For $26,500, Become a Cowboy from Hell

Long before the Prius, a hybrid car was a foreign make with a honkin' big American V8 dropped into it. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Pantera is just such a hybrid, and its performance is bred to be high.

There was almost no 9-2-H8 for yesterday's Porsche as a solid 75% of you were willing to go black and never go back. That GT obviated the onus of Porsche traditions as it was powered by a water-cooled V8 engine; and it kept that engine up front, rather than dingle-burying it out back. Today's candidate is also V8-powered, although its Ford-sourced small block sits neither in front nor in back, but in a Goldilocks this one's just right mid-placement.

Argentinean Alejandro De Tomaso founded his company in the Italian city of Modena in 1959. His first road car – the stunningly beautiful Vallelunga – was a race-bred, Ford 1600-powered sports car of diminutive stature. That coupe was supplanted in 1967 by the V8-powered Mangusta (Italian for mongoose, or cobra killing ferret) which was built in much greater numbers, and was one of the most ostentatiously styled cars of the '60s. The extremely low bodywork of the Giuigaro-design led to drivability issues as the drivetrain was forced so low the ZF-01 transaxle's bellhousing rested mere inches from the pavement.

The car that really solidified De Tomaso's notoriety is the subject of today's ruminations. The Pantera, as exemplified by this fly-yellow 1971 eschewed the Mangusta's backbone frame for a full steel monocoque. Also replaced was the earlier car's 302-cid V8 with Ford's two-bolt 351 Cleveland. In '71 the 351C was good for 330 old school horsepower, and laid that down through the same dash-one five speed as in the Mangusta. However, in the Pantera the box is mounted upside down for better ground clearance. The Tom Tjaarda-designed body also sits taller and the cabin is slightly roomier, although the front wheel wells still force your legs toward the centerline, and if you're much over 6-feet, be prepared to leave your head at home.

For $26,500, Become a Cowboy from Hell

This is a late '71 as it's not a push-button car. Other than those door mechanisms there's not much different between those first 75 exports and this one. There were a ton of changes made between '71 and '72, but none more important than the reduction in the 351‘s compression ratio from 11:1 to 8.6:1. Despite that, the later year claimed the same 160-mph top speed and 5.5 second zero to sixty time of which this car should be capable. Weight bias in the Pantera heavily favors the rear and the aerodynamics tend to make the nose even lighter when at speed. That all conspires to make the car a bit of an accomplishment to drive fast, especially if you do so and live to tell about it. Vince Neil, I'm looking at you.

For $26,500, Become a Cowboy from Hell

Panteras had always been looked upon as kind of throw away exotics, and because of that many owners felt little compunction to keep their cars stock. That's why you'll rarely find a car in as original a shape as this one. As values on the cars continue to creep up, that originality may play in its favor. The side-view mirrors are aftermarket add-ons, but don't detract terribly from its looks, although the exhaust pipes do as they should be canted up following the rear valance. The interior still has the flat, shapeless seats that came with the car in '71, and everything else – with the exception of the wheel and shift knob – looks to be intact. The engine bay (and bay it is, drivetrain access is a major plus on the Pantera) is rough but complete, and the car shows no obvious signs of road rot. The fiberglass trunk tub is removed in the pictures, and there's no mention of whether it comes with the car, but if it's long gone they're easy and fairly cheap to source.

For $26,500, Become a Cowboy from Hell

The seller is claiming only 26K showing on the Pantera's clock, and if that's the case, it should be a good candidate for a simple freshening and then daily driver duty. While twitchy at speed, and with a clutch that will give you SLLS (Schwarzenegger Left Leg Syndrome), a stock Pantera is pretty tractable around town. That being said, they're notorious for overheating, and as the fans on the '71 are manually operated, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the switch location.

The yellow paint makes the car reminiscent of the first Pantera to grace the cover of Road & Track in May of 1970 – note that cover model is a push button car. The Campagnolo wheels are the same, as are the tiny bumperettes, which in this car's case should be chrome not black, as should the intake surround.

For $26,500, Become a Cowboy from Hell

So, re-chroming the bumpers, maybe a set of vintage appropriate mirrors on the outside. A new wheel and shift knob, and maybe a wholesale cleaning and carpet re-dye in the cabin, and plugs and wires and such under the hood. That looks like all this car needs. Sure, it's not rocking a 1000-hp twin turbo 412, but so what, its asking price is probably less than the cost of that engine alone.

And what about that price? Do you think this anglo-italian cross-breed is worth $26,500 of your pure-bred bread? Or, is that too much cheddar for this wedge?

You decide!


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