The Pantera Place
"Your de Tomaso Connection"
Buying A Pantera
Why Own A Pantera?
Because some of the Pantera Place followers are searching for their first Pantera I thought I would pass on some of my experiences, ideas and potential mistakes on the hunt for my Pantera.
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. It was hard to believe in the 80s how such beautiful cars could be treated so poorly.
In 1996 my interest in owning a Pantera peaked again and the hunt was on! This time I found that the "collector" interest in the exotic muscle cars was having a positive impact on the Pantera. The cars looked cleaner, well cared for and like always very awesome.
After two years of being a looky-lu and a Pantera owner wannabe in June of 1998 I finally found my Pantera.
The Car For You?
Although the Pantera was very, very advanced for its time thirty years ago, by today's standards it is a very simple car. It's not like the modern appliance type cars, e.g. the C5 Corvette, the Viper, the Ferrari 360. The Pantera doesn't have any of the traction control systems (it does have a limited slip transaxel), anti-skid brake system or heads up display. The Pantera is the bad boy car of the beautiful Italian exotics, that with a little work will kick butt on all the new appliance type cars! Comparing the Pantera to today's cars is like comparing a GT40 or a Cobra to the Ferrari 360. If you are looking for a daily driver, the Pantera is not for you. The Pantera is a car to be cherished and the work that you put into the car should feel right, especially when you tool into the Italian car show and turn some heads. The simplicities of the Pantera is one of the great advantages of ownership. If you can turn a wrench the Pantera could be for you!
Before I bought a car I felt that I needed to really become educated about the Pantera as I knew that buying the wrong car could be a financial disaster. I thought that Atlanta must have a lot of Pantera owners but I couldnít find any local organized groups, so it looked like I was on my own! I joined Pantera International (PI) first and then Pantera Owners Club of America (POCA) after I found my car. I immediately found PI to be a great wealth of information. I also found the WEB a great place to find information. In retrospect, I should have joined POCA at the same time that I joined PI because my first good local contacts came from the POCA membership roster.
I looked at as many cars as possible and learned something new on every car that I saw. Ideally finding a long time Pantera owner in your area that will share information would be the best. I found the people that have cars for sale are not going to tell you as much as a long time Pantera owner will.
Get to know one of the Pantera parts and service vendors before you go car hunting. You will find a list of vendors on the web links page on this site. Find out what parts cost so that as you are looking at cars you will have a good idea of replacement cost, e.g. door weather strip, logos and scripts, exhaust systems, ZF reseal, clutch. Some replacement parts cost are very reasonable others will shock you. Also remember that the Pantera is monocoque construction so you canít just bolt on a new fender. The replacement front and back hatch are very expensive!
After looking at numerous cars, I found the 1971 and 1972 pre L cars appealed to me most. I guess I just liked the small bumpers but everyone has their own opinion on the pre L or the L model. The original 1971 car had more horsepower but after all of these years, many if not most Panteras have had the engines modified. Matching engine numbers in a Pantera have no extra value. You will probably want to keep your options open on the model and year and look for the car with the best value.
I often see postings on the web from people looking for a fixer-upper Pantera needing bodywork, mechanical work, etc. What these people apparently donít realize is fixing up a Pantera can be a very expense ordeal costing much more than the selling price of an average Pantera.
As of January 2016 it appears that a decent #4 Pantera will cost in the $55,000 range. This would be a car that has not had much money invested in it to upgrade the suspension, drive train, etc. In 1998 you could find a decent Pantera in the $25,000 range so the prices have been slowly increasing and most dramatically in the last two years. A great #2 Pantera will be in the $85,000 range. A #1 car that is in perfect "show" condition will be in the $98,000 range. There are cars that are fantastic with everything very original and well maintained that could be in the $150,000 range. The really super cars do not come on the marked very often. Cars under the $50,000 mark would probably be a major problem child. But it is possible that if you looked long and hard enough you might find a decent Pantera for under $55,000, but it would need some work. After you buy a car plan to spend a couple thousand dollars the first year fixing-up minor stuff. See my first year experience with my Pantera. A Pantera that is really good and priced right usually will not be on the market long. The price ranges very by geographic location and how needy the seller is. The object is to find the very best car for the money.
A number of collector car experts are saying Panteras are still undervalued and will increase substantially in value in the near future.
The Pantera is a very seductive car to be around so try not to make a buying decision on your emotions. Remember the "Pantera Fever" will get you.
Total Cost of Ownership
Over time many owners find that they cannot resist rebuilding the suspension, drive train, adding new wheels and tires, etc. Most Pantera owners like working on their cars and do most of the work themselves. It is a labor of love that gets great results. They usually buy the parts from the Pantera parts and service vendors that support the Pantera community. The Pantera parts and service vendors are what make the ownership of the Pantera so fantastic. The following table shows how a $25,000 Pantera can easily become a $43,000 investment when the typical repair work and upgrades are done.
Original Purchase Price (1998 price level)
First year repair stuff
Replace front valance and cross member (many Panteras need the valance replaced)
Reseal ZF, safety wire ring gear, new clutch, new half shafts, new axles and upgrade to roller bearings.
Upgrade brake master cylinder to SVO unit.
New clutch master cylinder and slave
New shocks and springs
Pollygraphite A arm bushings
New ANSA mufflers and tail pipes
Wide wheels and fat Z rated tires
Upgrade and repair AC system
Install missing handbrake parts, linkage, cable.
Replace back trunk liner felt
Replace back bumpers
The table does not list anything about engine work but that is another area that many owners can't resist. The 351 Cleveland is an inexpensive engine to rebuild and upgrade. $7,000 invested in a Cleveland would make an awesome engine. The braking system is another area where money can be spent for upgrades. Most of the items listed assume that the owner would do most of the work.Buying Check List
When I looked at Panteras I used a check list to help quantify the condition of the car. The list will also help you discuss the condition of the car with the owner and help work out a realistic price. I used a list like the following:
1. Car Data
City, State and zip:
Year and model:
Review maintenance history information if available:How does the car look overall, door, trunks and windshield fit:
Review list of upgrades if available:
3. Cold Check (back hatch area)
Overall engine inventory, carb type, intake, etc:
Coolant level and color (clear antifreeze):
Engine dip stick (clean oil, no rust or water):
Engine oil filler (clean no leaks):
Check engine, coolant hoses and pipes for coolant leaks:
Check engine for oil leaks (the oil leaks could be around the front main seal or back main seal, valve covers or the intake on the front or back):
Check transaxle for oil leaks (the oil leaks could be at the seals on the axle stub shafts, the front seal or any of the nuts and bolts on the transaxle, if the front seal is leaking the oil will run out of the lower part of the bell housing):
Clutch slave cylinder type and condition:
Check back hatch area for corrosion:
Check ID plates on the driver side wheel house.
4. Cold Check (the front hatch area)
Check radiator area, hoses and pipes for leaks:
Check radiator fans, type:
Check battery type and condition:
Brake master cylinder type and condition:
Clutch master cylinder type and condition:
Spare tire type and condition (the spare is in the front on 1971 cars and in the back on later cars):
Jack and tools type and condition:
Washer bottle type and condition:
Check front hatch area for corrosion:
Check ID number above and behind the brake booster.
Check body for dents, nicks or corrosion:
Badges, scripts and emblems:
Check ID plaques, dashboard, driverís door jam, back hatch (on driverís wheelhouse) and front hatch (on top of pedal well):
Does car sit level?:
Check the under body for dents or corrosion:
Wheel type and size front and back:
Front and back tire size and condition:
Check wheel play front and back:
Check shock type:
Brake types and fluid leaks:
Check seats, dash, headliner, and mats for condition:
Check gages, knobs and switches, type and condition:
Check fuse panel for condition:
Look under dash for loose or non-stock wires:
Remove firewall and check engine belts, leaks, AC compressor for type and condition:
Check steering wheel play (minimal play):
Does hand brake work:
Check key set in all locks:
Check ID plate on the driver door jam and near windshield on driver side.
7. Warm Check Out
Turn ignition key on and check gages and warning lights:
Watch oil pressure at start:
Warm oil pressure at idle:
Warm oil pressure at 2000 rpm:
Does automatic choke work?:
Charge amps after start-up:
All gages working?:
Exhaust (clean, oil or water)
Exhaust leaks, headers, pipes or mufflers:
Engine sound, idle, missing:
Clutch feel (no chatter):
Transaxle shifting (should shift smoothly but requires the clutch to be fully depressed when shifting) :
A/C and heater:
Is car tracking straight? (should not pull to one side when driving on level ground):
9. Post Drive Review
Check engine, leaks, temp, oil level, etc:
Check brakes, leaks, temp, etc:
Check radiator, leaks, temp, etc:
Check front hatch area for fluid leaks:
Will it start warm?
See info about Pantera corrosion
Most likely the car you are interested in is not going to be close by, so before you jump on the airline, have the owner send you some pictures and a video of the car. An owners description of their car may not look the same to you when you see it firsthand. You can see a lot of detail about a car in a video including the sound of the engine. See if you can locate a Pantera owner in the city that can do a preview of the car for you. I know people that have bought cars without seeing them firsthand but I donít recommend it. In both cases it worked out fine but I think they were lucky!