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Why Elvis Presley shot De Tomaso Pantera with a Colt

Why Elvis Presley shot De Tomaso Pantera with a Colt
The King of Rock and Roll, a mega-popular singer who made a tremendous contribution to the cultural heritage of the 20th century, turned out to be an excellent shooter. Not a single bullet went missing: two mortally “wounded” the steering wheel, and a stray one pierced the floor. The victim was the De Tomaso Pantera supercar.

Why was Elvis so angry at a car that was as famous as him? “De Tomaso Panther” is a cult model, a legend of the 70s. Let's look at a well-loved, beloved (and controversial) car and decide whether it's worthy of being shot with a .45 Colt.

Years of production of the Italian car... That's always how it is with Italians! You want to objectively describe a mechanical design in technical language, but you involuntarily think about a phenomenon called “inimitable Italian style.”

You start analyzing, researching, and you inevitably come across personalities whose scale is mesmerizing. First you talk about the manufacturer, the history of the birth of the object of review... If so, we will not deviate from the template.

About the manufacturer

He became Alejandro (Alessandro) de Tomaso (years of life - 1928-2003). The Argentine successfully combined the career of a racing driver and a businessman. The muse of the athlete and entrepreneur was his wife Isabelle Heckel. We know very well about the “head” and “neck,” but we don’t deny how great it is when spouses look in the same direction.

За что Элвис Пресли стрелял из кольта в De Tomaso Pantera De Tomaso Pantera is an iconic sports car of the 70s. Photo: YouTube.com

And the couple from across the ocean looked at the Apennines, where the automobile industry flourished in the middle of the century. Fame, connections, money, commercial acumen - what else is needed to open a company producing small-scale exotic cars? Impudence! Well, or courage.

There was plenty of that too. Otherwise, why organize the company De Tomaso Automobili S.R.A. in 1958? right under the nose of Maserati in Modena? A small, unknown auto factory seemed to have challenged the giant and was about to trample on its big toe.

She trampled and even chopped off: in 1976 she took over Innocenti (the oldest engineering company in Italy), of which Maserati was part. Let the guest sit at the table... Then, however, in 1993, the entire economy safely went to Fiat. And a few years later, “finita la comedy” arrived for “De Tomaso”. But let's return to our victim of .45 caliber bullets.

Background to the birth of De Tomaso Pantera

It’s not for nothing that we remembered the Beatles, music festivals, wide bell-bottoms and shoulder-length hair on the guys. The interesting era of the 70s was characterized by stability and growth, breakthrough in many areas.

De Tomaso Pantera does not look outdated on modern streets. Photo: YouTube.com

At that time, sports were all the rage: football was played in every yard. Accordingly, sports cars were also in demand in cars. The prolific rate of tiny car factories producing light, fast coupes was at its peak. But the price tags on luxury cars scared off a wide segment of users.

Having assessed the market situation, Alessandro and his muse decided to take a different path. We need to give young people a powerful sports car for public roads, but at an affordable price. However, cars for every day should be exclusive, hand-built, so as not to offend the dignity of rich people.

The two-tone De Tomaso Pantera was released to the North American market. Photo: YouTube.com

We started with the F-2 and Junior racing cars, then came the Vallelunga and Mangusta models. It was, if not a nightmare, then the quietest horror: everything rattled, fell apart, flowed and crumbled. Although the cars looked presentable on the outside. Especially “Mongoose”, which claimed to be the snake exterminator of “Shelby” - an American manufacturer of cars with increased performance characteristics.

The emergence of the model

By 1970, newly minted Argentine businessmen had become proficient in production matters and gained experience. Using natural charm and organizational skills, and disturbing the right people, Alessandro assembled an excellent team of developers. To put it simply, he lured away leading specialists from Ferrari, Lamborgini and Ghia.

The low roof of the De Tomaso Pantera did not allow the 180 cm tall driver to sit inside. Photo: YouTube.com

I would like to present the creative process of the great engineers and designers who created the Panther. In the quiet of the offices, a leisurely thought gives birth to the smooth contours of the future sports car... But, based on the Italian temperament, a different picture is drawn: “creative” pencils and “creative” erasers are flying around the creative workshop. And “Mama Mia!” rushes to the heavens. and “Spanking Madonna!”

One way or another, the design bureau came up with a magnificent model. The engine planned for it was not found in Italy. And a V8 with hundreds of horsepower was definitely needed. We turned to Ford.

He is always happy to help: he immediately offered himself as a co-investor in the project. He agreed to sell cars through the American premium dealer networks of Lincoln and Mercury at a price below $10 thousand. Inexpensive.

The De Tomaso Pantera was supposed to outshine the Chevrolet Corvette. Photo: YouTube.com

To be honest, the Blue Oval simply wanted to overwhelm its longtime rival, the Chevrolet Corvette, in the market. But in such a way as to save on the expensive development of a new model and other associated losses. And then Tomaso turned up with his Pantera...

The fate of the model

And so it started: 80% of the Panthers went overseas. First, 75 cars were sent to America for testing. They fell apart and broke right at the landfills. Then, in 1971, when 3 copies were already being assembled a day at the Turin plant, the US market received 1007 cars.

The build quality, shaking while driving, and the amount of lead on the body panels were all bad. Ford sent emissaries to Italy to restore order with the model, which it itself had contracted to sell.

Spectacular pop-up headlights "De Tomaso Panther". Photo: YouTube.com

But the beautiful sports “Panthers” were loved by the public. One, unaware of its malicious nature, was purchased by Elvis Presley. He shot her with a Colt the moment it refused to start. And the singer, the newspapers wrote, having quarreled with a girl, wanted to effectively leave the obstinate one: to accelerate like that, but with slipping.

But the Panther did not respond to the call. What will a real man do? He will pull out a revolver from his belt and straight into the unruly steering wheel. And in the “heart” there is a motor through the floor and the rug.

Responsible for the design of the De Tomaso Pantera was Tom Tyarda from Ghia. Photo: YouTube.com

There were, however, many versions of what happened. Perhaps he was going to the cinema with his girlfriend, and his aunt hid the keys. Or something else? But the fact is that on January 5, 2002, the singer’s yellow car, riddled with bullets, was sold at auction for $262 thousand. However, the impulsive Elvis shot everywhere and at everything: at toilets (he didn’t like black ones), at an ice pick (he did disgusting “ rrrrr"), on televisions (they didn’t show him, the King).

However, about fate: in 1974, the Ford people got tired of messing around with the Italians. And the oil crisis of 1973 arrived: sales fell, as the sports car suffered from an exorbitant appetite. In a word, they left in the American way, breaking the contract, loudly slamming the door and taking a couple of Alejandro's factory workers and his muses.

Design, features, exterior of the model

It wasn’t Presley who made “Panther” legendary. The car was good, harmoniously built and concealed incredible power under the hood.

Salon De Tomaso Pantera. Photo: YouTube.com

Supercar dimensions:

✅ Length - 4270 mm
✅ Width - 1830 mm
✅ Height - 1100 mm
✅ Between bridges – 2515 mm
✅ Weight - 1420 kg
✅ Wheels – 17 inches with Michelin XVR radial tires

The car body is a steel monocoque with two subframes. The suspension is independent with springs at the front and rear. It was attached to the subframes with double wishbones. The deceleration of the car was controlled by all-round ventilated disc brakes with a booster.

De Tomaso Pantera GT. Photo: YouTube.com

The developers provided power steering with rack and pinion steering. Air conditioning and electric windows were installed in the 2-seater cabin.

The design, which was done by Ghia's Tom Tyarda, was amazing for the 70s and 80s. But (Mama Mia, spanking Madonna!) how much inconvenience the car caused! The owner, taller than 180 cm, could not fit into the cabin. And those even lower could not place their knees.

It was cramped and stuffy, the air cooler barely helped - the engine was in the back right behind the seats. The view astern is limited by wide pillars and narrow glass. But young people loved the car, although they may have sometimes dreamed of taking a Colt 45 out of their pocket.


The longitudinally centrally located 4-stroke unit was called the Ford Cleveland V8. The parameters were outstanding:

✅ Volume - 5766 cm3
✅ Power - 330 liters. With. at 5,4 thousand rpm
✅ Moment of force - 466 N * m at 3,5 thousand rpm
✅ Valves per cylinder – 2
✅ Acceleration dynamics - from 0 to 96 km/h 5,5 seconds

The drive went to the rear axle. A ZF 5-speed manual transmission was purchased in Germany. The transmission was more expensive than the engine; it rattled and shook mercilessly. Fuel supply was controlled by a 4-barrel Autolite carburetor. At maximum speed, the speedometer needle trembled at around 260 km/h.

Engine compartment layout of De Tomaso Pantera. Photo: YouTube.com

“Panther” turned out to be controversial, but it won by combining Italian style with American power. When Ford became friends with De Tomaso, it took away not only two body shops, but also its engine.

Alessandro and his muse had a hard time: the Argentine used his own funds to purchase similar units in Australia. The race car driver did not give up. Moreover, he added modifications GT5 and GT5-S to the line, producing 350 hp. With. We saw these machines on Turbo gum inserts.

De Tomaso Pantera was published for 25 years. The approximate number of hand-assembled cars is 7200, according to other sources – 10500 units. Of these, 5500 pcs. left for America legally and 700 through the “gray” scheme.

You can buy a car in Russia: a 1974 copy costs 89 euros, a 950 copy costs 1990 thousand euros.


Photos used: youtube.com

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