While the supercar segment as we know it arguably began in the 1960s with the Lamborghini Miura, it wasn't until the 1980s that the exotics truly became a market segment. As a young magazine reader, I was captivated by the exotics as much as I was any muscle car of the day. But as big of a fan as I was of supercars, I wouldn't come to understand the importance of a certain white exotic that caught my eye for many years.
Slathered in bright white and adorned with huge fender flares and a massive wing on the back end, that car was the De Tomaso GT5 Pantera. It joined many other exotics in offering excessive power in a sleek, yet striking, mid-engine platform.
I wouldn't see one of these cars in person until after signing on with Source Interlink Media (then McMullen Argus) back in 2001. Shortly thereafter, Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords contributor, Bernie Golick, offered me the keys to his very own 1972 Pantera. It was my first time behind the wheel of an exotic, and while it wasn't exactly mind-blowingly fast, the Pantera did offer a unique driving experience that I wouldn't soon forget.
Fast forward to 2012, and I'm at the Track Guys high-performance driving event at Sebring International Raceway, and I keep running into people who tell me about a race-prepped Pantera in the pits. Owned by David Archibald of Wimauma, Florida, it's a 1974 IMSA model that he uses for open track events. During our conversation, David suggests I grab my helmet and come for a ride.
This Pantera was altogether different than Bernie's. It has shed any evidence of its street car origins, including trading its steel monocoque for a NASCAR tubular chassis and suspension. The Cleveland perched behind us is equipped with a barely muffled and wicked-sounding set of 180-degree headers. David took it relatively easy around the historic road course, but his smooth driving style showed off the car's massive lateral grip from the sticky Good Year slicks. The torque of the modified Cleveland engine effortlessly propelled us out of the corners and down the straights. You can check it out in video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=XntAazIX8wU.
Panteras remain popular today, and top builders like Pure Vision and Ringbrothers are currently turning out modified versions of these supercars. In this issue, we've covered the buildup of an all-aluminum Cleveland small-block that will be going into one of the very early push-button Panteras. We are also featuring Joe Curley's twin-turbocharged Pantera, which is one of two that he owns, in addition to other vintage and late-model Ford race cars. This is the modified one, of course, and it features a rather rare turbocharging system.
Though not officially produced by Ford, Panteras were sold at Ford's Lincoln- Mercury dealers and serviced there as well. They've certainly entrenched themselves in Ford's long performance history. If you've got a Pantera story of your own, share it on our Facebook page (facebook.com/modmustangsandfords). I'd love to read about it, and so might some of our other readers.
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