I Can’t Drive 55: 1972 De Tomaso Pantera

1972 De Tomaso Pantera

For those of us who fancy the idea of owning an exotic car, but don’t like the associated maintenance bills that go with them, may I suggest a De Tomaso Pantera? They have that exotic look, but the mechanicals are rather dull. Instead of the high-revving V12, a Ford 351 V8 sits mid-ship. It may not be as exciting, but I assure you that repairs will be much cheaper. That doesn’t mean a Pantera is cheap to buy or keep, but when you compare them to their Italian relatives… well, there is no comparison. This particular car was purchased by the current owner about 15 years ago. They repainted it back to its original yellow color about 10 years ago, but have not been using it enough so they have decided it’s time to let someone else enjoy it. Find it here on eBay where the reserve is off and the bidding is very active. Oh, and it’s signed by rock stars Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony…


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  1. randy

    The 351C engine was a great engine with a lot of potential and many possible configurations. Some Pantera’s came with 4, 2bbl webers.

    There were pretty cheap not many years ago. I’d love to have one.

    I’d take one of these over any premadonna Italian job any day.

    Like 1
    • 365Lusso


      • The Walrus

        Maybe he was just comparing this Italian job to the other Italian jobs built before July 27, 1983 when she released her first album or August 16, 1958, the day she was born.

        Like 2
  2. randy

    Thanks, I aren’t one, so it’s a snap that I can’t spell it!!

    Like 1
    • gregg

      Randy, gotta be careful on these comments….some people are just waiting pounce!
      Just gotta love the look of that beautiful 351 American V8 sitting in the engine bay. I too would rather have the Ford mechanicals any day!
      On a side note, Jessie, what would it take to add spell check to this page? So many of us depend on it these days! It could make us all look as smart as 365Lusso!

      Like 2
  3. Dave Wright

    When new……these were the same price as a new Linclon. About 10,000 as I remember. I sold exotic cars for a dealer in Riverside part time in the 70’s. They were miserable to drive, would overheat in traffic and would blow so much heat into the cockpit no one wanted to drive them. We had a low opinion of them in general. We considered the people that bought them too poor to buy a real car like a Ferrari or Maserati.

    • Dave Wright

      …………….or the good sense to buy a Porsche…………

    • Pantera1973

      I had more than enough means to buy a Ferrari or Maserati when I bought my Pantera 29 years ago. I chose the Pantera because it shared so many of the good qualities with Ferrari & Maserati and it had so many superior attributes to them as well.

      With the Pantera; the very earliest cars, the first 300 or so specifically, were rushed to market despite DeTomaso’s reluctance, as they were pressured by Ford to release them. These are the ones that gave the Pantera it’s bad reputation in many peoples eyes. Those 1st Panteras were little more than prototypes really and had MANY issues that needed to be addressed.

      Ford implemented many of these changes/upgrades out in the field and the rest were thankfully made on the assembly line. All the issues were finally addressed with the release of the Pantera “L” model in mid 1972. They were so changed that Ford took to calling it the Pantera II.

      The 1973 DeTomaso Pantera was Road Test Magazine’s Import car of the year beating out Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Porsche, and the rest.

      The cooling problems some of the earliest models experienced were due to the manufacturer/supplier of the radiator. They incorrectly placed some of the internal baffles in some of the radiators during production and the coolant wasn’t making a full pass thru the radiator. The fix was easy, put in a properly functioning radiator!

      My 1973 still sports it’s original 42 year old factory radiator and it is still going strong. I can run in stop & go traffic in 106 degree temps with the air conditioner going full blast and the engine stays nice and cool. There is nothing wrong with the stock cooling system if the radiator is functioning properly and there is absolutely no reason for a Pantera to overheat. The Pantera’s A/C, which came standard on all Panteras, was revised in mid-1972 and it will absolutely freeze you out!

      Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Maserati’s have A LOT in common with the Pantera:

      Body designed by Carrozzeria Ghia

      Chassis designed by the best mid-engined chassis designer in history; Gian Paolo Dallara; the father of the mid-engined Lamborghinis. Dallara designed chassis for Ferrari and Lamborghini. DeTomaso hired Dallara away from Lamborghini after he had designed their Miura.

      Full Monocoque Steel Body built by the craftsmen at Carrozzeria Vignale; the same folks who built some of the most beautiful bodies for Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia, various 1 off cars for royalty, and more. The same craftsmen using the same tools, same steel, in the same production facility!

      Like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati did back in the day, DeTomaso sourced the best components available to complete their cars: Campagnolo Magnesium Wheels (used by Lamborghini, Maserati, Alfa, and more), Girling Disc Brakes (exact same ones the Lamborghini Miura used), Ansa Headers & Mufflers, Veglia Borletti instrumentation, ZF Transmission, and lots more.

      In fact, car is about 98% Italian. The only Ford parts to be found in the entire car are the engine (with it’s associated components/accessories), side marker lights, and the outside mirror! The rest are the same components sourced from the same manufacturers. Heck, even the rack & pinion steering is the same unit that Ferrari used on the 308.

      Folks who complain about the Pantera’s offset pedals, tight cockpit, & such must have never driven a mid-engined Ferrari or Lamborghini from the 1970’s. They are all less than optimally set up due to design constraints, but one soon adapts and it ceases to be an issue.

      Like 4
      • Dave Wright

        DeTomaso was a hack as an auto designer. He was a furniture builder that convinced someone that he could design cars because he was Italian. We also had a Mangusta on the showroom. One day while I had it on a test drive, the center section came alive…….simply raised off the chassis and drifted into the opposite lane on the 91 freeway. It had to be duct taped together to make it useable. The car was assembled with the cheapest dzues fasteners available. They would just break going down the road. The changes Ford subjected on the Pantera are the only things that made it palatable at all. There was nothing good about the Mangusta that he had a free hand in designing. At least the Pantera went down the road in one piece.

      • Axel Caravias

        Alejandro de Tomaso was not Italian, he was Argentinian. : )))

        Like 1
  4. francisco

    A bitch to drive with those tiny pedals and offset footwell. But Oh what a beauty to look at. Like a gorgeous bikini clad Italian signorina on the beach of Rimini.

  5. 365Lusso

    Indeed Porsches are reliable and high performance cars–but ultimately have a bland, uninteresting character imo. Yes, character entails the pain in the a$$ maintenance aspects of Italian car ownership. But an Italian V12 on a curvy two-lane back country road accelerating hard in third, howling through 7,000rpm and 110mph on a six-speed gearbox for, yes, a *safe* multiple-pass–no equal. Porsche will do that too, but not with the deep-soul feeling of a shrieking-up-and-down-the-rev-range-judging-oncoming-traffic Italian V12. I’ve had Porsches, but come back to a 485hp, 7,500 redline V12. Just got back from exactly that drive in my Marenello, so it’s raw-fresh. Italian cars, love ’em or leave ’em, but no complaining about them if you don’t have one. You just don’t know.

    • 365Lusso

      Maranello, ran out of time to edit it.

    • Dave Wright

      I agree totally…….but the guy that could not afford a 330GTC could afford a Porsche. It was a far superior car in every way to the Pantera and roughly the same price. I sold my 1968 911L to buy my Maserati Mistral, never regretted it but dollar for dollar the Porsche is unbeatable. Even with today’s runaway Porsche prices you can buy a nice older Carrera for under 30k. Pretty tough to beat that for the money.

      • 365Lusso

        Couldn’t agree more, $ for $ Porsche totally kicks butt. But let’s keep some perspective….330GTCs are pushing past–what $5-600k? No more for JoeLunchBucket (that includes me). But I purchased my Maranello for literally 10% of the cost of that GTC, and I’ll kick the a$$ off of a 330GTC. And a lot of–but not all–Porsches.

        That’s been some phenomenon to watch over the last–what–as short as five years? I’m in awe of Porsche price escalation. Really am wondering what’s driving it. Reliability and power is great–a lot of getting richer & older Porsche fans find soul there too…..? What? Asking that genuinely.

  6. Dave Wright

    You are mixing then and now prices. I vividly remember a medium Blue 330GTC on our showroom for 10,000 that everyone loved. It was a much better car than the high performance 275’s we had around that were around 12,000. My best friend is in the middle of a 330GT project that he bought about 5 years ago for 20k…….there are still deals around. My comment was when the Pantera was new the people that spent there dollars on one were a bit shallow thinking because they were the same price as much better finer cars. It looks to me like the Ferrari 400’s are the cars to buy today…….unpopular with the Ferrari crowd for the time being and still a front engine V12. You always buy straw hats in the winter…….

  7. 365Lusso

    Yeh, true. I had a navy blue 330GTC for a few years just before they took off. Never had a car that tracked as if it literally was on rails. Yet nimble. It handled like the world’s most comfortable, skin-tingling sounding, and beautiful go-kart. Absolutely rock solid at any rational speed. We have wonderful roads that go from the west side to the east side of the Cascades and back, she never let me down. There’s a picture somewhere of Enzo getting out of a GTC at a racetrack in the ’60s? that I always thought defined what a 330GTC was. il Commendatore knew they were the ultimate definition of a Gentleman’s GT for the era.

    Appreciate knowing that about Panteras. Always wanted one, never got one. Less urge now, though being able to work on an engine with an adjustable wrench and a couple of screwdrivers is pretty appealing (ok, exaggerating).

    “You always buy straw hats in the winter…….” love it, hadn’t heard that one before. That’s how I got my Maranello–almost missed the boat on that one though. And you’re right about the 400 Series. I’ve been buying and selling Ferraris on an inconsistent (read: as a hobby only) basis for 30 years now, and any 5sp. 400 Series is a solid bet imo. Not so much for the slush-boxes. That body is beautiful in a purposefully low-key way (flagrance was not in vogue, as it is with today’s Ferraris), especially in side & rear 3/4 view. Subtlety imo always wins out in the end, as demonstrated by the GTC.

    The only worry I have is how fast electric cars are going to come on. I don’t know, but suspect the next generation will like them more when they get prettier and longer range. They’re already higher performers, low maintenance–what’s not to like?

  8. Mike

    How can all sales be final as the seller states, until I inspect the car? I’ll pay him then.

  9. Pantera1973

    Dave Wright

    I think your memory of the DeTomaso Mangusta you were in is a bit off. The Mangusta’s rear didn’t use a single Dzus fastener. The rear Hood Hatch used rather robust hinges bolted to the welded in center spine of the car and the release for them was a cable operated hood release. Each side had their own cable release. If the used Mangusta you were in did have Dzus fasteners holding the entire rear end of the car together then there is no telling how big a piece of junk it might have been!

    I don’t know where you got that DeTomaso was ever a furniture builder. That is totally incorrect.

    Alejandro DeTomaso was also not an Auto Designer. He didn’t design ANY of his production cars. The Pantera was designed by Tom Tjjarda in the Italian design house Ghia.

    The Mangusta was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? Car Designer of the Century as chosen by 132 professional automotive journalists from 33 different countries. Giugiaro designed for Ferrari, Lamborghini, ISO, Maserati, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, DeTomaso, and more.

    DeTomaso used the same quality components that all the other Italian boutique manufacturers of the day used; which isn’t saying alot, as if one is honest, the words quality & reliability aren’t/weren’t often used when discussing ANY Italian cars of the day!! ;-)

    The Italians are known for beautiful designs, but not so much for ergonomics, efficiency, or overall quality.

    The thing that made cars like the DeTomaso Pantera so unique was having the beautiful design & great driving experience (if you got a later one with all the updates) combined with a stone simple Ford V8 that put out tons of torque and power from 1800 rpms up. It’s the same basic recipe that Ford had when it went racing back in the 1960’s with the GT40 and handed Ferrari their butt 4 years in a row at Lemans.

    The GT40 was too much of a race car for the street, so Ford’s answer was the DeTomaso Pantera.

    Like 2
    • 365Lusso

      Great summaries (both of them). Ever thought of writing a Mangusta/Pantera Buyer’s Guide……?

      • Pantera1973

        Thank you 365Lusso & Randy; you are too kind. :)

        I’ve owned my 1973 Pantera for 29 years now, but I started researching them about 35 years ago; long before the internet was around. I spoke with every Pantera owner I could find and made several trips coast to coast looking at Panteras and speaking with the owners of several Pantera Specialty Shops to get the REAL lowdown on the cars.

        There is so much misinformation about them out there it isn’t funny. To this day People spew their ignorance as fact and continue to perpetuate all the crap and you know what I found really funny? Most Pantera owners never corrected folks misinformation and assertions. Then I found out WHY.

        Most owners knew the truth about the cars and how good they really are once they were sorted & they didn’t want it getting out and driving the price of the cars and parts up!

        You could get a beautiful Pantera with under 10,000 miles on it for around $15,000 back in the mid 1980’s. Talk about a bargain; a new corvette cost TWICE that amount back then. A 1986 Porsche 911 Turbo cost $48,000; you could buy 3 pristine low mileage Panteras for that and have still cash left over.

        Being 98% Italian, Panteras suffer a lot of the same things that all the other Italian mid-engined cars of the day do; offset pedals (necessary because the front wheelwell intrudes into the interior), cockpits that could get hot because of the large steeply sloped windshield (thankfully ALL Panteras came with A./C unlike the other cars), lack of rustproofing, etc.

        Although virtually every other Italian car of the day had/have the same issues, it seems that for some reason folks give them a free pass and chock it all up to the “price of driving an exotic Ferrari/Maserati/Lamborghini of the 1970’s.”

        Where the Pantera really shines is when it comes to maintenance and the cost of keeping it up. Unlike a Lamborghini, the Pantera doesn’t have 48 mechanical valves that takes a factory trained mechanic 2 days to adjust/set; it has hydraulic lifters. Or unlike say a Ferrari Boxer of the day, the Pantera doesn’t have cam belts that require replacement every 5 years or 7,500 miles at an average cost of $7,000 each time and requires removal of the entire engine to do it; it has a timing chain. If someone has owned a Boxer for as long as I’ve had my Pantera they would have spent $42,000 just having this bit of routine maintenance; lord help them if they have an actual problem that needs addressed!

        I do all my own maintenance on my Pantera as it is stone simple to do and parts are cheap. I can walk into any corner parts store and pick up a fuel pump, waterpump, distributor, any gasket, carb rebuild kit; basically anything one could possibly need and the part is cheap and in stock. Try that with a 42 year old Maserati!!

        The TOTAL cost per year to maintain and keep my Pantera is less than $500. That’s including Insurance AND maintenance. I change out all fluids and filters annually & it really pays off. My original Clutch Master Cylinder lasted 38 years. Once it started leaking I took it off along with the Brake Master Cylinder and Clutch Slave Cylinder and had them all fitted with bronze sleeves which should allow them to last another 30+ years. Total cost to do all 3 was less than $200.

        Other than routine maintenance (fluids, filters, hoses, belts, tires) and rebuilding the carburator 1 time, that is all the maintenance it has required over 29 years. Very un-Italian like huh?!! :)

        As Jay Leno said about his Pantera he recently purchased; “this is the most misunderstood, undervalued Supercar in history”.

        Like 2
  10. randy

    A tip of the hat sir, thank you for the time and effort put into your posts and replies. I stand corrected on my part. Now I want one even more.

    Like 1
    • nxpress62

      The Pantera starts getting expensive for “joe lunchbucket” as soon as you get to the transaxle, half-shafts, brakes, and bodywork.. Still, a neat way to get into a classic supercar.

      • Pantera1973

        You are absolutely correct. Transaxles run $7,000 for a good used one; new ones are $12,000. It is the single most expensive part on the whole car. Fortunately they are extremely robust and seldom give any trouble as long as one keeps the clutch adjusted properly, changes the fluid regularly, and it is highly recommended that you safety wire the ring gears bolts. Rebuilds of a transaxle run around $3,500-$4,500; it’s not cheap, so make sure any Pantera you are looking at doesn’t have gearbox trouble.

        Brake Master Cylinders are around $315 for originals, Calipers are about the same but they are stainless from the factory, so you can usually rebuild them yourself for about $25 a piece.

        Body Panels are definitely pricey; new doors run $2,500 each, used about $1,500; Front Body Assembly is $3,500. Keep away from any rusty Pantera!!!

        The Pantera utilizes monocoque construction, its body is all one piece joined together by welds. You can’t just unbolt a front fender & bolt on another one. In fact, the only things that bolt to the body are the hinges for the doors and decklids; so any structural repairs are best left to folks with a lot of experience with these cars.

        Here’s a link to one of the Pantera Venders; they have diagrams of just about every part & system on the car and you can click on a parts corresponding number and see their prices. :)


        The amazing thing is just about every single nut and bolt for these cars is still available brand new. These cars are much easier to keep going than any other Supercar ever built.

        Like 1
  11. Chuck Foster Chuck F 55chevy

    Wow, a debate on DeTomasos on Barn Finds, how ironic is that? High speed cars are like aircraft,you better inspect them before flight, err, driving. I do “fancy the idea of owning an exotic car, but don’t like the associated maintenance bills that go with them”. This is exactly the reason that kit cars are made. In this case, if you can afford the $49,000 Pantera, you don’t worry about maintenance costs. What is the debate again, old sports cars? Let’s see, DeLorean or Esprit?

  12. Rocco Member

    Very good information.

  13. starsailing

    Back in 74 looking at 1971 Mercedes 280 SL for the wife…Here I was with long hair, Fu Manchu , Bell bottom jeans, Blue shirt with big white star center( Captain America/nickname then starsailing)…and this salesman told me to not bother him. I had over 10K cash in my 58 Impala at the time parked on the curb. Wife Cher was looking like Cher the singer(but even better)….Wife spots yellow and red Panteras…I said no to the yellow….but if she wanted the red….OK…Old salesman wouldn’t let us test drive the 71 Mercedes or Pantera…Didn’t believe we were actual buyers. I went back to car, took out the 10 k in cash, waved it in front of his face and he then did the whole used car salesman Herb Tarlick schtick….He was drooling. Then he says to me….you don’t want to disappoint the wife let her pick out the yellow one. She calls him a few names, we went to MGR, showed him the cash, and told him about salesman. We left without the car we wanted. Ended up buying another Thoroughbred she road in Hunter Jumper class and we bought 68 Toronado to pull the horse trailer. Best tow car ever! But we always wanted a red Pantera…in 74 prices were bare bones as with all muscle cars.

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