February 06, 2023

Classic Wheels Spotlight: Pantera wild cats

On the prowl with twin DeTomaso Panteras

Photos by Steve Rubens - DeTomaso Panteras

The Bee Gees own this pair of sleek sports cars. But not the pop-rock group Bee Gees, also known as the Brothers Gibb, these B-G brothers Eddie and Alex Grzyb pronounced “Grib” own this pair of double-vision Pantera wild cats. Pantera means “panther” in Italian

This American-powered exotic was imported from Italy from 1971 - 1974. Its U.S. importation was halted due to increasingly stringent EPA regulations. Production continued in Europe into the mid-90s with slightly more than 7,000 manufactured. Eddie’s Grabber Orange and the Silver GTS owned by Alex are both 1974′s. The GTS is a bit more high-zoot, equipped with a hi-perf exhaust, Fiberglas wheel flares, additional badging, and a “black-out” paint scheme. Alex explained with a smile that the cars are similar yet different, just like he and his brother.

Pantera owners train their panthers differently, some with subtle cosmetic changes others with wild and radical graphics. Picture a Peter Max painting 43 inches off the ground roaring past at 140 mph! Likewise, a myriad of exhaust systems, rivaling Medusa’s head, and performance upgrades have been fabricated to enhance speed and agility. Pantera’s have been built to run 9-second quarter miles, go road racing, or compete in grand touring events; then take their proud owners out for champagne and sushi.

Photos by Steve Rubens - DeTomaso Panteras Rear

Enjoyable and refreshing are these two models in their stock configuration. It allows a historical look at what your eyes would behold walking into a Lincoln-Mercury showroom over 50 years ago. The power plant is a Ford 351 Cleveland V8 small block, mid-rear mounted, with a ZF 5-speed transaxle behind it. The same trans the infamous Ford GT-40 used.

The Cleveland engine is a deep breathing unit, due to a radical combustion chamber design, highly regarded in Ford circles. Weight distribution on this factory racecar is near perfect. The Pantera handles much as it looks, like an overgrown slot car, low to the track. Interior styling is aggressive, inviting, and comfortable once inside, and it appears ready for adventure or to pursue prey. The car’s architecture is a monocoque in design. Meaning the body panels work in concert as the structural member supporting the car. The lineage of this breed came from the DeTomaso Mangusta of the 1960s.

Its history is rich in fact, fiction, and legend. Many celebrities were enamored with the car including Elvis. He once fired a pistol at his when it wouldn’t start. Perhaps it had nothing to do with the car. Tom Tjaarda drew the gorgeous angular design of this car with coachwork by Ghia, but it was Alejandro DeTomaso’s child. A fine Italian sports car that American mechanics can work on without a satellite link to Modena Italy.

The outrageous street performance of the car includes unexpected luxury features like power everything plus air-conditioning. The brothers Grzyb are the caretakers of these two wild animals, satisfied that their Panthers will never become tame, but certainly worthy of being featured in the Classic Wheels spotlight.