9 December 2010

Pantera: Ripe for picking up, not picking on

A few months ago, we included the Pantera on our list of "Yesterday's Misfires, Today's Collectibles." Some of our readers took exception to our characterization of the Pantera as "poorly built and (with) numerous mechanical flaws." In an effort to make peace, here's the other side of the story from a dedicated reader and client -- and Pantera fan -- Adams Hudson.

“No, it’s not a Ferrari,” I said, trying to look as if I hadn’t been asked this question thousands of times. “It’s a Pantera.” From there, the discussion with my newest 14-year-old best friend flowed: the Ford desire for Italian connections, the GT40, and ultimately, the Pantera.

“Awesome,” was the reply, many times over in fact. And he was right each time.

The original “hybrid” concept – before the Prius came to save the planet and spotted owls – meant marrying reliable American power into a svelte European body. Even John Apen, noted Ferrari collector and historian commented, “Euro-Americans are the ultimate street rod, with plenty of parts to increase the already great performance relatively cheaply”. Totally agreed.

Now you’re thinking: “Weren’t Panteras flawed? Didn’t they overheat to the point of singularly causing global warming?” Rather than me whine about how unfair that is, or rewrite history to serve my passion, consider…

  • A Jaguar E-type (raise your warm beers now) is a milestone car. Period. It also had more flaws than Paris Hilton’s morality code. Personally, I’d rather wake up next to an E-type.
  • Muscle cars are straight line rocket ships with true-blue roots, fixable by Roy and the boys using coat hangers and a NAPA coupon. Yet they handle like a wheelbarrow full of gelatin but with worse brakes.
  • Ferraris are lovely mistresses, just as enchanting, and just as likely to drive a Borrani spoke figuratively through your heart and wallet when it darn well feels like it.

The Pantera was given no such leniency, except by a very “inside” group, until now. Why? I believe the Pantera was held to an impossible standard. It was sold new in Lincoln Mercury dealerships for the bargain sum of $9,800. It was “positioned” as a supercar (which it was) but compared to Ford fit and finish, which it wasn’t.

Yes, it overheated when new, but please, that was 30 years ago, so get over it. All the owners have. Yes, it had some electrical gremlins. Ditto. For about $174, you solve them. Basically whatever shortcomings existed when new have been correctly re-engineered by enthusiasts (see www.panterainternational.com and www.panteraplace.com) who were creating “resto-rods” before anybody knew what that was. They just thought the car was cool enough to improve without asking the mythical Italian Gods of the Concours first.

Market emergence

The downside to this “anything goes” mentality is that the car is difficult to price. You’ll see twin turbos, nitrous, crazy wheels, wings, and as Sports Car Market editor Keith Martin once said, “Rainbow Trout on acid paint jobs.” Market pricing requires a standard, and for Panteras, it didn’t exist. Things change.

When the late ’80s craze for Italian machinery took off, the Pantera was left looking at a bunch of taillights. The cars poked their head into $50K range before settling back to the mid $30s for the duration of the ’90s.

The money for Panteras is now higher for the few unmodified examples out there. I looked for 5 months before parting with low $30s on my extremely original one-owner car (tires, paint, tags, books) and put in another $18,000 or so to make it more livable without altering the “original” status.

The Pantera is getting its share of attention from both the exotic and the muscle car camps. A solid car is in the mid $40s, with lesser examples (Nos. 3 or 4 conditions) in the low-mid $30s. A No. 1 Pantera is perhaps a $60,000 car, which compared to the very useable performance level, is a bargain.

Things the car needs

  • Overheating of both the engine and occupants is easily corrected. Modern water pumps (Edelbrock FlowKooler about $85) and high volume fans (Spal, for another $170) take care of the motor, while a rotary AC compressor will take care of the rest. Make sure this gets done or you’ll be tempted to follow Elvis’ lead and shoot it.
  • The Dallara-designed suspension was non-adjustable and just barely ‘off’ optimum, but modern-day gurus like Pat Mical (www.patsauto.com ) have erased a 30 year technology gap with “stealth” adjustables that work. This Pantera is as crisp as my 996 twin turbo, but more of a workout with manual steering. Yet that’s how real men do it!
  • The 300 hp engine is adequate for what the car was designed to do. I also put a set of Mical’s headers on mine, since the originals are really junk. It breathes about 35 hp better and sounds unreal. For about $500, you can “upgrade” intake and carburetion, putting the originals on a shelf and pick up maybe 40 more horses. American ponies are cheap, boys.
  • Electrical bits. The window and headlight motor gears break. Replace with $50 of bronze gears. Put modern relays in the ignition to lessen the load and increase the chances that your car will actually start when you need it.

What the car will do for you

Put the key in. Engage the starter. Feel 300 horses of reliable Cleveland power bounce off your right shoulder blade. Engage first, down and to the left. Pull off – at any speed you like – and try not to smile. Dare you. This car makes you younger, stronger and better looking.

Loafing at 70 in fifth barely awakens the V-8. Stab the throttle and wake up whatever zip code you’re in. The smile returns. The car is a superb blend of V-8 pragmatism and mid-engined Italian elegance in a bargain package. The Tjaarda-designed body is so gorgeous – even today – that you forgive the idiosyncrasies.

The bottom line

A Pantera is a man’s car: A hard-edged, prize fighter punch in a nicely cut suit, still requiring some manners out in public. It’s poised for an overdue comeuppance in the collector ranks.

Keep your eye out for a solid original car. Camps are divided on aesthetics of the chrome bumper cars (1971-mid ‘73) or later, more-refined rubber-bumper cars (late ‘73-‘74). The market slightly favors the later cars due to the engineering upgrades that Ford spent to get “right”… before the car went away.

No matter what, the deTomaso Pantera is a car that is right for picking up, not picking on.

What you’re likely to pay for a 1972 Pantera*

Condition # (based on Hagerty's Cars That Matter Vol. 13)

  • 4:  $26,800 (A needs work car, not fully streetable, potential rust issues.)
  • 3:  $34,100 (A sound driver, presentable and useable, yet with needs.)
  • 2:  $44,000 (An exceptional car, solid and considered “show worthy” to the average observer.
  • 1:  $53,700 (Either a flawless, low-mileage original, pristine in all respects or a painstakingly executed resto-mod tastefully upgraded to modern driving standards.

*Generally speaking, later cars are more “improved” than earlier ones and thus more valuable. Also a factory GTS would add about 10% to the above figures.

Sources for Pantera info

Performance Automotive Technology: Pat Mical is both a “re” engineer and sympathetic prophet for the Pantera. He “senses” what the car needs and often has a better solution than the factory had. From suspension to engine to electrical, his work is astounding. Ph. 978-649-2211.

Pantera International Car Club: The club of clubs for all things Pantera. Incredible website represents a wealth of information.

The Pantera Place: A goldmine for almost any repair, upgrade, do-it-yourself project you can imagine. One man’s Pantera passion personified, Mike Dailey should be voted King of Selfless Pantera Knowledge.

Pantera Owners Club of America: POCA is dedicated to supporting Panteras owners and the owners of other De Tomaso cars in the U.S. and around the world.

9 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Jeff Knoxville, Tn May 22, 2013 at 14:58
    Well written article. My Pantera has been in the family for 27 years now. In those 27 years it has never overheated or left me stranded a single time. For well under $500 you can engineer out all the gremlins and you will have a supremely reliable Supercar. Try doing that with a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Maserati!! Detomaso Pantera, the biggest bargain there has ever been in the world of the Supercar.
  • 2
    dave monroe ct October 27, 2013 at 20:56
    thought about selling my 74 L with 24,003 miles, all up dates,new tires ,radiator,fans,stainless steel tubes for water travel from frt to rear,new factory seats reapolstered, carpet, frt and back trunk carpet(all by hall pantera)plus a lot of other stuff. After reading Adams article and all the comments I think I will hold on to it for a little longer.THANKS Adam and owners. Dave
  • 3
    Travis Eureka,Ca January 16, 2014 at 01:14
    My dad has a 73 or 74 pantera he bought in 1980 I was 6 years old. He still has it re-built the motor several years back and probably has driven it one time since re-build. I sure wish he would do some of the minor preparations and then pull it out of its garage where it's been sitting for way to long and unleash this beautiful car, that I love so much
  • 4
    phillip shaffer Ft. laud Fl June 30, 2014 at 23:18
    I have been looking to buy one for about 2 months, I was going to buy an eleanor or a GT500 shelby, and then I saw a Pantera at a car show, I know what you can do to a cleveland 351, and thats alot, and the car as always been an eye catcher, Always, They can Rave about Lambos and Ferrari 's all they want, american muscle is alot cheaper to produce, and the repair bills tend to have 2 less Zero's in the Amount Due Box. I'll take the Pantera , To easy to get it to 500 Hp and at the wheels. Not the Tach. Love the Cars, If tou have one for sale call Me, But they seem to want the same money for fixer uppers they do already done cars ?
  • 5
    Bob Oklahoma September 9, 2014 at 15:38
    I own both a 74 Pantera L and a Ferrari 308 GTS. Here's my insight. No need to trash-talk the Ferrari - completely different vehicles. Pantera is a very fast, good looking muscle car that handles pretty good. Ferrari feels almost magical on a curvy road - you have to drive one to understand - not as fast though. Different sounds also. One sounds like an angry school bus, the other sounds kinda like an old 4-cylinder motorcycle. I do all my own wrenching and have found the Pantera at times to actually be harder to get parts for. The two cars actually share several systems such as the steering rack. The Pantera is not really the poor man's Ferrari - it has special needs that require some work and dedication. For example, my ZF transaxle is going to need a freshen-up in the next couple of years. Better start saving for that now. I could buy a complete used 308 engine/tranny for what thats gonna cost.
  • 6
    außerordentlich auto Wiesbaden November 11, 2014 at 07:21
    put an Aluminator XS in on of those cars and watch out...8000rpm
  • 7
    John. Sirmalis Barrington, RI February 22, 2016 at 17:02
    Interesting, valid write up. I have owned my 71 Pantera from new since delivered in Jan72. I traded a 68 XKE convertible. It was my daily driver in snow, wind sleet or hail on my 40 mile round trip to work, 5 days per week. It had all the gremlins. No one mentioned the braided steel throttle wire in a tube from accelerator pedal to carburetor which would stick going on a off throttle. Sitting beside that tube is the nice, smooth cable in Teflon tube put in the 73 or 74. In 78, my welding torches came out, repair a boatload of rust on the body, unibody prices, door post, upper frame to rear, front hood and light boxes. 24 hours of welding straight by a young professional. Many parts and unibody pieces I had fabricated (I am an engineer). Engine has been replaced with a rebuilt 351, 4 bolt Cleveland, 11 to 1 heads, performer intake and 650 Holley and slightly hotter cam. Exhaust are headers with just 4 silence tips. Used to wake up the neighbors. My dogs heard me coming 2 miles away. Inside is all original except for rugs and perfect. Paint was put on in my garage, red, black interior. It goes out sparingly now but each time I put it up to 120 mph in 4th. Best handler and ride I have ever had (even in a spin on ice in a turn). No new rust anywhere. My current daily driver is a Jaguar XKR. The only problem now is hard for me to get my right leg under. The steering wheel when I get in (I am 81 years old) Everything recommended to do I did before all the parts and written material came out. It was good old days fun with a perfect car that is better than perfect now. It stays in the garage and the Jag stays out. Any questions, email.
  • 8
    John. Sirmalis Barrington, RI February 23, 2016 at 09:23
    Interesting, valid write up. I have owned my 71 Pantera from new since delivered in Jan72. I traded a 68 XKE convertible. It was my daily driver in snow, wind sleet or hail on my 40 mile round trip to work, 5 days per week. It had all the gremlins. No one mentioned the braided steel throttle wire in a tube from accelerator pedal to carburetor which would stick going on a off throttle. Sitting beside that tube is the nice, smooth cable in Teflon tube put in the 73 or 74. In 78, my welding torches came out, repair a boatload of rust on the body, unibody prices, door post, upper frame to rear, front hood and light boxes. 24 hours of welding straight by a young professional. Many parts and unibody pieces I had fabricated (I am an engineer). Engine has been replaced with a rebuilt 351, 4 bolt Cleveland, 11 to 1 heads, performer intake and 650 Holley and slightly hotter cam. Exhaust are headers with just 4 silence tips. Used to wake up the neighbors. My dogs heard me coming 2 miles away. Inside is all original except for rugs and perfect. Paint was put on in my garage, red, black interior. It goes out sparingly now but each time I put it up to 120 mph in 4th. Best handler and ride I have ever had (even in a spin on ice in a turn). No new rust anywhere. My current daily driver is a Jaguar XKR. The only problem now is hard for me to get my right leg under. The steering wheel when I get in (I am 81 years old) Everything recommended to do I did before all the parts and written material came out. It was good old days fun with a perfect car that is better than perfect now. It stays in the garage and the Jag stays out. Any questions, email.
  • 9
    Kerry A. Hopkins Kirkland, WA September 24, 2016 at 01:08
    "The Bottom Line... A Pantera is a mans car." I hate to disagree - however as a lady who drives a Pantera - it is most certainly a car for any enthusiast that loves American power and European styling. I own a '71 - pristine all around and modified. Gorgeous car! I feel blessed to be one of the few that gets to be the guardian in this cars life - I certainly have had my share of interesting comments - all from men when they catch up to me and see my femaleness in the drivers seat - with a laugh and a huge smile - I'm often quick to prove I own it and know how to drive it too! Thank you to all of you for loving the car like I do! Hope to see you all out there!

Join the Discussion