It’s no secret that vintage Italian sports cars have a reputation for being finicky and expensive to maintain.

But what if…what if…you could get a car that had a sleek, alluring Italian silhouette and racing pedigree, but with a trusty, reliable powerplant.

Well friend, consider picking up a De Tomaso Pantera.

(Image/OnAllCylinders)

Assembled at De Tomaso’s factory in Modena, Italy, Panteras have a body sculpted by legendary design shop Carrozzeria Ghia.

The chassis? Well, it was designed by none other than Gian Paolo Dallara (yes, that Dallara).

Surprise! (Image/OnAllCylinders)

But walk around back, pop the rear hatch, and you’ll be staring at 351 cubic inches of Ford Cleveland magic.

Yup. These cars are powered by a 351C*, mated to the same German-made ZF transaxle that you’d find in a GT-40.

In other words, it’s a muscle car in an Italian wrapper.

*After the initial production run, De Tomaso began sourcing its Cleveland engines from Australia. When Cleveland production stopped there in 1988, Panteras got 351 Windsors instead and soon thereafter, the famed Ford EFI 5.0L powerplant.

Here’s a closer look at the engine. You can see how the 351C snugs up against the rear bulkhead to allow room for the ZF transaxle housing. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Furthering the Blue Oval bloodline, De Tomaso Panteras were sold through Ford’s Lincoln-Mercury dealership network from 1971-75, bringing over about 5,500 cars. But De Tomaso continued Pantera production up to 1992, gradually evolving the design to meet tightening emissions standards and safety regulations.

Dig American V8s plunked into European sports cars? You’ll probably like this article too: What Does it Take to Stuff an LS6 Into a Mid-Engine 1972 Lotus Europa?

This is a 1972 edition, as 1973s traded the chrome bumperettes for rubber ones, due to tightening federal crash standards. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

We spotted this particular Pantera at a recent Cars & Coffee event, and got a chance to talk briefly with its owner.

He tells us it’s a 1972 model that he’s owned for about 20 years. During that time, he’s essentially done a rolling restoration, keeping the car on the road but doing his own repairs during the winter months.

In addition to very clean fabrication work to address some of the rust-damaged areas of the frame, he’s done a few other smart upgrades to the driveline, like swapping out the U-joint half shafts for modern CV axles.

Note the rear-mounted AC condenser/fan assembly—the engine radiator is up front in the Pantera’s nose. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

It’s still running the original Ford 351 Cleveland, but he’s made some subtle mods to improve its drivability and performance, namely in the form of Edelbrock cylinder heads and a Summit Racing carburetor.

The best part? He drives this sucker a lot, and as he turned to chat with some other folks, he mentioned he was heading north to a car show about an hour away later that day.

And if you’re wondering, he said goodbye—not ciao.

Metti il ​​pedale sul metallo, baby! (Image/OnAllCylinders)

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Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or watching a 1972 Corvette overheat. An avid motorcyclist, he spends the rest of his time synchronizing carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.