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PANTERA 1971 - 1996

In the late 1960s, Ford was in need of a high performance GT to combat the likes of Ferrari and Corvette, and assist in generating additional dealership traffic for its mainstream product lines. De Tomaso Automobili was relying on Ford for engines used in the Mangusta and had purchased the Ghia design and coach-building concern. After Ford’s failed attempt to purchase Ferrari, the Ford-De Tomaso marriage seemed quite natural, so a business / purchase arrangement was consummated and work began on a new mid-engined GT. It would be marketed in the U.S. by Ford’s Lincoln-Mercury division.

Ghia stylist Tom Tjaarda styled the new machine, and Giam Paolo Dallara was engaged for chassis and production design. The Pantera’s layout differed from the Mangusta in several fashions. First, it was conceived with a full monocoque chassis layout, as opposed to the prior car’s spine chassis design. Secondly, it to be built around Ford’s then-new 5.7 liter (351 cu. in.) "Cleveland" V-8. This engine featured deep-breathing heads patterned after the very successful Boss 302 design, 4-barrel carburetion and 4-bolt main bearing caps. The new V-8 was mated to a ZF fully synchronized 5-speed transaxle with limited slip, and rated at 310 horsepower (SAE Gross, 1971 trim).

All of the expected race-inspired componentry is present: fully independent suspension with upper and lower A-Arms, coil-over shock absorbers, front and rear sway bars, 4-wheel power disc brakes, cast magnesium wheels by Campagnolo and rack-and-pinion steering. The front compartment houses the brake booster, master cylinder, battery and tool kit; the rear trunk unit, easily removable for engine access, holds a considerable amount of luggage. The interior features an aggressive cockpit design, full instrumentation, factory air conditioning and power windows. 1971 and 1972 cars carried chrome bumperettes front and rear. (For a virtual tour of the factory from 1972, click here).

In late 1972, the "L" model was introduced, which features black safety bumpers front and rear, improved cooling and air conditioning systems and other enhancements. For 1973, the "L" model continued with a revised dashboard and instrument layout. The last Panteras constructed for the US market were built in late 1974, and included approximately 150 GTS models. The GTS featured fender flares and additional black out paint trim. European versions received larger wheels, tires and other performance minded enhancements.

The first Panteras were marketed at "Around $10,000" as the advertisements would say; the final 1974 units carrying prices of approximately $12,600.

At the end of the 1974 model year, Ford and De Tomaso Automobili dissolved their business arrangement, and importation of the Pantera to the United States was concluded. Mr. De Tomaso reassumed ownership of the Pantera project, and production was continued on a more exclusive basis for markets other than the US. Several models ensued, including the GT/4, which was modeled after the successful Group 4 competition cars of 1972-3. It wore larger fender flares, 10x15 and 13x15 inch racing wheels and aggressive Pirelli P7 tires. A GTS and Group 3 performance version were also offered along with the now-standard L model, and Pantera buyers could custom-fit the car with their choice of optional colors and features.

The GT5 model was introduced in 1980, and it featured much-revised "ground effects" bodywork, including a deep front air dam with integral driving lights, rocker panel extensions, flared wheel arches and a deck lid-mounted "delta" wing spoiler. The GT5 was augmented in 1985 with the introduction of the GT5-S. The GT5-S represented the first significant body redesign of the Pantera since its introduction, which included new, wider flared front and rear fenders, side air intake grilles and a further revised front fascia. The interior also received substantial upgrading including revised air conditioning and console layout, "gathered" leather upholstery on the seats and door panels, upgraded carpeting, and burlwood paneling on the doors, dashboard and console.

The cars were now virtually hand-constructed, and over this 15-year time period, the car had truly made the transition from mass-produced exotic car to a true and quite exclusive luxury GT

In 1989, De Tomaso engaged the talents of Italian automotive designer Marcello Gandini to freshen and update the Pantera’s appearance for the Nineties. This redesign also encompassed substantial revisions to its chassis layout and mechanical specification. All of the lower body cladding was new, as were the rear airfoil wing and the unique spoiler at the base of the windshield. The latest 17" cast alloy wheels and Michelin Z-rated tires were specified, as were large, ventilated Brembo disc brakes. This new look significantly modernized the appearance of the Pantera, but a considerable amount of updating also lay beneath the skin.

Whereas the prior car was of a monocoque chassis layout, this new and final version of the Pantera employed a largely tube frame structure. The goals were lighter weight and increased chassis rigidity. Both goals were met according to the factory. An all-new suspension was also part of the package. Most of the new cars still employed the ZF 5-speed transaxle, but two of them were fitted with a Getrag 6-speed unit. The 1991 cars also marked a major change in the engine compartment. While all previous Panteras carried the aforementioned 351 Cleveland (and some 351 Windsor) engines, the new model switched to a modified 5.0 liter (302 cu. in) Ford V-8, a unit that traced its roots back to the same engine used in the Mangusta. Rated at 305 horsepower, the new unit employed computer-controlled direct port fuel injection and the latest electronic engine management systems. ANSA developed a fully catalyzed exhaust system for cleaner exhaust emissions, yet the car maintained the deep-toned exhaust note associated with a Pantera.

The interior was largely unchanged from the package developed for the GT5-S, though again it used the highest-quality woods and leathers. Out of a total of 41of these final-edition Panteras constructed, four were converted, while still under construction, to a "targa" model featuring a removable top section. The work was performed by Pavesi of Milan. The last Panteras were built in 1993, bringing to a close nearly 25 years of continuous production.

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