In 1971 Ford Motor Company in a joint effort with DeTomaso quietly introduced the Pantera to the USA. The car was produced in limited numbers until the end of 1974 and then just as quietly was discontinued in its production for the American market. This stunning vehicle was not forgotten however by exotic automotive enthusiasts with discriminating taste. The visual effect of the body shape immediately says performance. The sleek low profile and wide track stance contain all the elements of elegant Italian styling artistry. Supplying the punch for this body was the Ford 351 Cleveland adding a unique quality to the overall equation. Produced from 1970-1974, the small block from Ohio could claim a higher ratio of horsepower per cubic inch (on gasoline) than any other American made engine. The end product was a successful fusion of the best of both worlds. On the one hand we have a exquisitely sculptured Italian styling job while on the other hand we have a top flight American engine supplying an abundance of power. Through the years the Pantera continuously underwent updates and improvements. Some of the changes were due to federally imposed restrictions and regulations and others were initiated by Ford and/or DeTomaso Automobili.
Although the Pantera can be viewed as an exotic product, the guiding concept comes from an evolution rather than an evolution, based as it is on the experience gained from Guigiaro's Mangusta. American Ton Tjaarda was responsible for the body styling. Born and educated in Detroit but working in Italy, Tjaarda was successful in creating a striking sports car in the true Italian tradition. Previously, during his four years with Pininfarina, he had worked on the Ferrari 365 California. In 1968 Tjaarda had taken over as head of styling at Ghia, where the Pantera was conceived. Although its design had been created without the help of a wind tunnel initially, later tests by Ford in their Dearborn, Michigan wind tunnels showed that the shape and design were extremely aerodynamic. The very first cars had the drag coefficient 0f 0.29. With the ample availability of power, slippery body gave the Pantera a 0-60 mph time of around 7 seconds (slightly over 6 seconds for the European version) and a top speed of around 150+ mph. The Campagnolo wheels were 15" diameter, 8" wide in the rear and 7" wide in the front. Tires were by Michelin, 185 and 215. The price in 1971 was $9,995 (Note - in 1971 a Ferrari Daytona sold for $22,000, a Porsche 911S Targa sold for $10,380, and a Corvette 350 sold for $5,472).
1007 1971 models were brought into the United States, beginning with car #1286. Approximately the first 75 cars were "push button door" Panteras. These first Panteras were built at Vignale Carrozzeria, Italy. The first 75 vehicles were originally slated to go to the European market, but were sidetracked for exportation to the US after the agreement with Ford was finalized. This small group of 1971s were the only totally factory handbuilt Panteras to be imported into the US by Ford. These vehicles can be identified from all other Panteras by their round door buttons and a hand grip molded into the body just behind the door, instead of the usual pull-type door handles. After the first 300 cars the transmission was changed to have a final drive of about 3.0 (original was 3.45), this modification increased the top speed by about 10 mph.
In 1972 the Pantera still had the 350 Cleveland engine and German 5-speed manual transmission, however modifications began being done to the car actually starting with the final 200 cars produced at the end of the 1971 production year. What follows is a list of the most significant modifications made to the Pantera during 1972:
From the second half of the 1972 model year the Pantera known as the L model entered the picture. The "L" stands for Lusso, which means luxury in Italian. New Government regulations came and this new legislation forced DeTomaso to install large black impact bumpers on the front and rear of the car. These bumpers were equipped with shock-absorbing pistons and weighed approximately 200 lbs (total). The other major change was one of power; compression was lowered from 8.6:1 to 8.0:1 and power dropped to 248 hp. The following listed items are the significant modifications made to the Pantera L;
In 1974 the Pantera L was still being produced but the GTS model also entered the scene. Mechanically the cars are the same with the same 351 Cleveland engine but with a Ford 4V Autilote carburator, however the GTS received a number of cosmetic changes. The list:
In 1981 "Popular Mechanics" magazine conducted a million-dollar car test with 16 of the world's most exotic cars. They started with a 17-mile loop on the streets and highways of Orange County, California, that included narrow country asphalt, railroad crossings, freeways, stop-and-go traffic, a potholed dirt road and a stretch of medium-speed sweepers. They also went out to the track at the old Ontario Motor Speedway and spent two days doing performance testing including; acceleration, braking, skid pan and slalom. There were four drivers involved rotating periodically from car to car. The legendary Phil Hill and Sterling Moss were two of the drivers involved. The Pantera was the overall winner by a wide margin and was the most consistently excellent car in their test. Stirling Moss remarked about the Pantera:
Cars 1/4 mile slalom skidpad Braking Lap Time (sec @ mph) (sec) (cw/ccw s) 70-0 (ft) (min) MPG $USK Points
Pantera GTS 14.949 @ 96.15 8.91 12.59/12.83 166.6 1:55.9 15 60 19 BMW M1 14.657 @ 97.40 8.71 12.46/12.59 181.1 1:54.1 10 115 28 Porsche 928 15.766 @ 88.75 8.98 12.83/13.19 170.1 1:56.8 11 38 36 Lamborghini Countach 14.994 @ 96.25 8.79 12.85/12.79 184.1 1:55.5 7 116 40 Ferrari 512 Boxer 15.002 @ 95.54 9.00 13.26/13.22 129.2 1:57.2 8 100 41 Ferrari 308 GTSi 15.950 @ 87.63 9.49 13.00/13.43 158.5 2:03.0 14 52 45 Porsche 924 Turbo 17.197 @ 78.67 9.19 12.78/12.87 178.1 2:03.4 21 27 46 Duntov Turbo 15.759 @ 89.02 9.21 13.00/13.49 173.1 2:06.3 14 37 48 Manta 15.247 @ 91.18 9.10 13.41/13.54 171.4 2:04.9 16 25 49 Maserati Merak 16.543 @ 85.22 9.12 13.01/13.48 167.5 2:04.1 10 41 53 Lotus Esprit 17.888 @ 76.92 9.38 12.98/13.24 199.9 2:04.7 16 37 63 BMW 633 CSi 16.795 @ 83.17 9.67 13.36/13.74 180.6 2:06.4 19 34 66 Jaguar XJS 16.659 @ 83.25 10.17 13.78/13.80 166.7 2:03.3 9 30 67 DeTomaso Longchamp 16.825 @ 86.62 10.42 13.03/13.32 237.9 2:01.8 12 69 69 Aston Martin Volante 16.859 @ 85.65 9.90 14.16/14.12 176.2 2:02.3 11 98 70 Mercedes Benz 380 SL 18.054 @ 75.18 9.89 13.38/13.34 191.2 2:09.2 18 39 74