At $32,500, Might You Aspire to This 2002 Panoz Esperante?

Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

Don Panoz made his money in pharmaceuticals, but the family name was made amongst auto enthusiasts by building cars like today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Esperante. Let’s see if this Mustang-based special comes with a price that you think is a deal, or paying through the nose.

What scares you? For me, it’s clowns, but for many the greatest terror is apparently yesterday’s 2004 Audi S4 Avant. That was owed to its inscrutable complexity and reputation for expensive gremlins. That’s what I got from the comments at least. That’s also what likely led to the car’s $5,000 asking earning a narrow 58-percent Crack Pipe defeat.


Don and Danny Panoz have been building race and, occasionally, road cars for going on thirty years now. At present, the company’s holdings include Panoz LLC, DeltaWing, Team Panoz Racing, and Green4U which amazingly isn’t a lost Prince song but an electric car and bus enterprise.

How does a small Georgia-based company crank out so many auto-related businesses? Well, it helps to be stinkin’ rich, which Don Panoz became by inventing the transdermal patch, which is commonly used by people trying to kick cigarettes.

This 2002 Panoz Esperante shows the company’s moxie when attempting a full-featured road car—a sizable sports car in the vein of the Mercedes 500SL or Jaguar XK8. The Esperante is less pretty than either of those, but it’s all-aluminum bodywork is far from troll-like. The rounded nose and small grille opening do look a little too much like Elmer Fudd in mid hu-hu-hu-hu-hu-hu-hu-hu, however.


Underneath all that is a mad mix of Panoz designed architecture wrapped around the firewall and forward floorpan of the SN95 SVT Mustang Cobra. Ford’s pony gives up its independent rear suspension, 4.6-litre quad cam V8 and T-45 5-speed stick shift transmission as well. The Esperante has a reputation for being well sorted and, perhaps more importantly, to drive nothing like its Mustang donor. Being a good couple hundred pounds lighter than the pony helps.


It sure as hell doesn’t look like a Mustang, either. The only recognizable parts externally are the windshield frame and side-view mirrors. Door handles are sourced from the Old Aurora while everything else is pretty much Panoz.

The interior is a little more Mustang-y with seats and parts of the door trim being obviously sourced from the Ford. The Instrument cluster is also the Mustang unit, but it has been moved to above the center stack to make its reading more of a challenge.


This one comes in beige leather with carbon fiber trim and an aluminum shift knob that must be a joy to use on a sunny day. Everything here looks to be in excellent shape, right down to the Panoz branded floor mats. The convertible top also looks to be in fine fettle, with a plastic rear window that’s clear and fabric that’s reasonably taut and intact.


According to the ad, the silver paint has seen a respray on the nose, so as to eliminate some peppering that detracted from the car’s overall look. Factory chrome wheels are wrapped in decent looking meats, but the ad says nothing about the age of the tires nor their brand.


Under the long aluminum hood you’ll find the big SVT engine. That’s 320 horsepower’s worth of hand-built V8 in there, and there’s a builder’s tag on the right-side cam cover as proof, just like it’s an Aston Martin or something.

There’s another pair of aluminum tags ahead of the Ford mill, with more signatures from the Panoz build team. That’s nice and a good way to ascribe blame when something breaks.


The seller says there’s nothing broken on this 75K car, and in fact notes a recent rebuild of the rear shocks and a new battery. The title is clear and It comes with a funky Michelin tool kit in the boot which a cool bit of added color.


How much does such a hand-built but reasonably easy to maintain American exotic cost these days? Well, the seller notes an NADA average retail of $54,400 which is why I never look at NADA when I’m buying, only when I’m selling. His price is a far lower $32,500, which is still a lot of beans, but more in the maybe range than a nuh-uh $55K.

What’s your take, does this seemingly sweet Panoz get the nod at that price? Or, is this Esperante that’s priced out of reach?


You decide!


Portland, OR Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to picoFarad for the hookup!

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.