“You know Top Trumps? The card game.” Explained Tom. “At school, I always thought: Countach, Ferrari Testarossa - you can’t beat them. But in Top Trumps, there was a Top Trump, and it was the Pantera.” Imagine owning the car on that card. That, in a nutshell, is the story behind Tom’s car - fantasy turned reality.
The Pantera is a car that’s hard to place. Some say it’s an Italian supercar, some say it’s the first mid-engined American muscle car. There’s no denying it’s a mish-mash of unlikely worlds. It was designed by Ghia and built by De Tomaso, another Italian company - fine. But Alejandro de Tomaso himself was an Argentine political refugee who was also an F1 driver. Then, you’ve got the Ford engine and transmission in there and the fact that Ford sort of commissioned it, but didn’t, and then gave up halfway through it’s initial production.
The sad truth is the massively rushed development and resultant issues that plagued them meant few remain truly original, but Tom’s Pantera is pretty close. It’s his example is the GT5 model - released to keep up with the Countach of its day.
The best view of this car is from the back. The race spec exhaust exit, the preposterous and pointless rear wing and the frankly laughable rear tyres which are just simply huge. Like, get a ruler and measure out 34.5cm - they’re that wide.
For better or worse the engine managed to blow up right after Tom bought it - obviously quite the setback. Tom went to Huddart Racing Engines who bored and stroked the Cleveland V8 to 393ci from 351ci (5.7ish litres to 6.4ish litres). The cylinder heads were polished and ported to Boss spec, and with a smattering of high-performance parts including a new carb (appropriately branded the ‘Dominator’) Tom’s Pantera produces a barmy 466bhp.
For me, categorically the quickest way for a car to win my love is through the noise it makes. This thing actually hurts. I made a point of putting my big stupid face in what I will now call ‘the exhaust fallout area’ for its first startup of the day. Let’s just say: I’ve never been punched in the face, (you’ll be surprised to hear) but I imagine it would feel similar. Muscle cars sound great when you stand next to them, but they don’t have Italian-made exhausts. You can literally hear each distinct cylinder firing at idle. The sound this car makes is a long way from a purr or a hum, more Saturn V rocket..
After 12 years of fighting with the Pantera’s reliability, we asked Tom if it was worth it:
“Last year the trip to the Goodwood Revival was just beyond. The whole drive the hair on the back of my neck was stood up. I just thought 'I hope some kid is just doing their paper round and I’m just going to hammer past them'. If I was that little kid I would want me to [do that].”
So is it a car to keep forever?
“...My son, he loves it. He’ll come up to the garage door and say ‘Daddy car’. And that’s…” Tom paused slightly, I could tell he still hadn’t made his mind up about keeping the car in the family. “It feels very special”. Tom continued:
“I don’t want [my son] to become a complete petrol-head, but if he does, it would be quite cool. My dad used to have Cobras in the 60s. I always rued the day he got rid [of them]. I thought for my son it would be very cool for him to use [the Pantera], to have it, to drive it, but I reckon these cars will be illegal by the time he’s 35.” George if you’re reading this in 30 years, I hope it’s with your dad’s car sitting in the garage.
We’ve all had that feeling of holding the Trump card as a child, knowing you’re going to trounce on everyone's Lambos and Ferraris. The analogy of the victorious underdog sort of rings true with the Pantera. It’s a car that, despite it’s rough upbringing, will still leave you utterly speechless.