Apr 3 2009 Ian Johnson
The car that Elvis shot
THE powerful De Tomaso Pantera went down in history as the car Elvis shot.
The disgruntled king of rock opened fire on the supercar when it refused to start, underlining the woeful list of complaints this model racked up.
The Pantera's lifespan from 1970 to 1993 was interesting to say the least. This was an enigmatic wild child of a supercar that attracted much controversy.
It was the brainchild of Alejandro De Tomaso, an Argentinian tycoon who settled in Italy and built his first car with a Ford Cortina engine - the Vallelunga - in 1963. The Vallelunga was a failure but De Tomaso was only just getting into gear because his second effort, the Mangusta was fast, gorgeous and demanded expert driving skills.
De Tomaso decided he had to get it right and make a profit with the next model, the Pantera so he teamed up with Ford. The world giant would receive De Tomaso's Ghia coachbuilding firm in return for selling the Pantera which would be powered by a 5.8 Ford V8.
And so the die was cast for a major marketing move into the US for Pantera and Ford was to embark on a long association with the Ghia name - its mark of luxury.
It all sounded good at the time, but Ford was not prepared for the complaints over many of the 4000 Panteras sold through its dealer network.
Pantera - Italian for panther - employed a steel backbone chassis and could accelerate to 60mph in 5.5 seconds and was a blistering drive for its day being capable of 160mph.
But it could not shrug off its build quality and reliability problems. Several broke down during trials on Ford's own test track and early crash testing showed that safety cage engineering was not well understood in the 1970s.
Rust-proofing was minimal on early examples and the quality of fit and finish was poor, with large amounts of lead being used to cover body panel flaws.
In addition to being shot by Elvis, the Pantera had some other claims to fame, one of which was being the chosen set of wheels for a famous General Motor design chief, and some film appearances.
We will never see its like again. Some would say thank goodness.