Best Muscle Cars
Why the Pantera is Hot and Only Getting Hotter
In 1970, if we were discussing an American mid-mounted V8, we’d be talking about the legendary Ford GT40 and its battle with Ferrari at LeMans. However, the GT40’s production was extremely limited, and the cars were highly sought-after. The Pantera brought Italian-exotic looks and performance to the middle class; not only was the purchase price half that of comparable cars of the time, but the powertrain was far more reliable and less complex. The Pantera was powered by the Cleveland 351, a motor that was already well-known by the large majority of mechanics due to its use in the Ford Mustang. The Pantera was an exotic that DIY-guys could dive into; mechanical components were easily accessible though the rear deck lid, and parts could be ordered from any local Ford/Lincoln/Mercury dealer. Mike Drew, editor of Pantera Club Magazine, tells the story of how he changed a Pantera clutch in a hotel parking lot in just three hours, including beer-drinking time. Not a job you’d even consider undertaking in any other 1970 supercar.
Lee Iaccoca was a nationally-recognized marketing guru within the Ford Motor Company. His influence had much to do with the runaway success of the Ford Mustang, Ford Escort, and Lincoln Continental in the late 1960s. Named President of Ford Motor Company in 1970, Lee is credited with getting the Pantera program off the ground. After meeting with Alejandro DeTomaso, founder of Italian automaker DeTomaso, Lee recognized an opportunity. There was no real “exotic” car for the masses. He pounced on the opportunity and partnered with DeTomaso; the Pantera went from just an idea to actual units rolling off the production line in only nine months. In bringing the Pantera to life, Lee essentially created the “budget supercar” market segment. In 1970 there was no such thing as a $10,000 supercar. With it’s mid-mounted V8, ZF gearbox, four-wheel disc brakes, independent suspension, magnesium wheels, and low-slung wedge-like shape, the Pantera had the makings of a true supercar at just half the price of comparable Italian examples. Because the Pantera’s internals were shared and already in mass production, development and production costs were way down and Ford was able to sell the Pantera at a relatively low price.
Iconic Period Styling Cues
The Pantera is an elegant, sexy, and sleek design; vastly different in appearance from the cars that had built the Ford brand in the late 1960s. Looking at the car today, it’s undoubtedly 1970s cool – with pop-up headlamps, a gated shifter, and Lamborghini Miura-esque side vents, it checks all the boxes. Designed by American Tom Tjaarda at Ghia, the Pantera incorporated styling cues from all across Tjaarda’s diverse design background, which included work with noted Italian automakers and kings-of-style Ferrari, Lancia, and Fiat.
Knowledgeble Fan Base
As any classic car owner will tell you, the internet is a phenomenal resource. Many classic cars have a strong following, and a dedicated online forum for owners to discuss their cars and help answer each others’ questions. The Pantera has a seriously dedicated following, and the Pantera Club has built up a reputation of being one of the most active car clubs in existence. Not only are there forums chalk-full of technological wisdom, but there’s also entertainment and camaraderie in the form of the Pantera Club magazine and routine events.
The Pantera occupies a unique space in the collector car market; with the overwhelming majority of classic sports cars, value is dictated by originality. The Pantera is different. Well-sorted, fully restored examples command similar money to original examples. For the longest time, the Pantera flew under the radar in the collector car world, overshadowed by the other wedge-shaped exotics of the early 1970s. Just recently has the Pantera really began to escalate in value; according to Hagerty, three years ago an “excellent” Pantera was a $55,000 car. Today, that same “excellent” car is worth $85,000. Fancy a Pantera? Better start hunting one down, that six-figure mark is approaching. And quickly, at that.
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