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The DeTomaso Panteras: Italian Craftsmanship with American Dependability

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detomasoThroughout the 20th century, many Italian auto manufacturers rose to prominence and produced stunning vehicles, such as Fiat, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Lamborghini. One notable Italian car maker that people frequently overlook is the DeTomaso Automobili Ltd., which was started by Alejandro de Tomaso in 1959.

From 1971 to 1974, the Ford Motor Company distributed one of the Italian manufacturer’s most impressive creations: the DeTomaso Pantera sports car. This breathtaking car left a highly unique legacy in motor history with its iconic style and excellent performance.

DeTomaso’s Collaboration with the Ford Motor Company

DeTomaso began collaborating with the Ford Motor Company in 1969 when the American manufacturer contracted the Italian company to design and produce a sports car that would be sold through select Lincoln Mercury dealerships. 

Seven years earlier, driver and auto designer Carroll Shelby had come up with the idea for the Shelby Cobra, Ford’s first true sports car. The vehicle utilized a small-block Ford V8 within an aluminum-bodied AC, resulting in an exceptional power-to-weight ratio. These Shelby Cobras and other Ford-powered vehicles — such as Shelby Mustangs and Ford GT40s — excelled in road racing throughout the latter half of the 1960s. 

This racing success resulted in Ford having a network of high-performance car dealers, and after production halted on the Shelby Mustang in 1969, Ford needed a new specialty sports car to sell and publicize. Fortunately for Ford, Argentinian-born entrepreneur and car specialist Alejandro de Tomaso was available and willing to create such a sports car. 

Carroll Shelby’s company had commissioned De Tomaso Automobili to create a new Ford V8 sports racer earlier in the decade. Although the car never competed in racing, deTomaso produced a similar car for consumers: the Mangusta (Italian for mongoose). This car utilized a Ford 302 cu in V8 engine. The car had some mechanical issues, but it became DeTomaso Automobili’s most successful project at the time. 

Next, deTomaso aimed to increase his company’s production volume, as DeTomaso Automobili was only producing five cars per week. The Ford Motor Company had the financial resources to enable the manufacturer to increase production. With the mutually-beneficial relationship, Ford contracted the Italian auto manufacturer to design and produce the stunning Pantera. 

DeTomaso’s remarkable Pantera made its debut in America in 1970 at the New York International Auto Show. 

The Pantera DeTomaso

De Tomaso Automobili equipped the first Panteras with the 351 cu in (5.8 L) Ford Cleveland V8 engine that had 330 hp. The majority of sports cars during this time utilized a multi-cam, fuel-injected V12 engine, and the advantage of Ford’s V8 is that it didn’t need the ongoing care that highly-stressed V12s required. Additionally, the car had notably better fuel performance than sports car competitors while maintaining a stunning performance. According to the magazine Car and Driver, the car was capable of going 0 to 60 mph in only 5.5 seconds.

Of course, speed isn’t the only requirement for a great car. The Pantera also featured incredibly high standards of handling and road holding, making it an ideal street car. The car also featured the same ZF transaxle that DeTomaso Automobili had originally used in the Mangusta. 

The car sported a 98.4-inch wheelbase and had a curbside weight of 3,131 pounds. Additionally, it was 67 inches wide and had a length of 158 inches. Unfortunately, its size wasn’t suitable for all drivers. Those over six feet weren’t able to sit in the vehicle comfortably due to lack of headroom. 

Although the 1971 model was already impressive, the Italian manufacturer made several improvements to the 1972 DeTomaso Panteras including an 8.6:1 compression ratio (as opposed to its previous 11:1 ratio) with a Cobra Jet camshaft. 

DeTomaso’s Departure From Ford

The Pantera was two-thirds of the price of competing high-performance sports cars, such as the Daytona Ferrari and Lamborghini Miura, and it sold reasonably well in the United States. DeTomaso Automobili built around 6,000 Panteras from 1971 to 1974, and Ford imported around 4,200. 

Unfortunately, Alejandro de Tomaso became disillusioned with the deal and sold his interest in the Pantera to Ford. Although no longer exporting to the United States, DeTomaso Automobili continued producing Panteras in small batches until 1992. 

With new emission restrictions and the need to certify the car, Ford decided to scrap the American Pantera program in 1973. 

Get Premium Insurance on Your Classic Italian Sports Cars

If you drive a classic DeTomaso Pantera or another breathtaking sports car, you need the best classic auto insurance available to protect your beauty. 

Here at Classic Auto Insurance, we offer robust and affordable insurance, and we even offer customizable policies, nationwide roadside assistance with flatbed towing, inflation guard, and more. Call us today at 888-901-1338 or click here for an instant quote. 

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