I don't want to be that guy.
Visiting an American racing legend down in Georgia
Recently, I had the opportunity to tour Panoz. I think it's fair to say I came into it with a relatively neutral opinion and limited knowledge of their cars. However, I never expected to change face quite so dramatically and come away holding the company as a whole in such high regard after my visit
My person of contact was Sydney, who is an amateur racing driver herself. Of whom I could have spent hours gossiping with about her own racing experiences all on their own. While there I was told about Don's vibrantly purple 4.6L supercharged modular V8 Esperante that he had shipped all over the world to drive when overseas, the engine of which you may recognize from the Ford Mustang. Several tricks they used in the making of the GTR-1 to deal with those all too overreaching government regulations, and how Don himself insisted on having a part in everything his racing team did. It didn't take long for me to realize that Panoz is like a simple breeze of cool air in today's automotive society filled with stagnate and clinical marketing ploys and incessant red tape.
I can't thank Sydney enough for taking the time out of her day to make the impression she did. Her stories, knowledge, and enthusiasm for what she does helped truly make it a memorable experience. The chance to hear just a fraction of the history of Don Panoz and who he was from someone that knew him so closely was invaluable. While the opportunity to sit where he sat, and to touch what he touched with my time spent in his Esperante was an honor. I regret never getting to meet the guy, and unquestionably the world is lessened without him.
Quite frankly, Panoz is everything that's right with the automotive industry, and what every manufacture should strive to be in this day and age. In a sea of bland and simple cookie-cutter vehicles being churned out by large manufacturers; as well as boutique ones that have lost their way, or never quite figured it out in the first place. It's unbelievably refreshing to find a car company that actually enjoys what they do, and care about what they create. Doing what's right, upholding their values, rather than just giving in to the mainstream, and doing what's easy.
It's clear Panoz put plenty of the Italian “passion” and “soul” into what is quite possibly at its roots; one of the most American things ever. Good on you, Panoz.