The Pantera Place
"Your de Tomaso Connection"
de Tomaso Pantera Driving
Iím not one of the racer types that owns an exotic performance car to push it to the limit on the street or spend time on the track doing battles with Ferraris. I own my Pantera because I love everything about the car, the timeless look of the design, the mechanics of the design, the feel of the car on the road and the awesome power and sound of the big V8.
The experience of driving the Pantera is one of riding very, very low, super visibility over the slope of the carís hood and fenders, somewhat restricted view to the rear quarters, solid and stable feel of the road, quick but precise steering, awesome power, exact gated shifting of the ZF and the engine sound that can only come from a Pantera.
The throbbing rumble of the V8 engulfs the cockpit and takes you back to your muscle car roots and memories. My car has a pretty aggressive cam that really adds to the excitement and performance. The power of the big V8 combined with the ZF transaxleís 4.22 final drive ratio and the close spacing of the five gears starting with a 2.23 ratio for first gear makes going through the gears a real blast. Although the gearing is low and the power is high wheel spin is not a problem because of the mid-engine position, limited slip ZF and the big sticky 335/35/17ZR tires on the back. It is amazing how fast you can get up to speed from a dead stop without wheel spin or making a lot of noise! The car doesnít squat down in back or lift up in front on hard acceleration it just moves out. The stock 1971 Pantera could do zero to sixty in 5.5 seconds. I expect that most of the slightly modified Panteras on the road today would easily beat the 5.5 second time. The original owner of my car drove the car to 155 mph a number of times.
The Pantera places the driving position forward in the car, a typical configuration for a mid-engine performance car. The extreme rake of the windshield positions the driver closer to the windshield than would most cars. The left front wheel well extends into the driverís compartment causing the de Tomaso designers to offset the clutch, brake and throttle pedals to the right in a tight arrangement.
There is no space or footrest for your left foot. You tend to pull your left foot back and rest it on the floor and your left knee leans against the door. Your left elbow goes on the door arm rest and your hand can rest on your knee or on the wheel. Sounds odd but it's the universal Pantera driving position!
You tend not to keep the clutch in for any long duration because it's heavy, so at stop lights, the ZF is out of gear, in neutral and the clutch out. Also the ZF shift pattern is the opposite of the standard shift pattern with first gear to the left and back and first gear is offset rather than fifth gear. From first gear, second gear is forward, slightly to the right and then forward. Shifting needs to be deliberate and follow the gate. The shift lever is spring loaded to center position of the second and third shift gate. The gated shifter works great if it is adjusted correctly.
For tall people like me (6 foot 6 inches), a thirteen-andĖone-half-inch steering wheel is recommended to allow legroom between the center console and the wheel. My size 15 feet have learned how to work in the small space. Shoes with small narrow soles really help or drive with your right shoe off. My car has the early Pantera seats that are very thin so you are almost sitting on the floor. Donít worry the car is so much fun to drive you donít notice the lack of padding! With all this said, the Pantera is still comfortable to drive even for tall people.
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On the left, the driving position of a 6 foot 6 inch frame in a Nissan Maxima SE. On the right, the driving position of the same frame in a 1971 Pantera. The driving position is almost the same in both cars but with a lower seating position in the Pantera. Note how the top of the dash in the Maxima is at chin height and in the Pantera is at chest height. The low Pantera dash position makes the visibility to the front and sides better than the Maxima. The Pantera gearshift is in a better position than the Maxima.
Much has been published about the performance of the Pantera on the track so I donít have much to add about the "take it to the limit" performance, other than the Pantera was in the "super car" class in 1971 and continues to hold that position. With the new improvements available to any Pantera owner, e.g. suspension, shocks, big tires, brakes, engine EFI, the Pantera continues to be the "super car" of the new millennium.
Oddly, the first time I drove a Pantera it felt as though I had driven the car before. As you get to know the Pantera you understand that it is really a racecar design that is street driven, it likes smooth open roads to prowl. The power, speed and handling can be seductive so the car needs to be driven with the respect and attention that a high performance exotic car demands!