Panther Westwinds, commonly called Panther was a manufacturer of luxury, low volume sports cars based in Britain. The company was founded in 1972 by Robert Jankel, a fashion designer with a flair for auto design. He set up Panther after rebuilding a 1930 Rolls Royce and selling it to a Spanish bullfighter!
The company was called Panther, a fast cat – like Jaguar – and “Westwinds” was the name of the family house. Indeed his first car, the J72 used Jaguar running gear and was modelled on the Jaguar SS100. Only 300 were produced.
Other models included the De Ville modelled on the Bugatti Royale and fitted with a Jaguar V12. It cost twice as much as a Rolls Royce! Another model was the Rio, based on the Triumph Dolomite, a small saloon, but costing 3 times as much. This would explain why only 40 were ever built!
Jankel’s most outrageous design was the Panther Six, a six wheeled car that was modelled on a Tyrrell F1 car. Only 2 were ever built due to its high cost, one was white and one black. The white one is still shown at car shows, however the black one is currently missing. It used a twin turbo Cadillac V8 producing 600hp and would have been a great James Bond villains car!
One thing Panther did well, was creating limited run cars for other manufacturers. An example was a contract with Jensen, who delivered Interceptor convertibles to Panther for them to fit a fibreglass roof with a Jaguar XJ6 rear window, effectively making a coupe. The original car was already a coupe, however this version was a 2 seater not a 2+2. 27 right hand drive were made – it is unknown how many left drives were made.
Panther did make some successful cars before the inevitable collapse, the Lima and Kallista models were comparatively successful with 1,000 built using GM Vauxhall/Opel gear thus making them easy to maintain. However it was not enough to save the company and in 1980 Jankel sold out to Young Kim, a South Korean businessman.
Kim kept the company going for a further 10 years, building a new factory in the UK with bodies shipped from Korea. They continued selling the Kallista and developed a new model called the Solo, however the new model was an instant failure and the company was liquidated with the assets bought by SsangYong. Incidentally, SsangYong have also experienced a very rough life with many other manufacturers buying and selling a stake over the years.
After selling Panther, Robert Jankel focussed on the Jankel Group, a coachbuilding company that he created in 1955. Jankel was contracted by Rolls Royce, Mercedes and Jaguar to produce specialised versions of their cars for wealthy customers and Government agencies. This company still exists today although Jankel died of cancer in 2005.
For more information and to buy a used Panther, please visit the Panther Club.
Update: October 2015.
I read an article about the Villa D’Este Concorso D’Eleganza that was held in May and the white Panther Six was there! It is now owned by a gentleman called Albert Fellner. The photo was too small to see what condition the car was in.
Update: December 2015.
I did see that a left hand drive white Panther J72 was for sale through DD Classics in Kew, Surrey, UK. It is a 4.2 litre roadster.
Update: January 2016.
There is a Panther Lima 2.3 litre (with the GM motor) on www.carsales.com.au. It is a 1978 model with only 6,835 kms on the clock! Head to Victoria in Australia to buy it.