Fast forward to September 2000 – I am at Birch Bay State Park near Blaine, and run across the NW Pantera group having their annual picnic and show. Right in the middle of it all was Doug and his blue Pantera. Things were working out much better for me by that time and it didn't take me long to put a plan in place to have my own Pantera in 3 years.
A little history of the Pantera: an Argentinean displaced by WWII, Alejandro DeTomaso, started building sports racing cars in Italy in the early '60's. After awhile, he branched out into production cars, starting with the tiny Vallelunga coupe powered by a Ford Cortina 4 cylinder engine. From 1968-1970, his next venture was the Mangusta which used the Ford Boss 302 motor. Fresh from his butt-kicking of Ferrari 4 years running (66-69), Henry Ford II, aka, "Hank the Deuce", felt he needed to compete with Ferrari in the showroom as well, and decided it was time to ramp up his involvement with Alejandro's company.
DeTomaso already had the contract with Ford to supply him engines for his Mangusta, and he had recently acquired Ghia Studios in Italy, the famed design house. A young American designer, Tom Tjaarda, working for Ghia in Modena, Italy, had just completed a design study of a mid-engine sports car using Ford's new 351 Cleveland HiPo small block as a core. Hank liked the concept and didn't hesitate at contracting with DeTomaso to produce of what would become the Pantera.
Sold starting in January 1971 by Ford through Lincoln-Mercury dealers, the early Panteras were beautiful but very poorly built. Having been rushed to production, many systems such as cooling and electrical had not had enough development time, and Italian craftsmanship of the day was not even close to American standards for mass-produced cars. The bugs were eventually worked out, and by the time Ford and DeTomaso called it quits on the Pantera in late 1973, the Pantera had become quite a good car, and at "around $10,000", a heck of a performance bargain for the day.
Though Ford discontinued selling the Pantera in the States after 1974, DeTomaso continued building them until 1994, still using Ford engines until the last 38 cars, which were powered by BMW V-8's. From '71 to '74, Ford sold approximately 6000 cars in the US, of which an estimated 3000-3500 remain. Rust and neglect were the biggest culprits in the attrition.
I finally found my car, chassis #6328, in Eureka, CA in January, 2004. She looked good at the time, but was in serious need of mechanical TLC. I drove her home in one day in the middle of January on what had to be the only dry weekend of the month: 604 miles non-stop and the pucker-needle in the red hoping I would make it. In the nearly 5 years I've owned #6328, I've rebuilt the brakes, suspension, cooling system and half of the electricals. The terrible stock seats have been replaced with reupholstered (dare I say it) C4 Corvette seats, which fit perfectly in the car. The original wheels and tires were replaced with modern rubber on 17" rims evoking the original Campagnolo design. Last year I treated her to a new 382 stroked Cleveland with a Comp Cams Retro-roller cam, roller rockers, forged crank and pistons, 10-qt baffled pan and a completely restored/smoothed engine bay to drop it into. I pulled 326.5 RWHP at 5750 RPMs, 349.5 ft/lbs @ 3750 on Craig Blood's dyno this last July. Needless to say, I can scare the whee out of myself anytime I like. The paint, Canary Yellow, is the original color, but was repainted sometime before I bought the car, and I think offers the perfect attitude.
In 2006, I founded Panteras Northwest, a chapter of POCA, the Pantera Owner's Club of America, and we have just over 100 members in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia and Alberta, CA. We attend numerous shows through the year, as well as tech sessions and warm-weather drives to keep everyone out there. The whole ownership/club experience is one I'll never forget. Panteras Northwest would like to team with Mustangs Northwest in the future for events or charitable activates as it can be worked out. Many of our members are also Mustang owners. You can find out much more about the Pantera and DeTomaso at the POCA website,