Yesterday: The Pantera

by Admin on January 5, 2016


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Even though the last Pantera has been built about 10 years ago, today it is still the symbol of De Tomaso. 7260 vehicles have been built between 1970 and 1991, and the car was conceived as Ford contender to GM Corvette for the American market.
In order to contrast GM product, Ford needed a mid-engined car  which could be affordable for everyone. Having considered Corvette success, the American company speeded up the production of a car that had been planned for a long time and De Tomaso was seen as the right partner to be involved in this project.
In the Seventies 2669 Panteras were manufactured, thanks to the cooperation  with the most important characters of the car set in that period, that is to say Lee Iacocca, the most brilliant designer of those days, Henry Ford II, Tom Tijarda, who had already penned Lancia Flaminia designed Ford Fiesta and Y 10 among other cars, and finally the ambitious partner Alejandro. Ford and De Tomaso dealt with different realities, however their cooperation can be easily proved looking at De Tomaso previous production.

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As a matter of fact, Ford had always provided De Tomaso with engines, in addition Iacocca was close to Alejandro and other De Tomaso vehicles (Vallelunga and Mangusta) had mid-mounted longitudinal engines. These are the basis of Pantera history, however it is quite difficult to understand the reason why this car has become one of the symbols of motor racing. Without any doubt, Alejandro was the founder of this building, while the bricks were supplied by a lot of Pantera fans.

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The mid-mounted engine, much higher than the average position, together with a very improved (by comparison with Mangusta) weight distribution, a pure and aggessive design, tyres and rims never seen before made De Tomaso Pantera a dream car. The first press reviews were not enthusiastic, whereas the market research was very much so. Thanks to some agreements, it was decided that Vignale in Turin (where 17 vehicles per day were built) would have been the right place for the body production, the car painting and the interior fitting up. All technical components were mounted at Fossalta plant near Modena.

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Since Pantera needed new changes, many improvements were introduced as production proceeded. By 1972, there were so many changes (mostly technical) that the car was renamed, giving birth to “Pantera L” (“luxury”). An important visual change was the addition of the U.S. government mandated safety bumpers in  front and rear parts. Tijarda had the good idea of painting them black, thus obtaining an even more aggressive Pantera. The GTS, a new Pantera model, was ready for the demanding American market in 1973. Even if it was rolled out as a powerful vehicle, the U.S. version had only one option added, an AM-FM stereo radio. Anyway, American fans were disappointed, as European GTS underwent many changes concerning the engine well.
By the end of 1973, 6128 Panteras were sold. In order to optimize production, De Tomaso plant moved to Bruciata, where it still stands. Unfortunately, on 8th September the business relationship between Ford and De Tomaso broke off owing to severals reasons that did not allow a new agreement.
Many changes occurred after De Tomaso’s departure, but the history of Pantera wasn’t finished yet. First of all, the price of the car increased, and De Tomaso’s loss of Ghia and Vignale plant – later owned by Ford – reduced the quantity of vehicles produced. In addition, even the whole U.S. market got lost, but in that period Alejandro made a lot of things. He took over Moto Guzzi together with Benelli, two important names in motorcycling. Together with Maserati and Innocenti, 5000 people were employed by Mr. De Tomaso.

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To tell the truth, Pantera was a racing car (even if Ford did not take this aspect into great consideration) and in 1972 Pantera Group 3 and Group 4, two models that were almost ready-to-race machines were manufactured. Away from Ford, Pantera became one of the protagonists of races.

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The GT4, with its 5.7 liter 500 hp engine, was also intended to be driven on the street, and people who were not able to purchase one of the eight Group 4 or one of the six GT4 produced, bought a street Pantera and turned it into a race car. The best ranking ever obtained by a Pantera was sixteenth in 1972 Le Mans race recorded by the Belgium team of Du Bois, the same team that raced eight times in the 24 hours race. There have been two important victories for Panteras both in Imola and Hockenheim in 1973, whereas was reached in 1975 the speed of 292 Km/h down the Mulsanne circuit.
In 1977 two Panteras ranked third in the 6-Hours of Vallelunga, and in 1979 a Pantera was fitted for Group 5, thus qualifing for 9th place at Le Mans. The car was not able to finish the race but managed to run briefly. It was the last time for a Pantera to take part in Le Mans. Introduced in 1980, the GT5 had larger tyres and mounted a 350 hp engine, the same Ford 351, whose production had been transferred in Australia. With its new kind of suspensions, GT5 was the best among Pantera models – included “L” and “GTS” which continued to be built -. In 1985 De Tomaso rolled out GT5-S, a real sports car and six years later it was the 1991 Pantera turn, completely changed in its styling by Marcello Gandini design. 38 vehicles equipped with a 5-liter Mustang V8 engine developing 305 hp were manufactured before starting the production of Guarà.

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