Danny Panoz is the embodiment of the American Dream — for he is an independent small-volume manufacturer who has succeeded in playing the giants of the motor industry at their own game. He founded the Panoz Auto Development Company in 1989 with nothing but a chassis design and raw ambition; today the Esperante is the coolest supercar in America and Panoz has surely secured his place in automotive history.
A car nut from childhood, Panoz got his lucky break when, by pure chance, he managed to obtain the rights to a chassis designed by Frank Costin, renowned pioneer of monocoque technology. Panoz rented a workshop in Atlanta, Georgia and, using the Costin design and innovative materials technology, built an all-American high-performance car, comparable to European imports in quality but at a competitive price.
The Panoz Roadster was the world’s first production car made from SPF (superplastically-formed) aluminium. It was enough of a hit to keep Panoz afloat (he sold 44) and in 1996 he created another first: an aluminium intensive vehicle — 70% aluminium — which he marketed as the Panoz AIV Roadster. In the same year, to raise his profile, he entered the world of motor sport and has since become one of the biggest players on the US racetracks.
The Esperante is the spin-off from a Panoz racer, replacing the AIV Roadster as the company’s only production road car — a handmade luxury two-seater built on an aluminium frame with a superplastic aluminium body (stronger than steel yet only 40% of the weight) powered by a Ford Mustang four-cam V8 front mid-engine. The Esperante doesn’t come cheap, but $115,000 buys quality, reliability, exclusivity (fewer than 400 have been built) and, above all, soul. Get behind the steering wheel of one of these and you just can’t help brimming with joy.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
4.6 l (280 cid) 2xDOHC V8
Top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.1 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Panoz’s success is partly due to his service — every Esperante owner is made to feel special and cars are individually tailored to meet personal requirements. The Esperante comes either as a coupe or a convertible in three versions — a basic supercar, a slightly more powerful GT, and a road beast GTLM. There is also a GTS strictly for the race circuit.