There was once a magical time in American culture when, for some reason, almost every television show worth a damn had to have its own signature custom car. There are obvious ones, like the Batmobile, but there were also the Monkeemobile, the Munster Koach, and I bet Bob Newhart had a Button-Downmobile, too. One of the most outrageous of these cars, the Pink Panthermobile, has just been restored, and it’s astounding.
There was so much amazing experimentation happening in the custom car world of the late ‘60s and ‘70s. Metal and fiberglass masters like Dean Jeffries and Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth were doing sculptural, experimental, and wildly adventurous things with bodies, paint, styling, electronics, you name it.
It’s one of the most incredibly prolific and exuberant periods of car-as-rolling-sculpture in automotive history, and the Pink Panthermobile exemplifies some of the best, most radical thinking of the era.
Design-wise, the Panthermobile is unusual even for the bizarre standards of the era. It’s long and low, with a much wider track at front than rear. In front of the front wheels but behind a long, tapering proboscis sits the driver, central and open and exposed.
The enclosed passenger pod is accessed via an odd clamshell door, and the inside is a highly upholstered, unrelentingly pink volume of curved space, sort of what I’d imagine being inside a whale bladder that’s been converted into a space brother would be like. There’s nothing quite like it.
Here’s what Galpin has to say about the car, and some technical details:
Built on a 60s Oldsmobile Tornado chassis and sculpted out of sheet metal and top-of- the-line materials, the distinctive Panthermobile is an astounding 23-feet long and six-feet wide.
Powered by a massive seven-liter engine that moves the front wheels, the driver must wear a helmet as the driver’s seat is located outside the vehicle in front of the engine.
The all-pink long-snouted vehicle exudes classic 70s era cool with its space-age styling and two-piece clamshell opening doors. The interior features pink shag reclined seats and pink furry pillows where passengers can lounge while enjoying a glass of champagne or chatting on the 1970s car phone. It even had a backup camera and small 70s black and white TV so the driver could see what was behind him.
Designed by the renowned Ed “Newt” Newton in collaboration with famed customizer and TV personality, Dan Woods; creator of the paint color Candy Apple Red, Joe Bailon; and founder of the kustom car craft, Bill “The Leadslinger” Hines, the custom creation was originally featured each week alongside cartoon characters in the opening credits of “The Pink Panther Show,” which aired from 1969-1976. Newton is the creator behind famous vehicles, including Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Orbitron and Surfite, as well as Galpin Auto Sports’ (GAS) Scythe concept and many other legendary customs. Woods’ built the infamous Milk Truck and Ice Truck.
Looking at the car, you can see it’s mid-engined, with the Toronodo’s FWD drivetrain mounted with the front wheels, behind the driver. The big longitudinally-mounted V8 is right behind the driver’s head, which must make for an interesting driving experience.
There seems to be a pair of small radiators in front of each front wheel, fed via long, tapering ducts at each side.
The car was revealed to the public on Sept. 18 at Galpin’s car show in North Hills, CA, and should be on display at Galpin Motors afterwards.
The car was originally made for the Pink Panther cartoon show, though I think I only remember seeing that as a kid in cut-up rerun form, and don’t remember the car. I think there was an anteater cartoon?
I do remember the cartoons were strange and came on late on Sunday, tying them inexorably in my head with that gloomy gotta-go-back-to-school-tomorrow feeling.
This car, though, this thing is a masterpiece of bonkers ‘70s custom car design. I’m glad it got restored with such care.