By Chris Kimball
In case you don’t know the story of Pandora’s box, In Greek mythology, Pandora's box is the large jar carried by Pandora that, once opened, unleashed many terrible things on mankind: ills, toils, sickness, and worse. At the very bottom, however, when all seemed lost, there was one more thing left--hope.
So, what does this have to do with a 1972 pre-L Pantera? Let me start at the beginning.
Back in 2006 I realized there wasn’t much in life I’d always wanted to do but hadn’t had the chance to experience, save that one thing I always wished for: The chance to own a DeTomaso Pantera. In December of that year, after searching hither and yon I found what I was looking for--on eBay, no less.
I flew from Washington State to New Haven, Connecticut, saw the car, fell in love and drove it away. Well, actually I had it shipped to Tacoma and then drove it home. (As a quick aside; when I drove into my driveway, my wife was waiting at the front door--she had heard me coming from a block away--and she watched with amusement as I tried to extract myself from the Pantera. As I clumsily attempted to exit the car, my foot caught on the seat and I almost landed on my keister in front of the whole neighborhood! Vicki chuckled and said, wryly, “Any cool factor you may have by owning that car will immediately be obliterated when they see you trying to get out of it!”)
Anyway, as a new member of Panteras Northwest, I was relieved to have my fellow club members around to help me figure out what needed to be done to the car.
Quite a bit, as it turned out.
In January of 2009 I decided the only logical choice was for me to buy an entirely new motor. I enlisted help from members of Panteras Northwest and all the great people who populate the Pantera email forum.
I’m not very motor savvy, so naturally, I asked advice about what parts I should use, how I should have the motor built and so on. In retrospect, what I now realize is that the guys were all telling me what they would do if they were me--except it was my money being spent! Nonetheless, I was using a well-known, local engine-builder who was happy to oblige, and the final decision was to use a sonic tested Cleveland block bored and stroked to 408 cubic inches. The modifications and price went up from there…
At this point I reasoned that with the new motor’s additional torque, I might need to have the frame checked. The last thing I wanted was to end up with a Pretzel-shaped DeTomaso.
I was referred to a gentleman named Larry Rebsamen who was known for expert frame work, so Panteras Northwest club members Mike Thomas, Doug Braun and I took the car to his shop (a large metal building bursting at the seams with tools, parts, and a half-dozen cars in various stages of restoration).
Before taking the car to Larry, I had noticed the inner edges of the car’s back tires were significantly worn. One look at the situation, and Larry announced that the frame was in such bad shape the shock towers were collapsing into the engine bay!
The final result was that the rear portion of the frame would have to be rebuilt and the shock towers replaced entirely.
It was then that Doug and Mike decided since every car needs a name, my Pantera should be named “Pandora” due to the fact it seemed there was an unending parade of issues to address.
After Larry finished repairing the frame (and doing a great job), I had a mechanic build and install a new engine. Unfortunately, the mechanic was, shall we say, not the best. When I finally went to get my car (after months of waiting), it turned out the mechanic had done quite a bit of damage to the body and paint.
When I took the car to my local body shop, the guys were horrified at how badly the car had been defiled, and at once began calculating a repair estimate.
The final bill was approximately $4,000.00. I called Hagerty Insurance, they contacted the body shop, and within a week the check arrived to cover the damage. (Note: I have had two claims with Hagerty and in my 36 years of driving have never had such incredible service from an insurance company).
It took some time, but I finally got the call from the body shop--my car was done!
I immediately went to the shop and reclaimed Pandora. The paint work was absolutely beautiful and the car finally ran great.
Things might be turning around for Pandora. In 2010 I was contacted by Microsoft, and they came to Tacoma, took 500 digital pictures, and are now using my Pantera in their new “Forza Motorsports III; Drive the Dream” video game. I consider that a good omen.
I also successfully drove the Pantera to the 2010 Fun Rally--I guess third time’s a charm!
I’m planning to do the same this year. Will I make it?
When it comes to Pandora, there’s always hope.
2014 update: Since writing the mini-history above, Pandora has been running great. In both 2012 and 2013 I drove her to and From Phoenix, Arizona for the Pantera Owner’s Club of America’s annual Fun Rally (1500 miles round-trip). Aside from a couple of minor issues experienced on the first trip--such as the a/c malfunctioning in 100+ heat (I got that fixed right away)--and a rather expensive ticket (I won’t say how fast I was going, but the ticket was $850), the trips were fantastic! This year I’m planning on driving to the Fun Rally in San Diego.
Recently I’ve added gold graphics along the rocker panels, as shown in some of the later photos, which I really like.
She’s even been featured in a couple of magazines, and I now have 20 trophies won at various car shows held around the Pacific Northwest.
And she sure goes fast...!