The Pantera Place
"Your de Tomaso Connection"
The Amerisport Pantera - Owned By Frank Lugger
By Mike Dailey
Frank Lugger of Columbia, SC was a Pantera owner many years ago and really like the car but unfortunately ended up selling it. After years of missing his Pantera and the Pantera ownership experience, in 2001 Frank decided to find a new Pantera, only this time he wanted the ultimate Pantera, the awesome "Amerisport GT5-S". Frank spent many months re-educating himself on the Panteras in general and on the GT5-S Pantera and then the hunt was on.
Months went by as Frank hunted down the ultimate Pantera. Not many Amerisport GT5-S Panteras come on the market at any one time, making the hunt very difficult. After looking throughout the country he ended up finding his 1987 GT5-S close to home with only 8k on the odometer. The car was owned by Barry Harward and had been extremely well maintained and had some great engine upgrades. Barry Harward was the second owner of the car and it was exactly what Frank was looking for and he and Barry made a deal.
Frank Lugger's 1987 Amerisport GT5-S
After getting the car home Frank decided he would solve the very limited GT5-S tire availability problem (the tires are no longer in production) by upgrading to the GT5-S Pantera East wheels and modern Z rated tires. The new wheel and tire combination look great and really improve the handling of the car. The front wheels are 17" x11" with 285/40ZR17 Michelin Pilot Sports and the rear wheels are 17" x 13" 335/35ZR17 Michelin Pilot Sports.
The engine and engine bay upgrades are as follows:
- TRW pistons
- SPS rod bolts
- Crane Solid Roller Cam (298-308 duration/577 lift)
- Roller Rockers
- Ported and polished 4V heads with hardened guide plates and push rods
- Aluminum flywheel
- Holley 650 Double Pump carburetor
- MSD 6AL electronic ignition w/rpm switch and timing computer
- MSD billet distributor
- Port injected NOS system w/progressive controller
- 8 quart Aviaid oil pan
- Stainless steel hoses on all connections
- Stainless steel firewall and tank shield
- Spicer half shafts
- Performance headers on stock GT5-S exhaust system
- Polished transaxle
- Polished water bottles
- Painted engine bay
View of the well maintained interior. The interior is finished with beautiful leather seats, console, door panels and wood dash inserts. The Amerisport GT5-S's have dropped floor pans providing needed headroom with the plush and comfortable leather seats. The A/C system on the S cars has a different control system and an improved air handing system compared to the early Panteras.
The car has been upgraded with the following items:
- Stainless steel splash shields at all four corners
Polished rear sway bar w/billet aluminum brackets and upgraded bushings "de Tomaso plaque" under rear sway bar Stainless steel fan shroud cover Racing Harnesses and chrome plated shoulder bar Stainless steel door sill plates
Amerisport Company History
The Amerisport GT5-S was the creation of Kirk Evans. In 1984 Kirk had be running a successful business that did Pantera restorations and also manufactured customized Pantera parts. Some of the Panteras that came in for restoration required extensive work on the body, to the point that Kirk was almost making the Pantera body from scratch. Kirk thought that there had to be a better way to create Panteras for the US market place.
Kirk decided that if de Tomaso would sell the Pantera body with running gear to him that he could build and install the engines and assemble the cars in the US. The car would need to be DOT approved and pass all of the US emission standards. Not an easy thing to get accomplished but Kirk had a lot of experience with Panteras and Pantera engines. Kirk thought it was possible!
Kirk had been working on a Turbo system that de Tomaso wanted to use so that project became the vehicle to a purchase agreement with de Tomaso for GT5-S Pantera bodies. Late in 1984 Kirk ordered the first cars from de Tomaso and they were complete Panteras with suspension and drive train excluding the engine.
The first car imported was serial number 9381 and was a 1985 GT5-S. It wasnít easy getting the car shipped to the US but by April 1985 the first car was assembled and was unveiled at the April Las Vegas POCA show. Everyone at the show was impressed with the car.
After the Las Vegas show, work started at an emission test lab for testing with the Holley carburetor. Four other cars had been passed but not using the more desirable Holley 600 CFM carburetor. Getting all of the DOT and emissions certifications was not easy and required some very innovative engine parts to be custom built to meet the emissions standards. A special air box was made to completely enclose the Holley carburetor along with custom headers and catalytic converters. Not many of the cars today have all the emissions parts still installed but many owners still have all of the parts stored in their garages.
Kirk Evansí technical ability, business savvy, persistence and love of the Pantera resulted a great contribution to the US de Tomaso community with the Amerisport GT5-S. The Amerisport GT5-S continues to be one of the most desirable Panteras and they are the judged by most people to be the ultimate Pantera.
Stay tuned for Kirk Evansí latest Pantera enterprise!