Do you know the Italian word for panther? That’s right, it’s Pantera. And this is a great place to start. The De Tomaso Pantera that launched in 1971 provided an Americanized version of an Italian styled supercar.
You didn’t have to go to Maranello, Italy to get one, because Ford made the car available at your local Lincoln Mercury dealer. With a sticker price around $10,000 in 1971, it’s curious that the automobile wasn’t a success.
Here we’ll talk about one of the most misunderstood sports cars from the early 1970s. Learn about the trials and tribulations of owning one. Uncover what these cars are worth today and what they could be worth in the future. Finally, learn about parts availability and clubs that support the ownership of a Pantera sports car.
Birth of the De Tomaso Pantera
They built Panteras from 1971 through 1992. However, here we’ll discuss the Ford partnership and specifically the cars imported into the United States from 1971 through 1974.
They imported and sold around 5,200 cars during this time period.
General Motors and the American Motors Corporation started experimenting with mid engine Italian style sports cars in the late 60s. Ford’s president at the time, Lee Iacocca, liked the idea and wanted to beat the other companies to the marketplace.
Fortunately, he already had a relationship with Alejandro De Tomaso, a sports car builder from Modena, Italy. Ford had been providing the 289 cubic inch engine to the European coach builder since 1964. This engine slid right into the predecessor of the Pantera known as the Mangusta.
Ford agreed to finance the Pantera project in return for an 80 percent stockholder share. Ford Motor Company would also hold exclusive rights to sell the cars in the United States. And that’s how the Pantera became the first American mid engine sports car.
Ford dealers already had their Carroll Shelby inspired AC Cobras and the Mustang pony cars. Therefore, they would sell the Pantera under the sign of the cat. Just in case you don’t remember, the Lincoln Mercury dealer network used a cougar as a mascot in the 70s. This was a perfect fit with the Italian panther moniker.
Pantera Problems and Solutions
Elvis Presley owned a 1974 bright Yellow Pantera. It’s believed he opened fire on the automobilewhen it refused to start at his Memphis, Tennessee, home. The reasons behind the multiple issues surrounding the full production Panteras are attributed to a rush into production.
The sports car went from an idea on paper to cars rolling off the assembly line in less than a year. Ford thought is was important to be first to the market. Unfortunately they sacrificed quality to achieve this goal. Airflow was a big shortcoming in these sports cars. The engine overheated easily due to an undersized radiator with poor airflow across its core.
Airflow was also an issue for the interior cabin. Drivers and passengers complained about oppressive temperatures in the tight interior space. This issue was amplified when the engine overheated. Owner’s also complained about driver comfort.
The intrusion of the left front wheel well into the foot area made the car difficult to drive. This is especially true if you have large feet. Jay Leno owns a 1971 Pantera. He has to take his shoes off to drive the car.
All Panteras came with Ford’s ZF manual transmission. It utilized an Italian style gated shifter that looked better than it operated. Although the ZF five-speed is considered durable and reliable, premature clutch failure is a common issue.
The early production models suffered from structural problems. Ford issued a recall on these cars and improved the situation going forward. Aftermarket companies have taken this a step further. They sell sub-frame connector kits and shock tower braces to stiffen the weakest points. Braces are available for the front and back wheelhouses to add more structural rigidity to the body.
Fortunately, there are still companies that produce brand-new ZF transmissions and offer rebuilding services for the Ford 351 Cleveland engines. This makes even the most persistent Pantera problems resolvable with an investment of time and materials. The passion surrounding this automobile has enabled aftermarket companies to supply improvements and support.
High performance brake kits can eliminate brake fade and improve stopping distances. Steering kits include a redesigned rack and pinion assembly that enhance the steering ratio and tighten the turning radius. Replacement sway bars come with polyurethane bushings and improve handling. Suspension kits include high rate springs for the already competent independent suspension that will restore the original ride height.
One of the Pantera problems that’s difficult to overcome is its susceptibility to corrosion. When new owners begin a restoration project, they often find out just how bad the situation is, when theyremove all the rust and body filler.
Aftermarket companies provide replacement floorboards, fenders and body panels. However, installation of these parts can be expensive. Therefore, you should complete a detailed evaluation before deciding if the car is worth a complete restoration.
What’s a De Tomaso Pantera Worth
Considering the limited quantity of available automobiles the car still remains undervalued. You can find unrestored examples in the $25,000 range. Keep in mind that the costs involved to restore one could be extremely high. Therefore, those interested in adding a De Tomaso Pantera to their collection often look for one that’s already restored.
Restored examples of the first American mid engine sports car can pull down prices over $100,000. The future looks bright for this sports car as people begin to focus more on its beauty and power instead of its shortcomings. If you’re really interested in owning a Pantera then I suggest you visit the Pantera Owners Club of America (POCA) website for more information.