The Pantera was originally conceived as a rival to General Motors’ Corvette for the American market. Throughout the Seventies 2,669 Panteras were manufactured, thanks to the cooperation between Alejandro DeTomaso and a few of Ford’s most important characters of the car set in that period: Lee Iacocca, the most brilliant designer of those days, Henry Ford II, and Tom Tjaarda, another master designer. In total, between 1970 and 1991, 7,260 Panteras were built in various configurations.
In order to contrast the high-performance GM product Ford needed a mid-engined car which could be affordable for everyone. De Tomaso was seen as the right partner to be involved in this project. The mid-engine layout with its improved weight distribution, and a pure and aggressive design, made the De Tomaso Pantera a dream car. Though the first press reviews were not enthusiastic, market research showed that enthusiasts thought much of the car. Thanks to some agreements it was decided that Vignale in Turin would be the right place for the body production, paint, and interior. Additional technical componentry was sourced at the Fossalta plant near Modena.
By 1972, the Pantera was showing its age. By that time, there were so many changes (mostly technical) that the car was renamed, giving birth to 'Pantera L' (Luxury). An important visual change was the addition of the U.S. government mandated safety bumpers in front and rear parts. Tjaarda had an idea of painting them black, resulting in an even more aggressive look. The GTS, a new Pantera model, was rolled out for the American market in 1973, but it only had one real option for the U.S., an AM-FM stereo radio. American buyers were disappointed, particularly since European GTS models underwent many changes, including a newer engine setup. By the end of 1973, 6128 Panteras were sold. In order to optimize production, the De Tomaso plant moved to Bruciata, where it still stands.
Unfortunately, in September 1973 the business relationship between Ford and De Tomaso broke off. The new GT4, with its 5.7 liter 500 hp engine, was also intended to be a street car. People who were not able to purchase one of the eight Group 4 or one of the six GT4 race models produced, bought a street Pantera and turned it into a race car. The best ranking ever obtained by a Pantera was sixteenth in the 1972 Le Mans race recorded by the Belgium team of Du Bois. There were two important victories for Panteras, in Imola and Hockenheim in 1973. In 1975 a GT4 achieved a speed of 292 km/h the Mulsanne straight. In 1977 two Panteras ranked third in the 6 Hours of Vallelunga, and in 1979 a Pantera was fitted for Group 5, qualifying in 9th place at Le Mans. The car managed to run briefly but was not able to finish the race. It was the last time for a Pantera to take part in Le Mans. In 1980, the GT5 was introduced, with larger wheels and tires and a mid-mounted Ford 351 Cleveland engine, whose production had been transferred to Ford Australia. With a redesigned suspensions, the GT5 was thought of as the best among Pantera models. Only 187 of these super cars were ever produced. In America this car was imported by AmeriSport. It is believed that only 38 AmeriSport cars exist in the US. If a GT5-S was not imported by AmeriSport, it is considered a gray market car.
In 1985 De Tomaso rolled out GT5-S. The suspension employs classic unequal-length control arms, coil springs, and an anti-sway bar at each end. Inside, the leather-bound Momo Prototipo wheel is perfect, aside from its laid-back, Italian angle. Its final link to the pavement is through a pair of 285/40VR-15 Pirelli P7s on 10.0-by-15-inch Campagnolo alloys. And if you think those are big, the Pantera's tail houses 345/35VR-15 P7s on 13.0-by-15s. It all bulges out from beneath fender flares, air dam, side skirts, and rear wing to establish one of the wildest stances on the road. The GT5-S sits an inch lower than the original Pantera, and if ever a car could be said to hunker, this is it. On the skidpad, the GT5 turned in a vein-popping 0.89-g cornering average. The car featured 4-wheel independent suspension, coilover shock absorbers, and anti-sway bars front and rear.
This 1987 DeTomaso Pantera GT5-S is a fine example of what many consider the best of the line. It is one of an estimated 187 built and one of 50 legally imported into the United States. It is remarkably fresh in its presentation, having been driven just 11,700 kilometers and maintained in a private collection from 1997 to 2015. The good-looking black paint is complemented with a luxurious and pristine tan leather interior trimmed with burled-wood inserts. Powered by that 351 Cleveland engine, with a ZF 5-speed transaxle, it rides on period-original Pirelli P7 tires on the original Campagnolo magnesium wheels and was offered with the original tool kit and a full set of aftermarket wheels and tires. The car was sold at Mecum Auctions Kissimmee, Florida 2016.
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