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.

Return to main CJ workshop


Update report - May 21, 2024
Suspension and brakes installed

Update report - March 13, 2024
Front and rear suspension parts refinished and ready for assembly

Update report - February 27, 2024
Body is painted and ready to build

Update report - October 16, 2020

We are entering the finishing straight with this project!

Update report - September 4, 2020

More progress in the Team CJ Coachworks.

Update report - August 13, 2020

Lots of progress with the Pantera over the last few weeks!

Update report - July 17, 2020
Lots of progress in the Team CJ Coachworks!


Update report - June 23, 2020

We have finished the rust repairs to the main structure and the monocoque will now be placed on a roll around jig so we can start hanging the outer panels. All of the bare metal has now been sealed with fresh epoxy primer.

Update report - April 11, 2020

Anthony has been making good progress with the Pantera body restoration.

To be continued...

I am delighted to report that we now have the Pantera body restoration back underway.

Darien has now rebuilt the Pantera ZF transaxle.

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

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

Installing a new driver's kick panel

Trunk floor is in very poor shape
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

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!

Go to main CJ workshop