My Car Quest

June 22, 2018

Book Review: Extreme Panteras

Review by Wallace Wyss –

Title: Extreme Panteras

Authors: David and Linda Adler

Foreward by Tom Tjaarda

Binding: Hardbound

Format: Horizontal

Size: 11” x 8.5”

Length: 304 pg.

Price: $89.95

Publisher: Adler Publishing

Contact: 760 731-8301

Extreme Panteras – available on Amazon – click here

How can one be tied in with a certain automobile for 40+ years and never understoodits raison-d-etre?

The answer became clear to me when I saw David and Linda Adler’s new book Extreme Panteras.

Permit me, if you will, to give some background. I go back to the beginning with Panteras, I was there in Dearborn when it was rolled out, and had breakfast at the Dearborn Inn that morning with Tom Tjaarda (JAR-DUH), a young American who designed the car over in Italy for Ghia. Under Lee Iacocca’s direction, Ford had tied in with the Italian automaker DeTomaso in order to have something to serve as a crowd draw for the showroom.

Then I tested an early model Pantera for Motor Trend, and had to endure its flaws (overheating, popping fuses, etc…) until the car was sorted out.

Extreme Panteras

Flash forward. Those problems were quickly resolved at the owner’s club level and the cars became reliable. But, at every car show I go to with Panteras, there’s customs—the whole nine yards, candy apple paint, blinding chrome in the engine compartment, tuck & roll interiors, yadda yadda.

I am thinking, after observing the Iso Grifos and Bizzarrinis rise from nothing to tremendous values, these Pantera owners are just hurting themselves by not preserving their cars stock. (You can still buy a rough one for $50,000 but even a rough Iso Grifo is $100,000 and Bizzarrinis $300,000.)

Then I saw this book, at a show put on by Orange County Panteras, and realized that I had mis-interpreted the car. Or rather the purpose for the car.

Extreme Panteras

The purpose for the Pantera is to serve as a blank chalkboard for you to design and build your own supercar. Forget about originality.

Now with the Mangusta, the Pantera’s predecessor, it’s a different kettle of fish, where originality is king. They are much more rare (402 made), and nobody customizes them anymore.

They are following more the route of say, Ferrari Daytonas, where originality is honored, even though the Mangustas had a rather weak (302 Windsor) engine.

So the Adlers, who founded Pantera International Car Club but have since semi-retired to wearing the hats of avocado farmers in Fallbrook, did this book in which they show dozens and dozens of modified Panteras, and as I read the book (and I had the handy convenience of being able to look over at the show and see many of the cars featured) it all became clear to me. Why It’s OK to Modify Panteras.

Extreme Panteras

THE BUDGET EXOTIC

Blame it all on Lee Iacocca. Being Italian American (actually born in Italy, moved here as an infant) he was proud of Italian cars, and the way they styled cars and he pressed Button A and Ford bought Ghia Carrozzeria from DeTomaso as well as U.S. rights to the Pantera. But unlike Ferrari and Lamborghini, he wanted to make it a budget classic.

Like enamel paint. Like vinyl instead of leather. Like steel body panels instead of lightweight aluminum.

Extreme Panteras

The list price was $10,000, below even its predecessor, the Mangusta (which had been imported by British Motor Car Distributors and advertised at around $11,500).

The Pantera’s engine was an off the shelf 351 Cleveland Ford engine not any different than being offered in Mustangs. But because of the cars aerodynamic shape, and the 5-speed manual it could reach around 170 mph, Ferrari territory.

Initially I blamed shops like Gary Halls’ shop, Hall Pantera, and Lance Nist’s shop and several others for coming up with non-original parts, encouraging the hot rodization of Panteras.

But now I see, after reading this book and reading the late Tom Tjaarda’s genuinely heartfelt introduction, that Ford, by going El Cheapo on the car, was unintentionally creating a canvas on which car hobbyists could feel free to work.

Even Tjaarda admitted in his intro that he was amazed the Pantera was still popular some 40 years later, and he was always interested in how people modified it (the only thing he objected to messing with was the “gills” on the rear ¾ windows).

So with that new mindset I read the book and admired most of what was done. Most of the cars featured in the book go well beyond the mods of the ‘70s – wider wheels, fender flares and chrome under the engine lid – indeed some have very well thought out exhaust systems, intake systems, cooling systems, and totally redone interiors.

Did I mention the book has 600 color pictures? That alone is impressive, my favorite being the drift shot showing how much fun the car is to drive.

The book surprised me by showing the last model DeTomaso that was being done at DeTomaso when the firm basically died off after DeTomaso’s death. Since then the ownership of the firm has bounced around and word is that when a new Pantera is re-born it will be North of $200K, so forget Iacocca’s idea of a low price exotic that you can use as a canvas to create your own dream car.

Of all the cars in the book, over 50, I like the one where the owners even replaced the Ford engine with a Chevy engine, let’s face it, more parts available and much newer technology on the LS7 (alloy blocks, etc.). And I like the ones where they totally redesigned the instrument panel.

The only cars I would have left out are cars where a new frame was built to replace the unitized one. I feel a car’s frame is the heart and soul of a car, so I would have left out look-alikes.

Extreme Panteras

I think this book is one that will cause a sea change in attitude toward Panteras. This one book could re-shape the attitude of postwar car collectors. As a former Ferrari owner (308GTS and GTC/4) I remember the distain the Ferrari community heaped on Pantera owners for their “hot rods” but I can see how each of these owners featured in this book was fulfilling a personal dream by re-shaping the car his or her own way to make up for Ford’s cheapness—better interiors, a better engine, better suspension, larger wheels, larger tires, better brakes, it goes on. They feel no compunctions by adopting the latest technology – things not even invented in 1970!

I am not going to be so hopeful that traditional staid concours like say Pebble Beach or even San Marino will have a Pantera class, and allow in modified cars by the dozen, but look at what Panteras have accomplished–these cars owe their longevity to the fact that the original brief was so simple: Italian styling, Italian-built, American V8, so they surived all the gas shortages, booms and busts in the economy, etc. and now they thrive. And this book celebrates that fact. If you think of the Pantera like a house designed by a famous architect say Richard Neutra or Frank Lloyd Wright, it is a design that is periodically re-interpreted by newer owners.

People buy a Neutra or Wright house and re-do it to suit them and it’s in Architectural Digest and then another buyer buys it and re-decorates (or re-purposes ) it and it’s still a design by Neutra or Wright, it’s just been re-interpreted.

So thanks Dave and Linda and Tom Tjaarda, at least through this book I’ve seen the light….

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

 
 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of three DeTomaso books. Currently in his fine artist role, he is doing portraits of classic cars on commission, and can be reached atPhotojournalistpro2@gmail.com.

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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Summary
Book Review: Extreme Panteras
Article Name
Book Review: Extreme Panteras
Description
Even Tom Tjaarda admitted in the intro to this book that he was amazed the Pantera was still popular some 40 years later.
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Comments

  1. Bob Wachtel says:

    Dear Wallace, I was never a big fan of the Pantera when it first came out. I thought its’ styling was too “angular” and didn’t have enough smooth curves. However, for the price you got a lot for your money. I hope the new Pantera will have nicer stying when it appears. I take my hat off to current Pantera owners who have made their cars more powerful and reliable at the same time. If I owned one I would still use a Ford updated engine over another brand.

  2. A PANTERA IS NOW THE BEST BANG FOR TH BUCK ONE CAN GET, IN A PERFORMANCE CAR.

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