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Car Tales: A Rare 1988 De Tomaso Pantera GT5-S

‘”It’s really a late 1960s, early 1970s look that the De Tomaso Pantera had. The body design was from ’71. It’s an early, old supercar design. It looks like a James Bond car, like the Lotuses or Aston-Martins. With such great character, of a type that you don’t see now.”
‘That’s the view of Brian of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the guy who I’ve just bought one of these beautiful brutes from, a rare 1988 De Tomaso Pantera GT5-S; a relative of his linked me up with him.
‘The De Tomaso Pantera was an Italian-American design sold through Lincoln-Mercury dealerships from 1971 to 1974. In various forms the Pantera sold for another sixteen years, although only a little over 7,200 Panteras were produced in total. “Pantera” is Italian for panther, a perfect definition of this archetypal gas-guzzling muscle car which accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in under six seconds.
‘Alejandro de Tomaso was an Italy-based Argentine racing driver who started producing sports cars under his own name in the 1960s. So the De Tomaso Pantera was not just Italian and American, but courtesy of the owner’s nationality also had an additional streak of South American sultriness.
‘After being implicated in 1955 in a plot to overthrow Juan Peron, the Argentine president, De Tomaso fled to Italy, from where his paternal grandfather had emigrated. Settling in Modena, he married Isabelle Haskell, a wealthy and socially connected American heiress, herself a racing-driver. With Isabelle he founded the De Tomaso motor-car company; it produced not only single-seater racing cars but also exotic sports models as well as a pair of performance saloons: the Longchamp and the Deauville were in production in the 1970s at the same time as the De Tomaso Pantera, both the saloons named after French racecourses, a further interest of the former Isabelle Haskell.
‘The design of the De Tomaso Pantera was put in the hands of one Tom Tjaarda, an American working at Ghia, the Italian coachbuilder. Tjaarda, who was responsible for devising the vehicle’s breathtakingly low, wide wedge-based shape, was once described as “one of the defining automotive designers of the 20th century.” As well as working on the Pantera Tom Tjaarda designed such other exotic sports cars as the Ferrari 365 California and the Aston Martin Lagonda Coupe; and he also worked on the design of such mass-market staples as the Ford Fiesta and the Fiat 124 Spider.
‘Tjaarda’s De Tomaso Pantera design, an extremely successful combination of Italian styling connected to American power, was revealed to the world at the 1970 New York Motor Show. The car was an immediate hit.
‘Yet altogether only 7,200 Panteras were produced. And the car I discovered, a 1988 De Tomaso Pantera GT5-S, was one of only 187 models that were ever produced, a slight redesign that came in 1985 and ran until the end of the decade. The “S” in the De Tomaso Pantera GT5-S referred to the fact that the body was made entirely of 100 per cent steel.
Only just over 30 of these GT5-S’s were exported to the USA. So this is a very rare car.
we-buy-de tomaso pantera
‘Brian had first purchased this fantastic and very unique car twenty years ago. Of ample significance in his choice of vehicle was the car’s engine, “A Ford 351 Cleveland V8, one of my favorite engines. I’ve always thought Fords were fantastic cars, always admired them. That 351 Cleveland V8 is a 500-pound block of cast iron. And the engine is almost dead center in the car, which gives a great weight balance. If anything the car tends to understeer a bit.”
‘”And for a 1971 suspension and body design the De Tomaso Pantera is incredible. For a car that age its handling is amazing. The first car I ever got was a Ford – I started driving with a Mark 1 Ford Mustang. In fact, I had a couple of Mustangs and they are a joke compared to the Pantera for the handling.”
‘”The Pantera has a 4-wheel arm suspension: they are all independent. Coming out of each side you have an independent axle shaft linking to the rear transmission.”
‘Such a fabulous car, Brian: but come on, are there any problems with it? “Well, it turns out that fuel economy is not in the same sentence as a Pantera: you step on the gas and watch the gauge go down.” Modern sports cars have twice the fuel economy as a Pantera: if you put your foot down you are essentially going from gas station to gas station.
‘Mind you, you might have fun on such a ride. “I’ve had it over 120mph, close to 140mph. Ridiculously fast. The 5S has better aerodynamics and can supposedly hit 170mph,” says Brian. What a magnificent vehicle!
‘”Oh, and by the way,” he adds, very kindly,”The Beverly Hills Car Club was great to deal with. And Alex was the perfect professional.” Thanks, Brian!’
-Alex Manos, Owner
rare 1988 pantera gt5-s

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