What’s the most Italian American thing that you can think of?
For me, the first thing that pops to mind is pizza. Whether baked with a thick, thin or stuffed crust, with one or many toppings, pizza is almost as American as it gets. If one disregards its heritage, one could be forgiven for thinking that the popular flatbread had been invented in the U.S.A. The truth is that what the Italians call pizza is so vastly different from the American dish of the same name, like the difference in their respective cultures.
Now that you’ve probably placed your pizza delivery order, I’ll crack on before the doorbell rings.
So, why did I talk about pizza? To introduce you to the DeTomaso Pantera.
An American penned the sleek lines of the Pantera for Italian design firm Ghia. The car was built by an Italian, but powered by a Ford V8 all throughout its 21-year production life. Pizza indeed.
As a teenager, my only memory of the Pantera was from a classic car book I had at home. A sleek black car that looked slightly like a GT40 had caught my attention as I flipped through its pages. Perusing the trivia section on the car, I happened to read that Elvis Presley had put a bullet through his when it refused to start. I had only begun to grasp the impact that Elvis had on music history at the time, and that detail stuck with me.
The Pantera has never been mainstream, living in the shadows of popular marques like Ferrari, Maserati and even Ford. It’s fans are fewer and the people who drive them form a club that is small and exclusive.
So, when the opportunity to photograph Tomini Classics’ Pantera came up, I must confess I did not drop everything. I had appreciated the low roofline in the showroom often, but as a mechanical machine, I had been drawn to the prancing horses and the Stuttgart crests much more.
The shoot was confirmed and I found myself in the Pantera on a cool mid-March morning, cruising on the main drag. The classic flip-up headlights broke what was otherwise a very low hoodline, since the sun was yet to rise.
First impressions? A rather small passenger footwell and a boot that would have made a picnic basket feel morbidly obese. The dash was overflowing with gauges and switches, displaying all sorts of information about the car. Bang in the middle was the beautiful gated shifter, with the DeTomaso logo painted onto the knob.
The driver’s seating position was certainly less than comfortable, but then again it was a car from 1972 and ergonomics was not a priority.
Reaching our destination, we pulled up just as the sun was beginning to make an appearance. Flanked by a massive freighter and the cranes of the Dubai Dry Docks, I got to work.
When it comes to form and function, it’s all about the former with the Pantera. The racy roofline adds to the sleek silhouette. Wide tyres only set off it’s stance perfectly, lending it the very touch needed to complete the ‘looks fast standing still’ cliché.
In fact, as the minutes ticked by, I realized that the car did not have a bad angle. Yes, it resembled the GT40 a bit, and yes it did not have Italian curves. Did that bother me? Not one bit.
Furthermore, it just looks special, something that was proved by the increasing attention bestowed upon it by the construction workers nearby. They too knew that this was not a regular BMW or a Mercedes, since the shape was so outlandish.
As the sun rose to full strength, I decided to call it a day and we got on our way back. At some point, there arose a sudden need for acceleration (do we really need a reason to bury the throttle?). The gentleman driving slotted the shifter from 4th to 3rd and buried the loud pedal. As the 351 ci Cleveland V8 revved up with its iconic hot-rod roar, we got moving pretty rapidly. This is no supercar, mind you, but 330 American horses is enough go juice for most, as was the case here.
Getting to Café Rider just in time for an early breakfast, we parked the car next to a large puddle, courtesy of the recent rain that had fallen. Climbing out and seeing the silhouette reflected in the water was definitely one of the high points of my morning.
So, a rather non-ergonomic Italian-American car with a pretty decent V8. At this point, I really don’t care and I’ll tell you why. I’d get this car to simply park it in my living room (might have to break down a few walls for that) and stare at it all day. Alternatively, I’d swap in a larger displacement motor and have an absolute blast driving it as much as I could.
Sometimes, it’s good to be reminded that both practicality and being sensible have their own place. That place certainly isn’t a classic car enthusiast’s heart or head, especially if the car in question is a DeTomaso Pantera.
Ding! Your pizza is at the door, I believe.
A big thank you to Miguel Llorente of Tomini Classics for making the dawn run with me in the Pantera.