The growing 1970s trend for replicas was largely confined to smaller kit or factory-built sports cars, until the English manufacturer Panther Westwinds set a new trend for powerful, luxury automobiles styled on the panache of the ‘Golden Age’ of the 1930s. Panther’s first car was the J72, a replica of Jaguar’s SS100. Its phenomenal success persuaded Panther to attempt something even more spectacular.
The Panther de Ville four-door saloon of 1974 was a glorious whiff of a 1930 Bugatti Royale. It was no imitation — but the de Ville gave a brilliant impression of a Bugatti, with the long sweep of its wings and running boards culminating in an imposing arch of a front grille, enormous headlights, and a sporty tilt to the windscreen. Only the design of its two-tone paintwork was actually copied from Bugatti. What you can’t see immediately is the Jaguar underneath that made the Panther de Ville so easy to drive, so quick, and such fun.
The giant wheelbase carried Jaguar suspension, power steering and automatic transmission, and a choice of either 4.2 litre or 5.3 litre engine. Hawk-eyed car buffs will also notice that the doors come from an Austin Maxi (BMC 1800).
If it was cobbled together, the Panther de Ville was meticulously hand-crafted to the highest standard. The interiors went beyond lavish to theatrical, with walnut and silver-appointed bars (including ice-maker) – and TV, and a catalogue of refinements that encapsulated the ostentation of the era. Its opulence was worthy of an emperor (it was bought by Sir Elton John among others); yet it had a rakish, dangerous splendor like its Bugatti inspiration. Only 60 were made, including seven two-seat convertibles — and just one, six-door, turbo-charged, pink and gold limousine, festooned with headlights. Nicknamed The Golden Eagle’, it was made for a Malaysian prince.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1974 (until 1984)
4,235 cc Straight Six or 5,343 cc V12
Top speed of 150 mph (241 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.5 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Panther de Ville was – naturally the transport of choice of Cruella de Vil (played by Glenn Close) in Disney’s films 101 Dalmatians and 102 Dalmatians.