De Tomaso extended its Pantera line beyond road cars, offering competition-ready versions for FIA’s Group 3, 4, and 5 categories. The Group 4 Pantera, introduced in 1972 with collaboration from former Ferrari F1 driver Mike Parkes, retained the stock steel monocoque chassis but saw significant upgrades in its running gear to withstand racing stresses. While the bodywork was lightened, Ford, despite supporting road car development, did not provide engines for the Group 4 racer. De Tomaso secured power units from US-based independent engine builders, yielding up to 500bhp. Fourteen Group 4 Panteras were produced, and some Group 3 cars were converted to Group 4 by privateers.
Chassis number ‘2824,’ a works-prepared Group 4 Pantera, was allocated to De Tomaso’s official motorsport partners in 1972. Originally supplied to the French De Tomaso distributor, Franco Britannic Autos, it debuted at the 1972 Grand Prix Paris de l’AGACI, showing immediate competitiveness due to its modern design and powerful engine. Despite initial success, at Le Mans 24 Hours, ‘2824’ faced challenges, retiring early due to a blown head gasket.
Despite setbacks, the Pantera made history by becoming the first GT car to exceed 300km/h at Le Mans. After resolving initial issues, Panteras excelled in events like the Spa 1,000km, European GT Championship, and Giro d’Italia, proving their capability against dominant Porsches. With a potent mid-mounted engine, the well-balanced Pantera remains competitive in today’s Historic races, showcasing its enduring performance.