In an ocean of Camaros, Novas, Mustangs, 'Cudas, and all the other common players in the musclecar segment of our hobby, it's easy to get the "been there, seen that" attitude. If something a bit different is a breath of fresh air, then Dan Graham's '71 Pantera is a freaking hurricane. First off, you just don't see many Panteras in the musclecar world. From a U.S. standpoint, they were only offered from '71 to '74 (when Ford dissolved its business relationship with DeTomaso). But it was fun while it lasted. In a strange way, we need to thank Ferrari for the few Panteras we have here in the States. Back in the late 1960s, Ford needed a high-performance GT car to battle Corvette and Ferrari. Ford was already supplying engines to DeTomaso Automobile, and after Ford's failed attempt at buying Ferrari, decided to partner up with DeTomaso to build a new mid-engine GT. The new GT would be based around Ford's "new" 351 Cleveland engine. It was Euro styling stuffed with American muscle.
With just over 7,000 Panteras produced for the U.S., it's no wonder you don't see them very often, but Dan's '71 is even rarer. His ride is VIN'd as one of 75 Panteras imported from Italy to the U.S., known as Euro Editions. As for why Dan went the Pantera route, he told us, "Since I was in fourth grade, I've wanted a Pantera. Italian looks with a musclecar drivetrain. I found my car back in 1999, and it was a basket case. I called Gary Hall, of Hall Panteras, and asked him if he remembered the car, and he did. He explained how rare the car was and even sent me a poster of the car after he completed the original modifications back in the 1970s. He explained that the original owner and modifier worked on the Alaskan pipeline, and liked to run the nitrous and Weber setup. He asked me if those were still on the car I bought, so I had to investigate further. When I bought the car, it came with a lot of boxes marked "special parts." It was like Christmas opening those boxes. Among the boxes I found a Gilmer beltdrive, a full port injection nitrous kit, and a full Weber induction setup. Jackpot!"
You gotta love a guy who straps...
You gotta love a guy who straps a two-stage nitrous system to his blown engine. It just screams of wretched excess." - Steven Rupp
With just over 7,000 Panteras...
With just over 7,000 Panteras produced for the U.S., it's no wonder you don't see them very often, but Dan's '71 is even rarer.
Dan built his Pantera in stages. To get the car running, he yanked the factory wiring and replaced it with a Painless Street Rod Kit for better reliability. He also reinstalled the beltdrive, nitrous kit, and Webers that were tucked away in the boxes. The Pantera now ran, but it still looked tired. Dan had a fix for that little problem.
That fix was to send the car over to Hunter's Paint and Autobody in Mesa, Arizona, for some TLC. Hunter Rochstein stripped the car to bare metal, fixed the rust issues, and got ready to shoot the car in Nissan 350Z Daytona Blue paint. But before that, he installed a Group 4 body kit along with a Group 5 rear wing. These aero parts were borrowed from the Pantera competition cars of the 1970s and '80s, giving the DeTomaso more road-race flair.
Dan also started rebuilding and tuning the suspension of the 30-plus-year-old car with upgraded Group 4 coilover shocks on each corner, and a beefier Hall Pantera sway bar. The brakes are rebuilt stockers, and the wheels are vintage Pantera in 17x11-inch (front) and 17x13-inch (rear) sizes. Providing traction are 285/40 and 335/30 Kuhmo tires.
But like all hot rodders, Dan wanted more, especially more power. "The Webers and nitrous were cool, but every car I own is either turbocharged or supercharged, thus I had to go in another direction. I was contemplating a turbo kit, but with the small engine bay and the Arizona heat, I came up with a different route." The mill was sent over to Joe Martin Racing Engines in Scottsdale, Arizona, where it was worked over to accept a Roots-style 8-71 blower. The compression was set at 10:1, and the already huge Boss 351 Four-Valve closed-chamber heads were ported even further. As Dan tells it: "Most Cleveland engine owners will use different heads due to the huge 351C Four-Valve ports. Those lose bottom end on the street. My solution to fix the slow port velocity was 6 pounds of boost from a Roots blower and a two-stage nitrous kit." The blower is topped by a Holley 950 HP blower carb, and MSD puts the spark in the chamber. With such a cool plant right behind the driver, Dan felt it was a shame not to be able to see it from inside the car, so he formulated another cool idea. "I had a custom steel and bulletproof glass enclosure made, so I could see the front of the engine. With the polished Gilmer beltdrive pulleys and the blower snout, it looks like a pissed-off Swiss timepiece is sitting right next to you," says Dan. The headers are 180-degree units that were originally found on LeMans Pantera race cars and Ford GT40s. The 4.22-geared transaxle was polished, and the Spicer halfshafts chromed. With the different exhaust tone that the 180s give the car, plus the custom cam and the whine of the geardrive and blower, Dan says this car is a head trip to drive.
The interior is vintage Pantera, with a few exceptions. Dan ditched the heavy air-conditioning unit and filled the empty vent holes with Auto Meter gauges. The seats were replaced with supportive Sparco units, and a full harness system keeps the occupants firmly anchored in place. It's simple and functional with the feel of a fighter cockpit.
So what do you do with a 2,900- pound car that has 600-plus horsepower on tap without even touching the nitrous? Simple, you drive it. Dan can often be found prowling the boulevards in Phoenix, and attending events in the area. He is also using it to instill a love of cars in his two sons, Memphis (age 6), and Atley (age 4). "They show a deep appreciation of cars for their age, and the excitement in their eyes and smiles on their faces make it worthwhile when we take it out," says Dan. If we had access to Dan's ride, we'd be all smiles too.
Sitting in a Pantera is about...
Sitting in a Pantera is about as close to sitting in a fighter jet as any of us will ever get.
By The Numbers
Dan Graham, 37 * Mesa, AZ
Total cost to build: approx. $65,000
Color: Nissan 350Z Daytona Blue
Horsepower: 654 hp at 6,100 rpm (6 lbs of boost)
Weight: 2,900 lbs without driver
|Type: ||351 Cleveland small-block |
|Block: ||1971 Cleveland |
|Compression ratio: ||10:1 |
|Bore ||.030 over stock (357 cubic inch) |
|Oiling: ||high-volume pump |
|Cylinder heads: ||Boss 351 closed-chamber 4V |
|Camshaft: ||.560/.560-inch lift |
| ||and 244/244-degrees duration |
| ||at .050 inch |
|Rocker arms: ||COMP 1.74 ratio big-block Chevy |
|Carburetor: ||Holley 950 HP blower carb |
|Power adder: ||B&M 174 Roots |
|Nitrous system: ||NOS two-stage, |
| ||one plate and one multi-port |
|Ignition: ||MSD 6 with billet distributor |
|Exhaust: ||Hall Pantera with Dynomax bullets |
|Assembly: ||Joe Martin Racing Engines, |
| ||Scottsdale, AZ |
|Machine work: ||Basko Racing Engines, |
| ||Gilbert, AZ |
|Transmission: ||Les Gray prepped ZF transaxle |
| ||with 4.22 gears |
|Clutch: ||Centerforce dual-friction |
|Suspension: ||Group 4 coilovers |
|Sway bars: ||Hall Pantera units |
|Brakes: ||factory Pantera units |
|Brakes: ||Wilwood 10.75-inch discs |
| ||with four-piston calipers, front; |
| ||Ford 11-inch drums, rear |
|WHEELS & TIRES |
|Wheels: ||Factory Pantera, 17x13, rear; 17x11, front |
|Tires: ||335/30R17 Kuhmo, rear; |
| ||285/40R17 Kuhmo, front |