The Panther 6 made its debut at the 1977 London Motorfair and visitors at the exhibition was clearly blown away by this futuristic looking car. What these visitors were looking at was considered the ultimate supercar at that time; made by Robert Jankel, the founder and managing director of Panther Westwinds.
Jankel was a car tuner initially but he believed that the job just doesn’t pay and he went into the textile industry. Within a few years, he made his fortune and became self-sufficient and at the same time; he started building bespoke cars for deep-pocketed enthusiasts. One of the models that he made in 1971, the Panther, became rather popular and he sold his shares in his textile business and started Panther Westwinds. The era of a full-time car manufacturing business has begun for Jankel.
Over the next few years, the company founded success in manufacturing expensive and extravagantly-finished cars. After the mid 1970s, sales for the company began to drop and Jankel had to come up with a new creation. During the 1976 British Grand Prix, Jankel saw the six-wheeled Tyrell P34 car and it gave him the inspiration for his next car. He soon started working on this inspiration.
The Tyrell P34’s win in the 1976 Spanish Grand Prix only served to make this six wheels concept a winner but to apply it on a road car, the technicality was not so straight forward. When Tyrell pulled the plug on the P34 in 1977, Jankel was not fazed by it. In fact, he believed that the car will looked extremely good and delivered plenty of wow.
The car received Vauxhall wishbones at the front end and double wishbone set-up from the Eldorado at the rear end. Initially, Jankel wanted to fit 10 inch tyres at the front but that would not hold the 200 mph power that Jankel envisioned. Eventually he settled for 13 inch tyres.
From the start, Jankel wanted the car to hit 200mph (321km/h) and he chose the largest production engine at that time which was the 8.2 litre V8 engine from the Cadillac Eldorado. In stock form, the engine churns out around 325bhp; hardly nowhere near the Lamborghini Countach’s performance level (just to compare with another supercar of that time).
An American tuner, AK Miller, was roped in to assist with the engine tuning. Miller designed and developed a force induced set-up with the introduction of two turbochargers. Jankel claimed that the Panther 6 delivers around 600bhp which was considered to be a lot of power during the 1970s. Many believed that the car’s power to weight ratio was hampered by its welded square steel tubing chassis. But Jankel claimed that the car’s kerb weight was around 1320kg.
Interior wise, Jankel had always wanted the car to have a luxurious environment. It had electrically adjusted seats, telephones in the armrests, a digital instrument cluster which was similar looking to the Aston Martin Lagonda, a dashboard mounted TV and many more.
However, production for the car was far from ready. Jankel drove the car back to his factory after the auto show and he later said that the suspension needs to be sorted out. Things went really quiet after that and promised production was delayed. As the 1979 energy crisis took hold, the company’s finances went dry and the company went into receivership.
A South Korean investor took over the company but the Panther 6 was not part of the deal. Robert Jankel soon left the company to become a design consultant. He passed away in 2005 and never saw the car again.
As for the Panther 6, only one complete example (a right hand drive version) was built and it was the show model. However, a second left hand drive version was subsequently built and sold by the receivers. This version is currently believed to be in the United States. The right hand drive version’s current whereabouts is unknown.
I wonder, if the Panther 6 was built during this automotive era, would its future be different?