De Tomaso Pantera GT5S is one of just a handful of RHD UK cars
Steve, and a teenage dream come true
So what's it like to own a car you had on your bedroom wall as a kid? PHer steveirl
has a pretty good idea - he's made his teenage dream come true.
'The Pantera has been called many things, both good and bad, but as a teenager of the 80's, it occupied the top row of dream car posters on my bedroom wall, along with the Countach and Boxer,' he says.
Having decided that the Pantera was the Eighties supercar he wanted, he joined the DeTomaso Driver's Club in 2002 where he met other enthusiasts and owners, and educated himself about the marque. This move paid-off.
'In 2003 I bought my GT5S from a club member. It was an exceptional example which had been fully re-trimmed inside in "champagne" Connolly hide, repainted in Nuevo Blue Metallic, and had a complete overhaul of the engine, suspension, braking, and cooling system. Although it was built in '87 it had the earlier Cleveland-built 5.8 litre V8 - which has great tuning potential.'
Re-trim features 'champagne' Connolly
Despite delivering a reliable 350bhp Steve felt that the chassis could handle a power-hike, so he fitted a 6.5 litre Windsor-built derivative of the same Ford V8. Not only did he now have 430bhp at his disposal, but being cast in aluminium the new motor was lighter too. To top this off, the power was now being transferred from the crank to the blacktop through a ZF D12 transaxle - similar to that fitted on a BMW M1. In the Pantera, De Tomaso turned the ZF upside-down, significantly lowering the centre of gravity. It was available with three axle ratio sets from the factory, with top speeds ranging from 145mph to 175 depending the ratio fitted.
So what is it like to own, and drive? 'An absolute blast' says Steve. 'The GT5S is essentially the final version of the original Pantera, and mine is one of just 21 RHD cars built by the factory with the flared arches as part of the steel bodywork. It retains the aggressive look of the previous GT5, but is to my eye far more balanced and allows the elegant style of the original car a little more visibility.'
Flared arches in steel - not riveted
'Firing up from cold, the engine stumbles into a fast idle which settles to a slow burble after a short stab of the throttle to knock-off the chokes. It is obscenely loud, with a deep bass note resonant enough to set off car alarms. Shifting into gear through the gated slots is a somewhat vague affair though - a firm but careful hand is needed. There is so much torque that it will pull away in any gear, and the engine - though simple of design - is as smooth as butter, and delivers its power in an effortless fashion. There is little point in revving to the redline when making brisk progress though. Above 5000rpm the motor sounds thrashy, and with such a flat torque curve swift overtaking and acceleration is possible at any time and in any gear.'
So the Pantera has no problem serving up shedloads of snort, but how about its behaviour when you point it at a series of bends? 'Well the breakaway point is very sudden on a wet road' Steve concedes 'and with no power steering and 285 tyres on the front it is very heavy to steer at low speeds. But other than that it's like most other Italian mid-engined cars of the period in that there's little body-roll and a huge amount of grip. The Pantera is a raw, visceral driving experience. It's a bit primitive, but so exciting. Even just pottering at urban speeds is something to be relished, and it always feels as fast as it is.'
Car is unmistakeable from any angle
Having owned the GT5S now for almost 10 years, and done much of the basic maintenance on it himself (with the more challenging tasks carried out by marque specialist Three Point Four in Barnsley), would Steve call the Pantera reliable? 'Well it's let me down just once with a blown ignition coil which was easily sourced and replaced by me in twenty minutes, so yes! I have also owned several other Italian exotics, but the Pantera has outlasted them all in my garage. If a new Pantera is launched, they will have some difficulty recreating the presence and charisma of the original!'