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Home > Race-ready Classic Cars > 1974 DE TOMASO PANTERA GROUP 4


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Model history:
With Alejandro De Tomaso’s deeply ingrained love for racing, it was no surprise when a competizione Pantera was unveiled in late 1971. Built to contest the FIA’s now legendary Group 4 category, it would most notably go up against factory-built race cars from Ferrari, Porsche and Chevrolet. The starting point was a lightweight Tipo 874A chassis, almost every part of which had been extensively drilled. This was equipped with shorter suspension uprights, solid bronze bushes and adjustable Koni shock absorbers. Ride-height was thus totally variable as were the larger diameter anti-roll bars front and rear.
The shock absorber towers were modified to accommodate beautiful new Campagnolo wheels. Ten and 14-inches wide at the front and back respectively, these cast magnesium rims had a 15-inch diameter and fronted bigger Lockheed ventilated disc brakes. Cooling tubes were now all-alloy, quick-ratio steering racks being fitted along with twin 60-litre fuel tanks. While a projected weight of around 1100kg had originally been targeted, Porsche were so concerned about the Pantera’s arrival that they forced the FIA into homologating the Group 4 version (or GT4) at 1250kg. To overcome this, the car needed a race-spec engine of the highest order and considering the American’s level of expertise with Ford motors, it must have seemed appropriate to look to the US first. It was eventually decided that Bud Moore-prepared Boss 351 motors would be flown over and installed at Modena. They boasted full racing camshafts and valve springs, TRW forged pistons, large capacity oil pans and titanium valves. Bud Moore also fitted a single Holley Racing 1150 CFM four-barrel carburettor and yanked the compression up to 12.0:1. Displacement was unaltered from the stock Pantera’s 5763cc thanks to a bore and stroke of 101.6mm x 88.9mm. Other standard features that were retained included rockers, connecting rods and the solid lifters and crankshaft.
Although De Tomaso quoted around 500bhp for these engines, early cars were typically producing around 440bhp at 7000rpm. This was soon upped to 470bhp for the 1972 Le Mans race (where the Pantera’s also ran 850 CFM carbs), enough to propel the GT4 to 180mph down the Mulsanne Straight. The engine was coupled to another more-or-less stock item in ZF’s close ratio five-speed gearbox, a heavy duty single plate clutch completing the mechanical upgrades. For the body, standard steel shells were taken from the production line and fitted with light alloy front lids, engine covers and doors.
Bulbous fibreglass wheelarch extensions were pop-riveted on to accommodate the wide Campagnolo wheels and gave the car an extremely aggressive look which was enhanced by the deep front spoiler and matt-black finish for the front lid, engine cover and sills. No front bumpers were fitted nor any rustproofing applied, the Group 4 Pantera’s using two types of tail lights, some early cars getting vertically divided clusters as pictured here, others getting production-style items. The cabin was stripped bare and got no soundproofing to speak of, just the stock vinyl-covered dash and centre console remaining from the production Pantera. Lightweight bucket seats with vinyl bolsters and cloth centres were installed along with more basic door trim, Plexiglas side windows and a small diameter steering wheel. Each car also got drilled aluminium pedals, a roll cage, safety harnesses and a cut-off switch wired into where the radio would originally have been. The first of 14 cars (chassis 2263) was completed on December 12th 1971, the last (2874) rolling out little more than a year later on 22nd December 1972. Customers included wealthy privateers like Herbert Muller, Vincenzo “Pooky” Cazzago and Aldo “Alval” Valtellina. The De Tomaso Concessionaires for Spain, France (Franco-Britannic) and Belgium (Claude Dubois) also had their own cars.
After Herbie Muller and Mike Parkes had posted the fifth quickest time outright and the fastest lap set by a Group 4 car at the Le Mans trials in March 1972, the Pantera’s race debut proper came in April at the Montlhery Grand Prix (a round of the inaugural European GT Championship). Driving chassis 2860 for Claude Dubois, Jean-Marie Jacquemin finished second overall whilst Vincenzo Cazzago placed 13th and Muller retired. Group 4 Pantera’s subsequently went onto win the 1000-kilometre World Manufacturers Championship race’s at Monza (2342), Spa (2860) and the Österreichring (2861). Le Mans proved something of a washout though with just one of the four cars finishing. Despite the Pantera’s European GT Championship campaign yielding just a solitary win (for 2859 at Nivelles), the format of these events which tended to resemble sprint rather than endurance races seemed to appeal to De Tomaso. This led to the factory entering its own works Group 4 Pantera (2873, built December 13th 1972) in three rounds of the 1973 EGTC. By this time De Tomaso had began building competition motors in-house at Modena where they were dry-sumped, fitted with four twin choke Weber 48 IDA downdraught carbs, gas-flowed cylinder heads and a crane-type camshaft. The crankshaft was now fully polished and balanced, as were the connecting rods.
A new exhaust system too meant output had risen to 490bhp at 7000rpm. Compression remained unchanged at 12.0:1, all that power being fed through a new heavy-duty ZF five-speed gearbox that could more adequately deal with the massive torque loads. The works car got wheeled out for the EGTC rounds at Imola and Nivelles (driven by Mike Parkes) and Hockenheim (Clay Regazzoni). Parkes won comfortably at Imola as did Regazzoni in Germany. The factory also supported a pair of cars despatched to Roberto Angiolini’s Jolly Club outfit (2862 and 2872). But despite already having proven the Pantera was good enough to beat the cream of the worlds sports car manufacturers, undoubtedly the cars finest moment was yet to come. For the 1973 Giro d’Italia, a gruelling three-day mix of circuit races, timed stages and regulation road routes, De Tomaso’s ex-Parkes/Regazzoni EGTC works GT4 (2873) was handed over to the Jolly Club for Mario Casoni to drive. He duly won what had become Italy’s biggest road race since the Mille Miglia and in the process secured perhaps De Tomaso’s most glittering outright win.
Specific history of this car:
Initially built to Group 3 specifications, chassis number 05855 was completed in 1974, then brought back to the factory to be converted to the more aggressive Group 4 level of preparation in 1975. It retains the 5.8-litre Ford V8, but unlike the first series of Group 4 Panteras, it’s fed by four Weber 48IDA twin-choke carburettors and fired by a Magnetti Marelli ignition system. So equipped, the engine is rated for 560 horsepower. In a car weighing less than 2,600 pounds, this yields some impressive performance numbers – comparable to, and in some cases exceeding, those of a Ford GT40. This was particularly true in Panteras equipped with the 600-horsepower “sprint” version of the engine, which was part of this car’s powertrain inventory during the 1970s, along with the less tightly wound 560-horsepower “endurance” version.
The upgrade from Group 3 to Group 4 specifications was not an exercise in mere showmanship; this car has an extensive competition history. As per the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), organizers of the Le Mans 24-hour race, chassis 5855 was entered in the famous 24-hour endurance race. The car was later acquired by a driver who affected a single name, Kabibo, for competition and was campaigned extensively in Italian National Mountain Championship events from 1977 through 1985. Kabibo entered the Pantera in at least 40 events during a very active career, which included the Trento Bondone Hill Climb three years in a row (1977-1979), the 1979 Coppa Intereuropa, the 1981 and 1983 Coppa Nissena, the XV° Trofeo Valle Camonica in 1981 and the 19th Coppa Paolino Theodori in 1980, to name just a few races. Today the car remains very original and almost exactly as it was as it finished its last race, with the correct period interior and period correct livery.
When Kabibo moved on, the Pantera went to a new owner, in Nice, who suffered an engine failure with the “sprint” version of the engine in a hillclimb event, his only competition outing with the car. The endurance engine was reinstalled, and the Pantera was restored to a state of race-ready perfection—low, lean, potent and suffused with a purposeful sophistication that is still beautiful today.
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