Pantera Clone: 1977 Aquila GT Kit Car

The Aquila GT kit car is sometimes considered a BMW M1 replica, but I believe it’s much closer to trying to emulate the De Tomaso Pantera of the same era. Regardless, the goal here was to create an exotic-looking sports car that rode on the familiar Volkswagen Beetle chassis and didn’t cost nearly as much to purchase and operate as the real thing. And when kit cars like this are actually restored and/or maintained to a high level, the results are pretty convincing. This Aquila is listed here on eBay in semi-running condition, as the seller notes the clutch pedal is no longer engaging. Bidding is over $5,000 with no reserve.

The prevalence of kit cars that used Volkswagen Beetle running gear is somewhat surprising at times, as I would have thought once a few key players were established, other aspirational kit car builders would have moved on. Not so: American Fibre Craft out of California took on the development of the Aquila GT and clearly found inspiration in a variety of exotic and super cars from the era. The gullwing doors scream Bricklin SV1, while the nose and tail sections are reminiscent of the Pantea. The staggered turbine wheels are simply a shout-out to what was considered in style at the time.

It’s a shame the seller kept the seat covers over the buckets in this photo, as the deeply-contoured seats are one of the best features of the whole package. They actually remind me of what you would find in a Porsche Speedster or 356 track car from the same period, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Aquila actually used the same supplier for them. The seller is including a spare set of buckets made by JAZ; I’m not sure if that’s because the ones in the car have perished past the point of reasonable restoration or if it’s just a pair the seller had laying around. The listing notes that the windshield is cracked but believed to be shared with the Ford Pinto; this is where cars like this get tricky as many of the original parts are no longer made. And with just 150 Aquila GTs produced, it’s not like spares grow on trees.

The engine is a familiar Volkswagen Type 3 engine with twin carburetors paired to a four-speed manual gearbox. The seller discloses that recent maintenance work includes several replacement parts such as a new electronic ignition, electric fuel pump, battery, and door struts, and the gas tank was removed, drained, and cleaned. It sounds more and more like the seller found this rare kit car after many years off the road and got it to run again, stopping short of getting the clutch issue fixed. Regardless, these don’t come up for sale often, and very rarely appear in the sort of condition that makes for a straightforward revival.


  1. Michael Saylor

    It’s not just the gullwings that evoke the Bricklin, the stepped nose and general blockiness are also similar. It really does look like the lovechild of a Bricklin and a Pantera.

    Like 12
    • Howie

      And that only a mother could love. I had a Bricklin, and always wanted a Pantera.

      Like 6
  2. SubGothius

    I think the “M1 replica” opinions may be conflating that car with Paul Bracq’s 1972 BMW Turbo concept, which did clearly lend some styling cues and inspiration to Giugiaro’s later M1 design. This Aquila GT doesn’t look much like an M1 at all but does somewhat resemble the Turbo concept in some regards, along with perhaps a whiff or two of Pantera as noted.

    Like 2
  3. Ike Onick

    Did you mean “Pantera Clown”?

    Like 3
  4. Scott

    At the end of the day, it’s still a VW kit car….

    Like 5
    • Marko

      Would be a real screamer with a Suburu heart transplant.

      A lot of good stuff to start with here.

      I like it.

      Like 8
  5. Gino

    Excellent Fiberglass work by American Fiber Corp,not a Pantera or Bmw replica not even close as I Have owned 2aquilas 8 Pantera and 1 Bmw M1.

    Like 2
  6. KenB

    In 1980 I was working by the San Jose airport at FMC, home of a lot of tracked military vehicles for decades. Next door to my remote building was a fiberglass shop that built the Aquila bodies. Nearby was a frame shop that could knock together anything. On the other side of my building was Jim(?) Wellington’s shop specializing in 4 cam Porsche engines….add in Frey Racing and within a block we had what we termed “Little Modena”. A great area: the doors were always open for a lunchtime tour. Great times, great folks. The Aquila at the time was acknowledged to be inspired by the BMW Turbo show at. The story of that car’s transverse mid engine configuration retaining the 2002 transmission was interesting

    Like 1
    • Frank Sumatra

      FMC! Food Machinery Corporation back in the day. many of my buddies in the College of San Mateo Welding Technology went on to work for FMC. I had a job offer from Westinghouse Sunnyvale. Thanks for the memories!

      • KenB

        My pleasure, Frank! Those were great times in the Bay Area. The best years of my life in many respects

  7. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    SOLD for $8,420.

  8. Claudio

    A younger version of me owned a beetle and hated it
    A younger version of me also owned a dune buggy and hated it

    The buggy was on a partial trade

    I cannot see how this mish mash would/could be any better

    What a mess

    Buy a miata/ z3 or any sports car and enjoy great handling for less than this pile of 💩

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