The Pantera Place
"Your de Tomaso Connection"
The First Year With #1887
Today, June 12, 1999 is the first anniversary of my Pantera purchase. For those of you that are considering a Pantera purchase, the following are my thoughts after a year of ownership, for-what-it's-worth.
Background On My Pantera Obsession
I saw my first de Tomaso Pantera in Seattle, Washington. It was a brand new unsold model and was driving near the Westlake Lincoln Mercury dealer in 1971. I was totally impressed and from that day I knew I was going to have a Pantera. Well, it took a couple of decades but it did happen!
I loved the Italian design of the Pantera and really liked the idea of the powerful 351 Cleveland power plant, the bulletproof ZF transaxle and the wonderful Pantera sound. The 351 Cleveland engine was especially attractive to me because of the easy availability of high performance parts, maintenance work, etc. In the mid 90s I spent some time investigating Ferrari 308 ownership and found that the cost of rebuilding an engine was totally outlandish, but this is not the case with the Pantera.
I seldom saw a Pantera on the road around Seattle but when I did, it really made my day! For awhile around 1980 there was a young kid that worked at a Chevron service station at 175th and Aurora and he drove a Pantera. Often he would be leaving work about the same time I was heading home from work and I would end up right behind him and that Pantera looked so great and sounded awesome.
Over the years I investigated Panteras that were for sale and usually left the car disappointed in the price or the poor condition. I drove my first Pantera around 1981. It was at used car dealer's lot in Lynnwood, Washington and it was red. My first impression when I started it, was the sound, then the amount of power and then way close ratio 5 speed kept the engine in the perfect power band as I went through the gears. I remember getting the car back to the lot and felling totally exhilarated by the drive in the awesome machine. I felt strangely in tune with the car like I had driven it before! But this Pantera was a real mess mechanically. It was hard to believe in the 80s how such beautiful cars could be treated so poorly.
The Purchase And The Drive Home
In 1996 we were living in Atlanta and I got the Pantera bug again. The search was on, only this time it was in the hot Southeast! I spent about two years looking for my Pantera (after what seemed like a lifetime of wanting one, well from 1971 on) and found a dark scarlet red one that I liked in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The owner Drew Altermare sent me some pictures and a video of the car and it looked great.
Click images to view
The first picture I saw of #1887 at Drew's house in Tuscaloosa. I especially liked the way the color of the car changed depending on the lighting angle.
The Pantera adventure begins early AM in Atlanta on June 12, 1998 as my son Jeff and I get ready for the three hour trip to Tuscaloosa. At this point I was really hoping the Pantera was as good as it looked in the video and pictures that Drew sent me. I had my inspection check list, tools, money and I was ready, except that coveralls would have helped with the crawling around during the Pantera inspection.
After inspecting the car for two hours and test driving we made our purchase deal with Drew and loaded up the Pantera for the trip home. That's Drew's 308 in the back ground. I brought tools but didn't need them. The car ran perfectly all the way home except at the first fuel stop before leaving Tuscaloosa I noticed a small screw had lodged in the driver's side back tire. Luckily the tire was easily fixed with the wheel on the car.
We say good-by to Drew and head for home! We used portable CB radios to communicate between cars on the way home
It was about a three hour drive back to Atlanta and what a drive! On the drive home I discovered how unique Pantera ownership was going to be. I loved the way the Pantera handled but what really completely astonished me was how much attention the car attracted as I cruised along. Many thumbs up from the other drivers!!! This is not a car for someone that wants to keep a low profile!!!
Jeff and I took turns driving the Pantera home and it was fun to follow along in his Bronco and check out the Pantera from all angles. Not knowing the car very well at this point we took it easy driving between 60 and 65 mph on the way home. The key goal was to get the car home!
The next day the detailing work begins. It didn't need much detailing but sometimes cleaning small stuff makes a big difference. Got to have the de Tomaso logo plate on the lower cross member super clean and shinny!
Over the last year I have done much more work on the car than I expected, but most of the work as been optional stuff. One of the first repairs was fixing the wiring connection to one of the three cooling fans that had been disconnected.
The good news is that you can accomplish a lot of the work yourself if you know how to turn wrenches. You'll find that if you have a car like a Pantera you will want to make everything look and work right. The only must do repair items so far have been a $60 throttle cable and a $167 clutch master cylinder.
All the following stuff was optional, Crane roller rockers and adjustable rocker studs, new BFG Euro T/As (big ones), transaxle reseal (read about this in POCA), clutch, new ANSA exhaust, MSD plug wires, brake pads, drive belts, new Holley 600, new/old KONI shocks, A arm bushings, front lower valance, spare Accel distributor dual points, cap and rotor, special tools, oil changes and the list goes on and on. So, I have spent $4,320 on stuff for the car over the last year, but that's only $360 a month plus $90 a month for a storage space. The Crane rollers, ANSA exhaust ($775), T/As, clutch, KONIs and Holley 600 (the old one did not have a choke) were the big-ticket items.
The majority of the big-ticket items were purchased in the first six months. I rented a storage unit close by for the Pantera but my 300ZX Turbo spends most of its time in the storage space while the Pantera is in my garage at home. A three car home garage would really be nice because you just want to keep your Pantera close by.
Sometimes it's nice to just go out into the garage, sit down and have a beer with your Pantera!!!! After a year of work I think I'm getting down to the last stuff on my "to do" list. I need to finish the installation of the new A arm bushings (it' s very hard work), install the back KONI shocks, checkout the back axles, install the new front wheel bearings (doesn't need them but why not), get the front lower valance installed (most Panteras need this item because it is the lowest point on the car and takes a beating), and of course get a four way wheel alignment. I kept careful records of everything that I have done to the car and all of the expenses.
Overall with the remaining things left to do I will end up pretty good considering the cost of the car and the total expense planned. It is easy to spend money on a Pantera so it's important that you buy the right car for the right price. If possible you do not want to own a $30,000 Pantera that cost you $40,000 or more. Over the last year I have met a number of people that are looking for a Pantera to buy and it has been interesting to look at the cars with them. After you own a Pantera for awhile you can quickly see the true condition of the cars. I am beginning to think that I was somewhat lucky to find the car that I did.
The only negative thing that I have found about the Pantera (or any low exotic car) is driving them when other cars are on the freeway and Atlanta has lots of cars on the freeways. The Pantera sits so low that other drivers can not see you, so you need to be very careful to stay out of other driver's blind spots (that's just about anywhere near another car) including getting too close behind cars at stop lights. The key to survival seems to be to keep a position and distance that allows eye contact with the other driver.