Exotic of the Month

A look back... 
By Jeff Krause

Every month we'll take a look at one car that helped shape the exotic car market or was significant to the development of the car culture now so prevalent in the US. This month's car is the Pantera, produced by Ford in the early 1970s.

Exotic cars have always been extremely expensive which in part is what makes them exotic to begin with. Made in limited numbers with sky-high prices, by definition the parts and labor expenses to own one are going to be astronomical. For instance, most Ferraris have a $5000-8000 service every 15000 miles when the camshaft belts have to be changed, plus $1000-1500 per year for regular maintenance. Many owners end up spending over $1 for every mile driven and that doesn't include gas or insurance costs.
The rarer the car, the more expensive it gets. If your brand doesn't have a local dealer you may have to truck it hundreds of miles just to get the car to a garage capable of doing even minor repair or maintenance work. Then there is the issue of whether the parts you need are even being made anymore.

So what if you could have a car that looked and went like an expensive Italian dream machine but that could be serviced by your local gas station? This was exactly the idea behind De Tomaso's Pantera. Introduced at the Modena Auto Show in 1970, the car stunned the automotive world with a super sleek exterior penned by American Tom Tjaarda while working at the Ghia design studios in Turin Italy. With a hearty, inexpensive Ford V8 (typically the very robust 351 Cleveland) mounted amidships with a ZF 5 speed transaxle mounted directly behind it the car was extremely quick for the time, although a modern Civic Si is both quicker and faster in the ¼ mile.
While Ford only imported the cars from 1971-1975 through their Lincoln-Mercury dealerships, De Tomaso continued to produce the cars until 1993 although some sources say it took until 1996 for all the chassis to be used up. There were major changes made to the chassis in 1980 to improve overall stiffness and handling. Fender flares were added as well to cover ever larger front and rear tires. These cars were designated Pantera GT5 models. While most Pantera bodies were made of fiberglass, records show that roughly 183 GT5-S models were made with steel fenders and flares.
These cars are slowly appreciating in value, with prices more than doubling in the last decade or so. Today a nice example can trade hands in the $100,000 range. For half the money (or less) of a modern Ferrari or Lamborghini you get a car with the looks of a classic Italian sports car with a modern 5 speed transmission, easy-to-work-on Ford V8 engine and the sound track from a classic American muscle car.

Who says you can't eat your cake and have it too?

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