1973 De Tomaso Pantera
The Pantera was launched at the May 1970 Geneva Salon, with a pressed steel chassis, unlike its predecessor’s, the Mangusta (‘mongoose’ in Italian), tube frame. The Mangusta’s rounded edges were replaced by crisp lines, and the mid-engine Ford 302-cid V-8 by a 351-cid, 330 bhp V-8. It was launched stateside in 1971 and its $9,800 sticker was a bargain.
Its story begins earlier, however, when Enzo Ferrari rebuffed Henry Ford II’s attempt to buy the Prancing Horse in the early 1960s. Ford resolved to beat Ferrari on the track, where Enzo would feel it most. Ford spent three years (and a fortune) turning Eric Broadley’s flawed Lola GT into the Ford GT 40. It won Le Mans four times, in 1966-69, but proved unsuitable as a street car.
American designer Tom Tjaarda was working at Ghia in Turin when Alejandro de Tomaso took over in 1967 and clashed with designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, who quit. At the time, de Tomaso was negotiating with Ford, and when Lee Iacocca, then Ford’s Executive Vice-President, came to Turin he green-lighted Tjaarda’s replacement for their current offering. It would be sold in Lincoln-Mercury dealerships alongside Continentals and Cougars.