Greg Zyla: Ford Pantera 351 history
Q: Greg, can you tell us something about the Ford Pantera that was available in the 1970s? It was a great car that came with a Ford 351 engine. How did Ford get involved? -- Eugene, email from Massachusetts
A: Eugene, I just had a conversation with a bank teller last week who just happens to own a Ford Pantera! It really is a small world, or better yet, an enjoyable coincidence.
To give you the scoop on the Pantera, (a car my brother always wanted to own but settled for a Mitsubishi 3000 GTR4), the mid-engined beauty was sculpted by noted designer Tom Tjaarda and manufactured by the Italian car company DeTomaso. Named for its CEO Alejandro DeTomaso, then well known Argentine race driver, the Pantera was introduced in 1971 and was the first DeTomaso built car to utilize a steel monocoque layout instead of a full chassis.
DeTomaso's family were Argentine cattle ranchers. Alejandro moved to Italy in 1958, and utilized the Argentina flag with a "T" handle (no doubt for branding cattle") on his beloved car. He also built the DeTomaso Mangusta in 1967 with a 302 Ford and a concept DeTomaso Vallelunga in 1964 prior to his Pantera success.
The 1971 Panteras were powered by a Ford's popular 351 cu. in. Cleveland V8, which had canted valve cylinder heads similar to big block Chevrolets. It delivered 330 horsepower and could accelerate to 60-mph in five seconds. A transaxle was used to deliver the power to the wheels which were complemented by four-wheel discs.
Ford actually imported Panteras in 1971 at its Lincoln Mercury dealers, which were the favored course of marketing ala the German built Merkur from Germany. The American versions came with all the stateside amenity essentials and just over 1,000 found U.S. soil that first year.
In 1972, the Ford Cleveland had to drop its compression ratio from 11.6 to 8.6 to pass U.S. fuel and emission standards. A "Lusso" Pantera L was introduced in 1972, and featured black bumpers and more luxury items. A 1974 Pantera GTS featured even more luxury items as the brand struggled to make it through the fuel crisis.
Ford, however, ended its import agreement with DeTomaso in 1975 after selling approximately 5,400 Panteras. DeTomaso, however, continued to build Panteras through 1991 in a host of different performance and luxury styles. Through the years, DeTomaso continued to use Ford power plants until the very last version. Overall, a total of about 7,500 Panteras were built, with most sold by Ford/Lincoln/Mercury.
Hope this helps answer your question, and thanks for writing.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media and welcomes reader questions on collector cars, auto nostalgia and old-time motorsports at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, Pa. 18840 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.