Panther Solo – 1990

Panther Westwinds was a bankruptcy waiting to happen, and it is a tribute to founder Robert Jankel that the company he established in 1972 lasted as long as it did. Surrey-based Panther actually enjoyed initial success, producing retro-styled sports cars and luxury sedans using components largely sourced from other manufacturers. Offerings ranged from the deliciously luxurious J2 roadster to the Panther de Ville, a shameless Bugatti Royale lookalike. But the inevitable collapse occurred in 1980 and Panther was taken over by Korean entrepreneur Young Kim.

He constructed a new factory in Essex, continuing Panther Lima production for a couple of years until the racy aluminium-bodied Kallista roadster appeared in 1982. But plans were soon afoot to replace the Kallista with the sensational new mid-engined Panther Solo 1 coupe with its lightweight glassfibre body, which would be powered by a Ford 1.6 litre high-performance engine. But the Toyota MR2 appeared at just the wrong time for the Solo 1, so a swift rethink was in order — Panther could not hope to compete against the Japanese giant.

The outcome was the slightly larger 2+2 Solo 2 of 1990, with wedge-shaped styling and a distinctive rear spoiler. The composite body consisted of aluminium honeycomb covered with carbon fibre, and was sufficiently distinctive to avoid being compared to the dreaded MR2. The Solo 2 had a punchy Ford Cosworth 2 litre engine and boasted a revised version of the FF (Ferguson Formula) four-wheel drive system made famous by Jensen Motors — the result being a rather impressive performance car.

But few would get to be impressed. No sooner had production got under way than it became apparent that every car made was losing money and Panther folded yet again, leaving the Solo 2 as an interesting footnote in the performance-car bible.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

UK

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1990

ENGINE:

1,993 cc Straight Four

PERFORMANCE:

Solo 2 — top speed of 144 mph (232 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.8 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Trying to find a Panther Solo to admire is hard, and actually driving one nigh on impossible — it is thought that as few as 15 examples may still exist, and the whereabouts of even that number is unknown — though former Panther Westwinds owner Y C Kim is said to retain a fine red-painted Solo 2.

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