Normally when you think of a roadster, you imagine an open-top car that is stylish, probably has two seats and is fun to drive. It doesn’t have to be fast, but there is an element of performance to it. The Panoz Roadster—a car that I had totally forgotten about—has only part of the formula right.
The upside to this gig is sometimes I will have people ask me to find interesting cars. I received an email that I assume was a hilarious autocorrect requesting a “Pants Roadster” only to get further clarification that the gentleman wanted a “Panoz Roadster.” I found the following ad for a 1999 Panoz AIV Roadster on Hemmings:
I’ll be honest and admit that Panoz brand occupied some kind of vague corner in my brain. I remembered they made a wacky Le Mans racer that bore a resemblance to the Batmobile in the original Tim Burton Batman film, and they had made some bespoke cars using components from Cobra Mustangs. But these Roadster cars are really odd ducks.
This particular car has a Cobra-sourced 305 horsepower 4.6-liter V8 mated to a manual transmission in a small aluminum body with a slew of additional upgrades. It is likely a frighteningly fast car to drive.
But despite the impressive performance under the skin, I just can’t get past the looks. It’s like some sort of robot, mutant fish that’s been taken apart and put back together by David Tracy and his friends ahead of some insane two-day Moab deadline. And what the hell are those exposed piston graphics? Why are they on... the wheel arches?
In fairness, this specific car has the “Custom Fighter Plane” scheme, similar to the livery you can get on a Morgan 3 Wheeler. But that works. This one does not.
Perhaps I am too hung up on the aesthetics, but I am not seeing a $50,000 car. If you have some knowledge as to why there is apparently a collector market for this Frankenstein car, please enlighten me.