The Pantera is DeTomaso’s most significant production car to date, and lived an overall production life of nearly 25 years. It is the model which most people identify with DeTomaso, and completed the company’s transition to a volume producer of high performance GTs. In describing the Pantera’s career, especially from a U.S. perspective, it is easiest to view it in three separate stages: the Ford importation era (1971 - 1974), the post-Ford era (1975-1990) and the final iteration (1991-1994), as these last Panteras were substantially different than all prior machines.
The new machine was styled by Ghia`s stylist Tom Tjaarda, and Giam Paolo Dallara was engaged for chassis and production design. The Pantera was conceived with a full monocoque chassis layout, as opposed to the prior car’s spine chassis design. Secondly, it to be built around Ford’s then-new 5.7 liter (351 cu. in.) "Cleveland" V-8. This engine featured deep-breathing heads patterned after the very successful Boss 302 design, 4-barrel carburetion and 4-bolt main bearing caps. The new V-8 was mated to a ZF fully synchronized 5-speed transaxle with limited slip, and rated at 310 horsepower (SAE Gross, 1971 trim).
All of the expected race-inspired componentry is present: fully independent suspension with upper and lower A-Arms, coil-over shock absorbers, front and rear sway bars, 4-wheel power disc brakes, cast magnesium wheels by Campagnolo and rack-and-pinion steering. The front compartment houses the brake booster, master cylinder, battery and tool kit; the rear trunk unit, easily removable for engine access, holds a considerable amount of luggage. The interior features an aggressive cockpit design, full instrumentation, factory air conditioning and power windows. 1971 and 1972 cars carried chrome bumperettes front and rear.
In late 1972, the "L" model was introduced, which features black safety bumpers front and rear, improved cooling and air conditioning systems and other enhancements. For 1973, the "L" model continued with a revised dashboard and instrument layout. The last Panteras constructed for the US market were built in late 1974, and included approximately 150 GTS models. The GTS featured fender flares and additional black out paint trim. European versions received larger wheels, tires and other performance minded enhancements.
At the end of the 1974 model year, Ford and DeTomaso Automobili dissolved their business arrangement, and importation of the Pantera to the United States was concluded. Mr. DeTomaso reassumed ownership of the Pantera project, and production was continued on a more exclusive basis for markets other than the US. Several models ensued, including the GT/4, which was modeled after the successful Group 4 competition cars of 1972-3. It wore larger fender flares, 10x15 and 13x15 inch racing wheels and aggressive Pirelli P7 tires. A GTS and Group 3 performance version were also offered along with the now-standard L model, and Pantera buyers could custom-fit the car with their choice of optional colors and features.