1971 De Tomaso Pantera (FMC)
Total restoration
Restoration Log by Dan Mooney



 

 


The De Tomaso Pantera was a mid-engined sports car penned in 1970 by Tom Tjaarda, a designer at the automotive design firm of Ghia in Turin, Italy. They were powered by high performance Ford V8 engines and sold in the US between 1971 and 1975 through the Ford Motor Company’s dealership network. Unfortunately, the cars suffered from extremely poor build quality, quickly earning a reputation for horrendous reliability issues. Elvis Presley famously shot his De Tomaso Pantera when it wouldn’t start! Probably the biggest problem with the Pantera was its fragile electrical architecture. Having said that, when running well, they were very high performance machines for the period.

 

Despite the poor build quality and legendary unreliability, more than 7,000 Panteras were sold. With the earliest models now very nearly fifty years old, they enjoy a loyal following in the classic car arena. Over the years, owners and specialist aftermarket firms have developed a host of much needed reliability upgrades, particularly with respect to the electrical systems. Panteras are commonly modified and customized by their owners, perhaps more than any other classic car. In some collector car circles, any departure from ‘originality’ is frowned upon. This is not the case in the Pantera community, where customization is the norm.

 

The subject of this restoration log is a 1971 De Tomaso Pantera owned by one of the most successful Ford dealerships in the South Western United States. I am proud that Team CJ has been selected to build this very special Pantera, a car that will eventually be displayed in FMC showrooms alongside Ford’s latest models, effectively turning the clock back 45 years.

 

The finished car will remain true to Tom Tjaarda’s original design. Aesthetically, other than a color change from yellow to black, it will look very much as it did when first built in 1971. Mechanically, however, everything will be significantly upgraded. It will feature a 640 HP 7L alloy engine courtesy of Ford Racing, as well as numerous performance and reliability upgrades. The result will be a stunning De Tomaso Pantera of virtually stock appearance, but one that is 100% reliable and among the fastest road legal Panteras in the world.


I was privileged to listen to the late Tom Tjaarda talking about his Pantera design a couple of years ago at the Concours Italiano event in Monterey, California. It is my sincere hope that our finished car is something of which the great man would have approved.

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Update report - August 15, 2018
Adrian has been busy fabricating and installing a new driver's floor pan and braces.




































Old trunk floor has now been removed
Both trunk sidewalls will also be replaced






















LH trunk sidewall fabricated











Adrian welding the LH sidewall in place











Fabricating the RH trunk sidewall











New trunk floor is now ready to install
New left and right front support frames




Slowly but surely we are cutting away all the corroded metal and replacing it with new!



Cutting away corroded forward section of frame
























Rear firewall brace repaired










Fabricating a LH rear firewall panel












Fabricating a new panel for the outer B post










Oscar trial fitting the new panel
New panel then spot welded in place










Adrian fabricated and installed a new
driver's kick panel











Trunk floor is in very poor shape
Adrian has begun fabricating a replacement
trunk floor




Reconstructing a lower A pillar, modifying floor pan support brackets to work with the dropped floor pans.



Lower portion of driver's side A pill is rotten
































































































New drop floor pans mean the support brackets
beneath need to be modified











Fabricating extension brackets which enable the
pan support brackets to work with new floors






















Trial fitting the new bracket with the drop floor pan
in place
Modified support bracket can now cradle the
dropped floor pan




Trial fitting and modifying the floor pans, and of course cutting away more rust.
















This home made firewall extension will be removed












Cutting away the front wings



















































































Cutting away more rusty panels























Extensive previous patch repairs at the front right
of the chassis























To be continued!




The following sequence of photographs show how Oscar fabricated a pair of new engine support brackets. These heavy duty brackets cradle the engine and form an integral (and structural) part of the frame. These brackets are not available new and having been quoted almost $7,000 for a used set from one of the Pantera parts specialists, we decided to make our own.



Both engine support brackets are very rusty
Oscar removing the first of the brackets










Brackets are constructed of heavy gauge steel




































The first bracket disassembled on the bench










Making card templates












Staring to fabricate the new brackets on the
Pullmax machine























Trial fitting the first of the new brackets



































Harvesting hole supports from the old brackets











Transplanting the hole supports to the new bracket


























































New panels ready to be welded together
















































To be continued!




Fabricating and installing the first of many replacement panels.



Trial fitting replacement lower frame panel











Comparing the old and the new












Inner box section neutralized with acid











Sealed with epoxy then coated with Wurth Body Wax











Inner surface of new outer panel is also sealed in
epoxy then coated with Wurth Body Wax











Spot welding the new panel in place











We can now start the process of installing
the wheel house repair panel




Trial fitting and modifying the first of the wheel house repair panels.



Not a pretty site behind the LH wheel house
structure























Treating the inner box section with to a generous
Ospho acid bath











Trial fitting wheel house repair panel threw up
a fit issue
Replacement tubes are much deeper than
the originals











Marking where the replacement tubes will need
to be cut






















Cutting into the wheelhouse repair panel












Starting to take shape





This is a case where things are going to get much worse before they can start getting better.









































































































































































































We have now placed the monocoque on one of the rotisseries and begun the panel replacement process.




Custom rotisserie connects the car to the jig at
18 anchor points
























Cutting out the first of the corroded metal























Repair panel previously welded on top of a
rusty panel























Previous repair included injection of foam
behind the outer sill




Media blasting the Pantera back to bare metal has unfortunately revealed a fair amount of previously well concealed rust, meaning the car will be enjoying a somewhat extended stay in the Team CJ Coachworks. The blasting process has also exposed some rather 'industrial' welding throughout the monocoque. Some of this crude welding may very well be the result of restoration work performed prior to the car coming into our hands, although I suspect much of it dates back to the De Tomaso factory in 1971.















This welding may date to the De Tomaso factory?












Several panels have significant rust











The base of the windscreen opening is rotten










Right side of the windscreen opening












Much of the welding throughout the monocoque
is extremely crude






















Rusty rocker and quarter panels
























Fuzzy view through the booth window of Gerardo
sealing up the doors, boot lid and engine cover





We are thrilled to have been chosen for this important restoration project. Oscar has already finished preparing the car for media blasting, which is scheduled to take place in the next few days.



Color will be changed from yellow to black
Floors will be replaced with new dropped floors to
provide some much needed additional headroom























Removing and preserving the vin tag











There is some rust in both rocker panels






















A 640 HP aluminum engine supplied by Ford
Racing, to be exact!




































Heater pipe retaining clamps are welded to the
internal tunnel wall











Only way to access the welded heater pipe clamp is
to cut an access hole in the top of the tunnel










With the clamp exposed, we were able to cut away
the welded bracket and remove the pipes
Pipes will be replaced






















Disassembling the doors for blasting
Window lifts will be upgraded











To be continued!


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