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Supercars On A $50,000 Budget: An Italian Beast With American Power

What could possibly be better than Italian looks and an American heart?

The De Tomaso Pantera is a mid-engined Italian sports car that was built from 1971 to 1992. Despite having an extremely long life, just 7,000 examples were made. Still, the Pantera was De Tomaso's most popular model, and we can see why. The car was designed by Italian design firm Ghia, but the stylist, Tom Tjaarda, was American. You can see the Italian-American fusion on almost every inch of this car. Even though it looks like an Italian supercar from every angle, it boasts numerous American muscle car influences.

Pantera is Italian for "Panther," so you would expect it to be pretty fast. From 1971 to 1988, the Pantera was powered by a 5.8-liter Ford 351 Cleveland V8. This engine was rated at 330 hp, although we now know that this number was understated. In reality, the horsepower total was close to 380. The Pantera came with features like four-wheel disc brakes and rack and pinion steering, making it a very well-handling car. It could also hit 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds thanks to that American power. Even by today's standards, the Pantera is seriously quick and still looks extremely striking. It is very hard to find another classic supercar that is like this Italian-American hybrid.

It is actually quite strange to so hear a Pantera drive down the road. Your eyes see a classic Italian supercar, but your ears hear a big, American muscle car. It is vey disorienting at first, but boy is it awesome.

Buying a Pantera in the US was a bit weird. There weren't any De Tomaso dealers, so you had to buy the car at a Lincoln Mercury dealership. A total of 1,007 Panteras came to the US in 1971, and like most Italian cars of the era, were plagued with quality issues. Rust-proofing was minimal, and the fit and finish was very poor. For 1972, Ford decided to increase its involvement with the production which resulted in much higher quality. The engine's compression ratio was lowered to help it meet emissions standards and run on lower octane fuel. In order to make up for the loss of power, Ford gave the car the "Cobra Jet" camshaft from the 428 engine.

After 1975, Ford stopped importing the Pantera to the US, although a few were still imported by Grey Market importers. In recent years, Pantera values have been on the rise, and many examples are close to $100,000. However, we managed to find a 1974 example which is only $49,500. The Pantera that we found is painted red with a black interior and Campagnolo wheels. The car is not in perfect condition, which is why you can now grab it for less than $50,000. If you are interested, the car is for sale at Beverly Hills Car Club in California. We mentioned that this car is not pristine, but we don't think that any of the issues would be a deal-breaker.

The paint on the hood seems to have a large bubble, so a new lick of paint is needed for a fresh look. The driver's seat has some obvious tearing, so an upholstery shop would also be required to refinish the interior. Finally, it seems like the car is missing a gear knob, which shouldn't be too difficult to replace. With a little love and care, this Pantera could be an excellent classic car to cruise around in and impress at car shows. It hard to imagine a cooler car for less than $50,000.

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