The Panoz Esperante GTR-1 is one of those rare greats that only a special type of weirdo such as myself truly appreciates. It was a full-on, hardcore Le Mans racer, except the engine was in the front and it made the noise of a pissed-off, drunken Satan. And now Panoz will sell you a new one, that is also somehow old, for just under a cool million bucks.
The GTR-1 came at the tail end of the 1990s, when top of the line race cars were not quite GT cars, like the McLaren F1, but they weren’t quite prototypes, like the Audi R18. When every other race car was putting its engine in the middle, company founder and CEO Don Panoz wanted his car to be based on the Esperante road car, so the engine is mounted in front of the driver. In that way, it was exactly like the Esperante road car, much in the same way that I am exactly like Timofey Mozgov in that we both have two legs.
But much like Mozgov and I, that’s where the similarities ended. The road-going Esperante was made of aluminum and steel, not carbon fiber. The racer looked like an even more phallic version of the Batmobile, not some sort of vaguely European-ish roadster with a bunch of Ford parts. With only a handful of examples of the race car were built, with one road-going version for homologation purposes, and that was kept by Don Panoz himself.
And while the regular Esperante made do with 305 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque, the GTR-1 puts out 600 HP and around 500 pound-feet of torque.
Panoz has held onto his example ever since it was built, and it’s now been fully restored, going from the original, lovely color-changing blue-and-purple hue, to the slightly ugly green one you see up top.
But even then, Panoz is hoping it’ll entice some customers to buy a new one. And by “new one,” I mean, the same one from the late 1990s. Panoz held onto the original body and tub molds over the years, and they’re now willing to build new ones out of carbon fiber, like the original, or “alternate composites” if you’re feeling a bit cheap.
Though since it all starts at $890,000 anyway, you might as well spring for the black woven stuff. Panoz says they have an “extreme personalization” program available, to make the car yours and yours alone, though that’s probably a lot easier when less than ten examples exist of the car to begin with.
What you get for your hard-earned nearly-a-million-bucks is, well, a late 1990s-homologation special, from the looks of the interior.
A lot of the road-going cars from this era were built as race cars first, with the road-going homologation bit as more of an afterthought necessary to satisfy a paper requirement, and the Panoz GTR-1 is no exception. If you look at others in this category, like the Mercedes CLK-GTR, or the Porsche 911 GT1, it’ll be much of the same story – that of “oh yeah, slap some cheap-looking leather on it, and it’ll be fine.”
Panoz even says they’ve “upgraded” the interior for the restoration (upgraded, from what? A slightly cushy prison?) But if we’re being real for a second, you’re not looking for interior build finish, or La-Z-Boys for seats, if you’re buying one of these.
You’re looking for this, that crazy layout, and that crazy engine:
Not too many cars out there look like some sort of skeletal Moon buggy robot once you take the hood and the back carapace off.
And seriously, drunk pissed-off Satan:
I think I might go buy one right now.
Photos credit: Panoz