License: Creative Commons - Attribution Author: Robert Couse-Baker
When I was small child, the De Tomaso Pantera was one of the grandest supercars money could buy. It was a stunning Italian beauty powered by a mid-engine Ford 351 Cleveland V8 and sold in North America through Lincoln Mercury dealers. I used to spend hours reading Car and Drive, Sports Car Graphic
and Road and Track
, drooling over this and other wonders, imagining that when I got older, I would own one of these ultimate cars.
One time when my dad was having our wood-paneled Mercury Colony Park station wagon serviced, I wondered over to the new-car show room. There, gleaming under the lights, was a brand new yellow Pantera (virtually identical in memory to this one). I asked politely if I could sit in it. The impeccably coiffed and smartly dressed salesman said, “Of course, Sir.” He let me sit in the driver seat and proceeded to sell me on the cars many virtues, pretending as though I was rich bachelor with money to burn. He let me shift through the gears and popped the engine cover to display the Ford-blue V8. Nether of us broke character. It was a glorious moment.
The 1971 Pantera could accelerate to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.5 seconds according to Car and Driver
. By the standards of modern cars, that’s still quite fast, but in the day, it was like the light-speed jump in Star Wars. The first batch of Panterias did not meet the quality standards expected by North American buyers (massive understatement). Elvis Presly is said to have shot his with a pistol in a fit of frustration. Early teething problems were mostly overcome, but Ford dropped the product line after the Oil Blockade made supercars a dirty word in the mid-1970s.
The best story I’ve heard about Panteras was one owned by a Manhattan stockbroker, who drove his car daily on the Island through every season. Supposedly, it never left the city after accruing more than 100,000 miles of mixing it up with potholes, meter maids, rag-flailing window washers and Checker cabs. About 5,500 were imported. Most are thought to still exist. A clean one now costs as much as a house, which is about what they were worth when new.