Wow, I have a Pantera in the garage. This will attract lots of attention, mostly good and on very few occasions, not so good. On the good side, I was soon to meet Mr. Richard Greenblum, who had a beautiful silver 74 GTS that he had gotten when in college! He knew a *lot* about these cars and immediately he was able to help me with mine. After a brief inspection, we found the rear wheel bearings were in poor shape. I wasn't real happy about it, but I found out that Pantera Performance Center run by Dennis Quella had a solution that solved many futures problems with the original design. The plan for the car at this point was to get the suspension and braking system upgraded and upgrade horsepower last. A car that can corner well is so much fun!
Before I tackled that problem the rear wheel bearings, I wanted to get the engine running right. I checked the plugs and did a 'dry/wet' compression check.
Nothing terrible (or great). I found the carburetor was leaking gas, so I rebuilt it. Someone else had already been into the carb before me because the secondary throttle plates were loose, and they are staked at the factory which makes it very difficult to get loose. I fixed all that and it ran better but still had a miss at higher RPMs and had fairly low power under 2500 rpms. The ignition system still had points in it and I thought that it might run more reliably with a newer distributor that had electronics instead of points. I purchased one and after installation tried to time the motor. I couldn't find the timing marks! I'll admit it had been many years since I had to time an engine, but not finding the timing marks?? By removing #1 plug and putting my thumb over #1 spark plug hole and feeling the compression stroke, I found Top Dead Center , but the timing marks were not there! After 25 years, the rubber on the front dampener had de-bonded and the outer ring had moved. Yikes! That certainly explained why the timing marks weren't where I expected them. I'm glad I caught that before the outer ring became fully detached at speed! Guess I need to order a new dampener. This was to become a pattern for years to come. Fix some things, discover some more problems, and wait for parts. Still smiling.
After handing over a large check, Rob and I headed back
to the airport to turn in the rental car. Did I mention, that Pantera owners are really nice people, and really help their friends to indulge their car passions? Who else would drive from Florida to Austin Texas, grinning like crazy. On the way to the airport, someone tried to get me to sell the car. That is one of those pivotal moments where I might have been able to make a quick buck, but would never have such great memories. After turning in the rental car, Rob and I headed to his parents in Louisiana. I'd be able to have the car parked in a locked garage overnight
and a place to check it out further if problems developed. I took it pretty easy, but the few times I did rev it up, it had a bad miss over 4000 rpms. Oh well, motor problems I can deal with, it's rust I don't like. After a pleasant night, Rob and I drove the rest of the way home. I owned a piece of history! As we headed into Texas, the outside temps really started to warm up. The AC was working, but was less than effective, so we opened the windows. As luck would have it, that's when the drivers side window switch decided to stop working. All the wind started rattling the headliner, from which the backing foam promptly disintegrated. After a what seemed like a very long time, the 26 year old foam bits stopped blowing in our faces, and coating our arms and legs. I'm hoping there will be no need to repeat that fun.. Ugh. I also noticed an occasional shift where the gears ground, despite the fact I was being careful with the clutch. Hmmmm... With a large smile on my face, Rob and I made it home safely and a whole new adventure had begun.
By this point in my life, I'd had lots of cars, Mustangs, a Z-28, a Renault Alliance, and everything in between. I'd even done a little circle track racing. I wanted something different. Something that would go around a corner, fast and easy to work on. After a lot of searching on the web, I came across DeTomaso Pantera's. A mid-engine car, with a Ford motor, German trans-axle and Italian body.
I was working for Tivoli at the time, and I actually saw a red Pantera in our 'Friday night' cars gathering. I met the owner, Rob McMullen, and he was happy to show me all around the car. I ended doing a little work on his car in my garage (replaced a blown Cleveland with a Windsor) and I got to know that car much better. I started looking real hard for one of my own. I found a couple in Florida that I wanted to check it out.
Rob did me a huge favor and flew with me to Ft. Lauderdale. The first Pantera had some pretty visible rust on it. I wanted to avoid rust, since I really don't like body work (having lived in Illinois and dealing with rust most of my life) I went to look at the second one. This one seemed in much better shape and only a few more dollars than the rusty one. After some inspection, a test drive, and price bargaining, I purchased THPNNJ05171 from an eighty year old gentleman who said his arthritis made this car tough to drive. His loss was my gain. I was living the dream! Now, to drive it back to Austin Texas, but that's another story altogether!