, the car’s rear-wheel drive setup made for neat, controllable handling; an expert could literally steer the Pantera on the throttle.
The Pantera was engineered by Giampaolo Dallara, also responsible for the Lamborghini Miura.
Giant Pirelli P7 345/45 rear rubber belonged on the track and gave astonishing road traction.
The Pantera is really just a big power plant with a body attached. The monster V8 lives in the middle, mated to a beautifully built aluminum-cased ZF transaxle.
The ZF transaxle was also used in the Ford GT40 and cost more to make than the engine.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL De Tomaso Pantera GT5 (1974–93)
BODY STYLE Mid-engined two-seater coupe.
CONSTRUCTION Pressed-steel chassis body unit.
ENGINE 5763cc V8.
POWER OUTPUT 350 bhp at 6000 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Five-speed manual ZF Transaxle.
SUSPENSION All-around independent.
BRAKES All-around ventilated discs.
MAXIMUM SPEED 159 mph (256 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 5.5 sec
0–100 MPH (0–161 KM/H) 13.5 sec
A.F.C. 15 mpg (5.3 km/l)