Today, we are blessed with supercars coming from every corner of the world. But, there was a time when a select few countries gave birth to supercars due to the technological barriers back then. These few brands have made their legacy today and can proudly boast about their history. One such country that has always been at the forefront of manufacturing sublime supercars is Italy. Cars like the Ferrari F40, Lamborghini Countach, Bugatti EB110, Ferrari Testarossa and Lamborghini Miura are supercar royalty. However, there is one such car that is equally rare and is proudly from Italy and that is the De Tomaso Pantera.
Many people have hardly heard about the De Tomaso Pantera, and that includes many automobile enthusiasts too. Well, it’s not their fault, the Pantera was lurking in the same timeline as the famous Countach and we know how that goes. Alejandro de Tomaso was the founder of the De Tomaso Automobili that was established back in 1959 in Modena. De Tomaso originally focused on building race cars as he was a racer for Maserati, but then eventually got into building road cars.
The Pantera came in to replace the Mangusta and was showcased at the 1970 New York Auto Show. Just like the Mangusta, the Pantera was a mid-engined sports car with a rear-wheel-drive system. The design for the Pantera was penned by designer Tom Tjaarda who worked for an Italian design firm Ghia. De Tomasso tied up with the Ford Motor Company for the Pantera’s powerplant and considering that Ford was still annoyed with the falling out with Ferrari, it was a good move. Ford supplied the 351 Cleveland V8 to De Tomaso. This powerplant was good for 355 BHP and could do a top speed of 159 mph. The Pantera’s steel monocoque chassis and the mid-engine layout meant that it was exciting to drive. Adding to that, the 5-speed ZF transaxle gearbox made things even sweeter. Many people believe that the gearbox was a major selling point of the car.
Ford not only supplied the mechanicals to De Tomaso but also sold the Pantera in the US market via the Lincoln-Mercury dealerships. However, the car was also known for rusting issues and overheating and when combined with the lack of knowledge of the Lincoln-Mercury dealers to properly service the cars it turned out to be a bitter affair. 1974 saw the unveiling of the Pantera GTS that featured a sportier steering wheel, blacked-out hood, Campagnolo wheels and a nifty GTS badging. However, things were not well in the Ford-Tomaso relationship, which eventually led to Ford bowing out of the tie-up in 1975.
Even after the fall off with Ford Motor Company, De Tomaso continued the production of the Pantera with the same 351 engine for the next 18 years. De Tomaso had a huge hurdle of sourcing the engine for the Pantera but managed to do so by switching to Ford Australia for sourcing the engine when the US stopped the production in 1974. Today, Pantera is a niche car that not many come across and especially the ones without rust are even rarer. But, all it took was one man’s vision to create an extraordinary sports car and without De Tomaso, we would not have a car that could keep up with the vintage Ferraris and Lamborghinis.