Car: De Tomaso Pantera GTS
What makes it special: The De Tomaso Pantera is a mid-engined sports car produced by the De Tomaso car company of Italy from 1971 to 1992. Italian for “Panther”, the Pantera was the automaker’s most popular model, with over 7,000 manufactured over its twenty-year production run. The car was designed by the Italian design firm Ghia by American-born designer 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
What made it famous: Late in 1971, Ford began importing Pantera’s 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. About 150 GTS models were imported, with aggressive fender flares and flat black accents. Several modifications were made for the 1972 model year Panteras. A new 4 Bolt Main 351 Cleveland Engine was used with lower compression ratio from 11:1 to 8.6:1, chiefly to meet US emissions standards and run on lower octane standard fuel, but with the more aggressive “Cobra Jet” camshaft featuring the same lift and duration as the 428 Cobra Jet’s factory performance cam in an effort to reclaim some of the power lost through the reduction in compression along with a dual point distributor. Many other engine changes were made, including the use of a factory exhaust header. The ZF transaxle used in the Mangusta was also used for the Pantera, and Power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes and rack and pinion steering were all standard equipment on the Pantera. The Pantera could accelerate to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds according to Car and Driver magazine tests.
Why I would want one: If you grew up a car fan in the 1960’s and 1970’s, this was the car you wanted. I still vividly remember seeing the first one at Ziedler Lincoln-Mercury’s showroom in Port Jefferson Station, Long Island New York. It was white on white, and was displayed on a rotating platform.
Fun fact: The car debuted in Modena in March 1970 and was presented at the 1970 New York Motor Show a few weeks later. Approximately a year later the first production Pantera’s were sold, and production was increased to three per day.