Other Panteras I Have Known

The Pantera was the first exotic car I discovered as I was growing up in Midland, Texas (where there aren't many exotics--only a Ferrari Dino and a Mangusta). The high school football star had a bright red one, and as we all did our nightly cruising, it really stood out from the muscle cars! The car looked to me like it had just landed from outer space. It was very futuristic, and I loved it. From that point on, it became my dream to have one. I bought bunches of books on the car, and soon discovered the ultimate advantage Panteras really have--they can be customized to your heart's content!

After much research, I decided that the perfect Pantera was the twin turbo model on the cover of the Pantera Survivors for the Road book by Rasmussen (excellent series of books, BTW). It would be my goal to get a Pantera, and eventually customize it to be just like the Funetti car of the book. I tried and failed to acquire Panteras on two separate occasions. First, I had a shot when I did my first startup. Part of my compensation package was that the company would lease a car for me. I found a very pretty red one with an NOS system. After climbing out of the car from a test drive, a friend remark, "You must like the car, there's smoke boiling out of your ears." I got the dealer to quote me a price of $18,000 and went off to think about it. This would've been in 1984. Unfortunately, I was heartbroken to learn that I couldn't get insurance for the car. I wound up choosing a new BMW 530--a great car, but no Pantera.

The next time I found a Pantera I liked, I negotiated hard and wound up walking away when the salesman wouldn't give me my price. I offered him $1 less than where he was on principle and he wouldn't budge. I think the guy probably still expects me to call him back. It was years later before I got a Pantera, and here's what my first one looked like:

When I was feeling charitable towards the car, I called it "bronze" or occasionally "root beer". Truth is, the damn car was brown. It was a very original low mileage specimen that I enjoyed immensely--after I got the bugs out.  The ignition system needed an overhaul--Mallory Unilite just had to be replaced.  Those things had a habit of blowing and it paid to travel with a spare. Eventually I would learn to use a Ford distributor instead. The carb needed a rebuild, so I replaced it with an off-the-shelf Holley.  And finally, the car (like so many Panteras) was prone to overheating.  Once I learned to burp the cooling system (jack up the rear and vent it), bought giant new fans from Hall Pantera, and bought a new Aluminum Radiator (from Pantera Performance, I think), life was good.

But you know, too much is not enough.  I hadn't yet realized all cars needed to be black, but I was pretty sure brown was not a cool color, and that you can never have too much horsepower.  Besides, I wanted to build the twin turbo Pantera Dream Car.

Enter the evil Pantera geniuses:

I wanted to do this work myself, or at least with my friend Terry Aultman (hey, what's he planning to do with that sander, anyway?).  In relatively short order, we managed to get the car apart:

Looking good...

Oops!  Terry, don't you think that's a little too far apart?

Anyway, this car stayed apart for years.  I built a twin turbo fuel-injected 351 Cleveland motor for it.  Lance Nist provided the parts.  When we did the dyno run at the local machine shop, the guy was slowly running up the throttle, and he suddenly shut it down at about 4000 rpm.  I was sure we'd blown something up and asked him what the problem was.  We'd hit 650 ft-lbs of torque, 540 HP, and there was a lot more HP at higher rpms.  He said his dyno redlined at 800HP and he was unwilling to risk it on my motor.  

Another urban legend that developed around this car was that this crazy twin turbo motor, with lots of chrome, sat in my office at Borland for quite a few months while we labored to ship Quattro Pro.  I was working around the clock and knew I had no time for the Pantera, so I brought it in to look at and inspire me to finish the software.  The spectacle when it arrived was amazing.  About 5 of us lifted it down from a pick-up, put it on a furniture dolly, and started pushing it through the hallways of Borland.  At each office we passed, the occupant would come out and wind up following to see where we were going with a car engine.  It was the Pied Piper all over again!  Eventually, we finished that product, shipped it, and I took the motor home and stuck it into the car.

Having assembled the mechanicals of the car again (turbo motor, Willwood brakes, suspension, you name it), it was time to address the cosmetic side.  Here we suffered  a small tragedy.  I was working for Borland at the time, and their stock fell almost overnight from a high in the mid-80's to less than 10 dollars a share.  The money supply shut off and I started selling off my exotic cars.  I kept the Pantera--it was in no condition to sell, being an unfinished work in progress.

At this point, I wound up basically giving the car to my friend Song Huang, who had some money to get it painted.  I just wanted to see the thing look good again.  He got a gorgeous red paint job on it, and made the car beautiful.  Then he traded it for a maroon Ferrari 308.  I could have killed him!  I'd invested so much time and money in the car, and was in no financial shape to buy it back from him.  Besides, the 308 was a wimpy car by comparison, and it wasn't even a very pretty color.  

I last heard from a friend that someone living in Las Vegas has the car, and that it has been a trophy winner.  

Sigh. 

Here's how the brown car looked when Song had painted it:

Check out the quad big SuperTrapp mufflers!

Pretty cool, eh? Still got skinny 8" & 7" factory wheels...

Twin turbo, fuel injected, quad SuperTrapp, woof, woof, woof!

The motor after Song emasculated--I mean made it run.  No turbos, no injection, just a Holley 4bbl.  Even with low compression and RV cam (for the turbos), it was pretty peppy.

A last look at the car.  You can really see how aggressive the SuperTrapp mufflers look. The Group IV tail lights are what the factory should've used on all the cars. I hear they're hard to get these days. Someone broke the molds.

Other Panteras, Part Deux

Of course, one twin turbo Pantera is not enough.  While I was completing the Brown Car, the vehicle that had inspired it came into my grasp.  I bought the Panteras for the Road cover car.  The cosmetics on the car were great (one of the best red paint jobs I've ever owned), but it was kind of a lousy driver.  The problem was throttle response.  This car simply had a weber two barrel attached to each turbo.  The fuel had to go through miles of plumbing to get to a cylinder.  When you pressed the loud pedal, it took a fair time before something happened, at which point you were pushed back hard in the seat and the car went Whoosh!

The very beast I'd coveted since childhood, and eventually owned.

I also learned at this time about the problems of too much boost.  The car had a cockpit adjustable boost control like many turbo Porsches.  Can you say, "Temptation?"  So I turned the knob, pressed the loud pedal, got the Whoosh!, and then I got a sort of muffled Bang!, followed by copious amounts of white smoke.  I'd burned a nice little hole in the top of one piston with very little warning.

The car finally succumbed to frugality measures. I went from no Panteras, to two Twin Turbos (one of which is famous), and back to none.

Ah, the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.

The Funetti car currently resides somewhere in Japan, and the formerly Brown Car was last seen in Vegas winning trophies like crazy at shows. I'd love to see either car again.

 

 
All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.