The Pantera and the Auto Arms Race

This is the story of a cobra, a mongoose, and a rivalry between Alejandro De Tomaso and Carroll Shelby.

The series premiere of Driven showcased a secret project that changed the course of automotive history. This secret endeavor was the apex of a long-time auto arms race between two of the most highly regarded names in automotive history — Carroll Shelby and Alejandro De Tomaso. These two automotive giants are best known for their achievements with hybrid sports cars — integrating European style with Ford V8 muscle. Speaking of course about the Shelby Cobra and the De Tomaso Pantera.

A 1960’s rivalry between Alejandro De Tomaso and Carroll Shelby led to the development of the Pantera. After Carroll Shelby debuted the Cobra, De Tomaso responded by naming his Pantera predecessor, the 'Mangusta' which is Italian for Mongoose. This “cobra killer” contained a 230 hp (170 kW) Ford 302 V8 engine (in North America).

To some, the De Tomaso Pantera is a small piece of auto-motive history. Viewed as nothing more than a mid-engine sports car produced by Italian automobile manufacturer De Tomaso from 1971 to 1993. Unbeknownst to most, this vehicle would change automotive history forever. Carroll Shelby actually used a Pantera as the test bed for the Dodge Viper.

This auto arms race was actually more of a clandestine collaboration between De Tomaso and Shelby. Each continuously exploiting each other’s automotive brilliance to further the auto arms race.

The Pantera was De Tomaso Automobili’s most popular vehicle ever produced, with over 7,000 manufactured over its twenty-year production run. First introduced in 1971, the car was powered by a 5.8 L (351 cu in) Ford Cleveland V8 engine having a power output of 335 PS (246 kW; 330 hp). By late 1971, Ford began importing the Pantera for the American market; to be sold through its Lincoln Mercury dealers.

The Pantera that was revived in the season premiere of Driven was no ordinary automobile, in fact it’s one of the most significant vehicles in automotive history. This was the actual Pantera that Carroll Shelby and Lee Iacocca used in a secret project to develop the Dodge Viper. Not only did Beau Boeckmann and the Galpin team refurbish this legendary vehicle — the team found, restored, and reinstalled Lee Iacocca's long lost 5.9-liter V8 engine. (That’s right they found the original engine from the 1980's in a junk yard!)

Check out how Carroll Shelby’s Pantera performed when Gale Banks put it to the test on the engine dyno!

Watch the series premiere of Driven now on Discovery Go and watch all-new episodes Mondays at 9p on Discovery.

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