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						Pre L Pantera

Pre-L Pantera Project Car

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, Craigslist

By the late 1960s, Ford had seen what a sexy, super car image could do for a brand, but developing a car of this nature would be an expensive and resource-consuming project. Thankfully for Ford though, someone had taken notice of the rise of American V8-powered European exotics, such as the Iso Grifo, Bizzarrini Strada and of course the DeTomaso Mangusta. So when DeTomaso released the Pantera as an improved successor targeted toward the American market, Ford was ready to play ball, especially since production of the Shelby Cobra ceased by ’67.

Word is that Alejandro DeTomaso had convinced Lee Iacocca to have Ford support the Pantera, and the car would have enormous potential as a sexy new offering at Lincoln-Mercury dealers. The steel-monocoque Pantera was an improvement over the backbone-based Mangusta, and the 351 Cleveland engines would provide a huge boost in horsepower over the Windsor V8s found in the Mangusta.

Under Ford’s watchful eye, Panteras were rolling out of DeTomaso’s facility in Modena, Italy by 1971. Bodies were hand-built by Carrozzeria Vignale in Turin, and the finished cars were equipped with various creature comforts that would have been considered outside the norm in an Italian exotic of the era, including power windows, air-conditioning and door buzzers. But not everything went smoothly, and it soon became apparent that fit and finish wasn’t exactly up to par. Rust-proofing measures were basically non existent, and large amounts of body solder were used to correct imperfections in the bodywork, and correcting these flaws often fell on the dealers, leading to long delays. Ford took notice, ramping up its involvement in the project, and quality control soon began improving.

Despite these issues, the Pantera was about the hottest American offering in 1971, and came in significantly cheaper than your average Italian exotic. Parts and service were available at your local Lincoln-Mercury dealer (much to the dismay of the technicians) and the cars were easily capable of 150 mph flat-out.

A few key changes happened in ’72, starting with the 351 Cleveland engine, which was reduced from 11:1 to 8.6:1 to meet emissions and run on lower octane fuel. By August of that year, buyers also found that the Pantera was fit with a large one-piece black bumper to comply with vehicle standards and reduce lift at high speeds. These cars were now designated as the Pantera L, signifying Lusso (Italian for luxury).

These days the pre-L Pantera is the most sought-after model for the small bumpers, but they can be quite a bit harder to come by. This ’72 pre-L model on Craigslist is a numbers-matching example and appears to be a pretty straight car. It’s been sitting for some time, and could require some work, but the miles are low at 24,000, and it looks fairly rust free underneath. It looks to be fairly complete, but someone has done a few modifications to the engine, so be sure as many of the original parts are included as possible.

The seller is asking $55,000 for the car here on Eastern NC Craigslist, but I’d assume there’s a little wiggle room at that number.

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Filed Under

De Tomaso Ford Italian