The Pantera was a sports car produced by the De Tomaso car company of Italy from 1971 through 1991, the last one delivered to a customer in 1992. The word “Pantera” is Italian for “Panther”. The car was designed by Tom Tjaarda and replaced the De Tomaso Mangusta. Unlike the Mangusta, which employed a steel backbone chassis, the Pantera was a steel monocoque design, the first instance of De Tomaso using this construction technique.
The first 1971 Panteras were powered by a Ford 351 in³ (5.8 L) V8 which produced 330 hp (246 kW). The ZF transaxle used in the Mangusta and was used for the Pantera. Another Italian exotic that shares the ZF transaxle is the Maserati Bora. Power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes and rack and pinion steering were standard equipment. The 1971 Pantera could accelerate to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.5 seconds according to Car and Driver.
Late in 1971, Ford began importing Panteras for the American market to be sold through its Lincoln Mercury dealers. The first 75 cars were simply European imports and are known for their “push-button” door handles and hand-built Carrozzeria Vignale bodies. A total of 1,007 Panteras reached the United States that first year. Unfortunately, these cars were poorly built, and several Panteras broke down during testing on Ford’s own test track. Early crash testing at UCLA showed that safety cage engineering was not very well understood in the 1970s. Rust-proofing was minimal on these early cars, and the quality of fit and finish was poor, with large amounts of lead being used to cover body panel flaws. Notably, Elvis Presley once fired a gun at his Pantera after it wouldn’t start.
Several modifications were made for the 1972 model year Panteras. A new 4-bolt main Cleveland Engine, also 351 in³, was used with lower compression (from 11:1 to 8.6:1, chiefly to meet US emissions standards and run on lower octane standard fuel) but with more aggressive camshaft timing (in an effort to reclaim some of the power lost through the reduction in compression). Many other engine changes were made, including the use of a factory exhaust header.
The “Lusso” (luxury) Pantera L was also introduced in 1972. It featured large black bumpers for the US market as well as a 248 hp (185 kW) Cleveland engine. The 1974 Pantera GTS featured yet more luxury items and badging.
Ford ended their importation to the U.S. in 1975, having sold roughly 5,500 cars in the United States. De Tomaso continued to build the car, however, in ever-escalating forms of performance and luxury for more than a decade. A small number of Panteras were imported to the US by gray market importers in the 1980s, notably Panteramerica and AmeriSport. In all, about 7,200 Panteras were built.
Engine: 351 in³ Cleveland (5.8 L) V8
Power: 330 hp (246 kW)
Curb weight: 3123 lb (1417 kg)
Wheelbase: 98.4 in (2500 mm)
Front track: 57.0 in (1448 mm)
Rear track: 58.0 in (1473 mm)
Length: 158.0 in (4013 mm)
Width: 67.0 in (1702 mm)
Height: 43.4 in (1102 mm)
Brakes: Front 332 x 32 Ventillated and Cross-Drilled; Rear: 314 x 28 Ventillated
Elvis Presley owned a Pantera and once fired a gun at it when it wouldn’t start.
NHL player and doughnut shop magnate, Tim Horton, was driving a Pantera when he lost control and was killed while driving home from a game in 1974.
In December 1984, Mötley Crüe lead singer, Vince Neil, was driving a Pantera when he got in an accident that killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas Dingley (AKA Razzle) and injured two others.
Batman drove a Pantera as the Batmobile in DC Comic issue #408 (it’s a Lamborghini Countach on the cover but, inside, it is clearly a Pantera he’s driving before the wheels are stolen by the young Jason Todd). The Pantera appears again as the Batmobile in issue #645 “A Robin’s Tale” during a flashback sequence.
Appearances in film and television
Former Top Gear presenter Quentin Willson severely damaged a Pantera when he lost control of it on Copse corner at Silverstone.
Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977) featured a Pantera, driven by Frenchman Claude Gilbert (played by Mike Kulcsar) in the Trans-France Race. There were three other Panteras also seen in this film. One was brown with few other decals besides a number 11 on the hood and doors. A second Pantera was red with a black number 30 against a white square background. A third Pantera seen in the film was black with a number 10 on it.
A yellow Pantera GTS was featured in the original version of the film Gone in 60 Seconds (1974).
Panteras also appeared in Cannonball (1976).
In the video games Saints Row and Saints Row 2 a automobile by the name of “Venom Classic” resembles the Pantera.
In the second season of the television show Bullrun a Pantera was one of several cars competing in the competition, but was eliminated after the second elimination challenge.