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 - October 19, 2017
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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