Better than a Prowler: 1997 Panoz AIV Roadster

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The Panoz AIV roadster is one of those modern-day American sports cars that I always forget exists despite the fact it did a much better job at being a Plymouth Prowler than the Prowler ever did. Sure, it didn’t have that cool trailer option where you could tow half of a Panoz behind you, but what it lacked in accessories, the Panoz made up for in actual performance – a category the Prowler fell short in, by some accounts. This 1997 Panoz AIV is offered for sale by the second owner, who has listed it here on craigslist for $31,500 and is open to trades for a classic or newer Camaro, Mustang, Corvette, Chevelle, Nova, or Porsche.

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Pat L. for the find. The Panoz AIV did everything the cookbook for classic performance recipes said to do: light weight, loads of power. With an aluminum chassis and V8 engine lifted from a Ford Mustang Cobra, the Panoz had a lot going for it. Then, your add in the retro-modern looks with the exposed chassis components and fat fenders sitting over a wheel and tire package that was just a smidge too big for the space they occupied – oh, and throw on some bug-eyed headlights for a subtle shout-out to the Austin-Healey Sprite – and you have a roadster that tapped into the heavy nostalgia factor of the day with some real performance to boot.

The Prowler certainly possessed style in spades, but it never quite became a performance car icon. It’s always been happier as a cruiser, or a conversation piece. The Panoz is certainly going to get you into plenty of unplanned conversations, but it’s also got some serious scoot to make a quick getaway when the attention becomes overbearing. This AIV doesn’t have its specific mileage listed – there’s a typo in the description – but these generally weren’t high use vehicles. They were second- and third-vehicles, but the cockpit was still an inviting place should you find yourself looking to take a friend on a long drive. This one remains very tidy inside, with clean leather, a flat-bottom steering wheel, and factory floormats.

The all-aluminum, dual overhead cam, V8 engine was rated for a healthy 305 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. This is a mill that also responds well to further tuning, which is why Panoz decided to supercharge it for the final iteration of the quirky roadster, with 176 production models offered with the high-octane powerplant. With a curb weight of just 2,500 pounds, I’m certain the naturally aspirated engine will get your blood pumping just fine, all while looking like nothing else on the road. Would you drive a roadster like this?

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  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    Having spent a lot of time at the Sebring race track over the years I got a good look at these cars as Dr. Panoz had his office in the hotel on site and used one of the roadsters as his going to work car. The build quality is as good as it gets and the attention to detail is way above anything you can buy these days without spending a fortune. Never got to drive one. Dr. Panoz was a very nice individual but not nice enough to turn a race car driver loose on his race track with his car.

    Like 15
  2. Blyndgesser

    The modern interpretation of a Kurtis 500S. Tasty!

    Like 3
  3. Peter Hollinshead

    The Panoz/Prowler comparison is fun, but it is really apples vs. oranges. The Panoz is a great latter-day U.S. interpretation of an early postwar sports car, as in the Healey/HRG/Frazer-Nash/Allard vein. The Prowler is a tribute to the street rod, a unique American art form. There was room for both in 1997, and there is now. The Prowler was much more than the sum of its parts. The car should be seen as a rolling capabilities presentation for Chrysler; not just in the production use of advanced materials such as aluminum and magnesium, but in the sheer creativity to first present it as a concept car and then keep the promise to build it (ultimately for sale in every U.S. Chrysler-Plymouth dealership). Plus, it has excellent, go-kart-like handling, which has been experienced by relatively few because of the Prowler’s collector-car status. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am happy to state that I worked on the marketing launch of the Prowler.)

    Like 6
    • Big Len

      The “tribute to a street rod” should have had at least an option for a manual trans.

      Like 12
      • Peter Hollinshead

        But Len, interestingly enough, most street rods built today (and in 1997) have automatics.

        Like 2
  4. Howie Mueler

    Sounds like it would be a blast to drive.

    Like 4
  5. TheStig

    I remember that car. It has 130k miles or something on it. Been used for sure. The current owner bought it for $17-18k years ago. Talked to him once, was a complete *ss for someone that wanted to sell a car. Then I’m not sure he wants to sell it with the price he’s asking.

    Like 0
    • Howie Mueler

      They have the odometer listed at 134, with no zeros.

      Like 0
  6. Barry Traylor

    Very nice.

    Like 0
  7. Bob Roller

    I have always liked these cycle fender cars and at one time was going to buy a
    1932 Chrysler and use the chassis as a basis.I had a Cadillac V12 engine for
    power and the transmission as well.

    Like 1
  8. Quidditas

    Really an offshoot of Frank Costin’s TMC design that was bought by Panoz.

    So it has a strong heritage.

    Like 0
  9. CCFisher

    That interior looks really tight. I’d be lucky to get the doors to close.

    Like 0

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