Fun Stuff

AutoTrader Find of the Week: A Very Unique 1971 De Tomaso Pantera

I am perfectly comfortable admitting that my personal taste in sports cars is basic, especially when it comes to spending my own money.

I drive a Mustang GT. My goal is to own a Porsche 911 by 40. That’s basic as hell. Those are the Taylor Swifts of car choices. The Ray Ban sunglasses of car choices. Watch me crush this pumpkin-spiced latte because I am b-a-s-i-c.

I feel no shame in gravitating towards timeless silhouettes that are instantly recognizable. I like cars that feel like they’re the one. They can and have played the hero in Hollywood movies, but they’re also somehow ubiquitous. You’re not trying to show off or make a statement; you just made the obvious choice.

It’s not that I don’t find lesser-known sports cars interesting or without merit. It’s just that I can honestly say I would personally never go for the more obscure or alternative choice.

On the plus side, this tends to reduce buyer’s remorse as you feel the warm embrace of conformity. On the downside, fear of being different means you sometimes miss out on something great out of sheer close-mindedness.

For example, I think the Lexus LC500 still might be the best car I’ve ever driven. But there is a zero per cent chance I would buy one instead of a Shelby Mustang, 911 GTS, or Nissan GT-R. My reasons are entirely subjective, shallow, and superficial.

As such, I’m also comfortable admitting that my personal tastes are objectively uninteresting. If everyone were like me, the car community would be far less diverse and exciting.

This is why I am praying that someone out there will cancel their run-of-the-mill C8 Corvette order and buy a sports car that most people have never heard of.

This 1971 De Tomaso Pantera found on the AutoTrader marketplace with only 36,010 original miles and a freshly broken-in rebuilt engine is an amazing option.

Quick history lesson: De Tomaso was sort of the Pagani of its day, a niche Italian automaker that set out to make extravagant cars for bedroom wall posters with the performance to match, but were much easier to drive than their flamboyant supercar appearance would suggest.

De Tomaso as a brand almost feels like a glance into an alternate history – what Ferrari’s road cars might have been had it been purchased by Ford in the early 1960s. Powered by Ford engines, De Tomaso was even brazen enough to name its second sportscar the “Mangusta” – Italian for “mongoose” and a clear shot at Carroll Shelby’s Cobra.

The replacement for the Mangusta was the Pantera (Italian for “Panther”), and in this instance, De Tomaso sold the rights to Ford, which proceeded to sell the vehicle through its Lincoln-Mercury dealer network. As Carroll Shelby had severed his relationship with Ford by 1971, the Pantera arrived at the perfect time for Ford.

Despite its Italian supercar looks and because the Pantera utilized a 351 (5.8-litre) Ford “Cleveland” V8 engine, the high torque reduced the need for excessive gear changing at low speeds, much unlike Italian offerings of the day. The result was that it was a much more livable vehicle on the streets.

It had power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes and rack and pinion steering as standard equipment. In 1971, according to Car and Driver, the Pantera could accelerate to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. So, in many ways, the Pantera was the first supercar you could live with – a novel idea for the time.

Of course, 1971 was a very long time ago, so this particular Pantera has undergone some work to make it livable by modern standards.

Purchased from Arlington, Tex., (fun fact: the band Pantera is also from Arlington) and imported to Canada on Oct. 1, 2013, this Pantera has a laundry list of modern updates.

The original 351 Cleveland engine has been rebuilt and upgraded to a 408 stroker with an eight-stack carburetor system. A modern electric fuel and brake booster vacuum pump help make the 50-year-old machine drive like something from this century. Resto-modifications have gone so far as to include new brass gears in the headlights and windows, as well as a camber lock system with adjustable shocks and urethane bushings, among other minor modifications.

“The ride is remarkably smooth,” says Glenn Weir of White City, Sask., the current owner. “The custom camber locks and adjustable shocks were all set up correctly and I’ve never [had to] change them.”

Gotti rims and Konig seats are nice touches, but the modified body is truly unmistakable. A body kit including fender flares and side body ground effects mirror the original GT5 model. The engine deck lid is a custom job, with the bay painted to match the body during a complete respray, from base to clear coat, 15 years ago.

While the car appears to be American as far back as the paperwork goes, this particular Pantera does feature European bumpers (lacking the American crash-safety additions), which may indicate it was originally sold in Europe in 1971.

Something of a small collector himself, Weir has his eyes on some new mid-engine supercars and needs to make a little room in the garage – though he doesn’t part without a little love lost for such a unique yet livable sports car.

“The huge powerhouse 408 engine breathes down your neck with the eight-stack shining over your right shoulder,” says Weir. “The car cruises nicely around 70 MPH in 4th or 5th gear. It’s nice to have the option of mid-revs or low power saving revs. The car corners strong. Even the sight lines are good … except in the rearview mirror, but we all know nobody cares who’s behind you.”

The lesson? Don’t be me with my safe, predictable tastes. Be Glenn. Be unique. Be the only one on your block with a 1971 Pantera.