By on September 2, 2013

specpanther

One thing you can say about our friends at Jalopnik: they’re never too stubborn to adopt a fun idea when they see one. Whether it’s “driving like an automotive journalist” or racing coverage, they cover whatever the readers want and never worry about whether it fits in with some “mission”. That sounds a bit stroppy of me, but I’m being sincere. Too often in the World O’ Blogs, people refuse to serve the reader’s clearly-expressed interests because they’ve decided that they are too good to do so.

Long-time TTAC readers are familiar with the concept of Panther Love, invented here on TTAC by our own Sajeev Metha and subsequently expanded into Panther Appreciation Week. Our Panther Love roots stretch back twenty-three years. We’re not new to the game. But Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski is new to the game, and he’s taken the time to formally propose what various club racers and track rats have long discussed over beers at the end of the day.


Spec Panther Is The Next Great Race Series That Doesn’t Exist is the title of the article, and here’s the relevant section:

For instance, LeMons is becoming a BMW E30 playground. It’s the car to have. If you buy something else, you basically need to resign yourself to the fact that you won’t be winning the race. You’ll just be out there to have some fun.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with having fun and being creative with your car design. A lot of casual club racing is the fun. But I’m very competitive. I want to be on pole. I want to win overall. And I’m not the only person like that.

I’ve just moved to Manhattan so I’m also increasingly impoverished. That’s where Spec Panther comes in.

There’s some fun to be poked at Travis here. The E30 does not rule cheap-car racing; your humble author just won Buttonwillow’s Chump Car event in April in a Neon. Second place was a Rampage pickup. And it wasn’t like nobody brought an E30. But from a distance I can see how it looks that way.

Mr. Okulski’s assertion that he’s a competitive racey type of guy while your average club racer is “casual” is also kind of funny. Memo to anyone who has never participated in club racing: it’s full of people who will cheerfully put you in the hospital for a plastic trophy, self included. It’s full of people who work every night of the week for a year in order to field a midpack Miata, because that’s the very best they can do. Trust me: people want to win and almost everybody is trying as hard as they can to make it happen. You can also trust that should a Spec Panther series happen, it would be dominated for years by people who already hold racing licenses, the same way most winning ChumpCar and Lemons teams have a full roster of people with racing experience in faster series. The idea that some hipster in Manhattan is going to spend a couple evenings building Queen Latifah’s Taxi in a closet-sized garage while listening to the Flaming Arcades or Ra Riot Weekend and then triumph over Pratt&Miller’s 550whp seam-welded ’79 LTD Coupe with A-arms all the way round — well, it’s very high-concept, but it’s unlikely to happen.

This is why we shouldn’t let children watch stuff like Turbo or Cars. In the real world of racing, God is on the side of the seasoned engineers and the big budgets.

Regardless, should Spec Panther happen, I imagine that TTAC might field a team. Offhand, I think the best Panther would be the aforementioned ’79 LTD Coupe, primarily due to weight (3600 pounds to start, a quarter-ton lighter than the modern P71s) and because it fits a 351. Mod-motor tuning is far from a marginalized activity, but the book on tuning Windsors has been written in blood. Weld up a kick-ass Panhard bar, install a T5. Seam-weld the bitch. The resulting car should weigh 3300 pounds and spin 425+ at the back wheel. Woe be to anyone trying to keep their Cayman S in front of the thing.

So yes, Travis, your ideas are intriguing and we wish to subscribe to your newsletter. But dare we suggest that you try out some club racing first, just to see how “casual” it really is? And take it from a former Marquis owner: work on your shoulders and biceps. When the power steering goes out in one of these things — and that’s guaranteed to happen in a race — it’s all hands on deck. See you at the track!

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67 Comments on “Jalopnik Gets On The Panther Love Bandwagon...”


  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Hmm, an actual “stock car” that is setup to turn in both directions AND have brakes (at least for a while). And *5* gears! How high tech! Sounds like the best use of a Panther I have ever heard of!

  • avatar
    jz78817

    “Memo to anyone who has never participated in club racing: it’s full of people who will cheerfully put you in the hospital for a plastic trophy, self included. ”

    funny enough, I’ve recently said the same thing about some people I encounter while racing R/C boats; though my words were “people who would knock over their own grandmothers to get a cheap piece of wood with a picture on it.”

    though there’s a line between “being competitive” and “driving people out of your hobby/sport.” I’ve seen more than one person whose behavior regularly crosses that line, and it ain’t fun for anyone.

    • 0 avatar

      What can say… It’s not even just the car racing that’s set up like that:
      http://re-jinx.me/2013/08/23/c3-bu-ep8-godmoders-and-you/

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      So what else is new? I can remember back to the mid-70’s when B-sedan autocross in western PA was ruled by a couple of guys from The Autocross Group in Pittsburgh who showed up with BMW 2002’s and 1600’s with $2000.00 (1974 dollars) worth of suspension work, but untouched engines, so the cars were legally stock.

      Then, to add to the insult, the one autocross that T.A.G. couldn’t make, the organizers suddenly decided the event was a practice autocross, and the points bearing event was rescheduled for the following weekend when T.A.G could show. Despite the season 1st and second places already being wrapped up. I guess they couldn’t stand seeing the B-sedan podium that weekend was Vega, Pinto, Vega (yours truly). Or that I had beaten out an Alfa GTA for that final podium spot. Us American car drivers were welcome for our entry fees, as long as we stayed in our place.

      That was the last time I attended an SCCA-sanctioned anything, giving rise to a long-term grudge that is only outdone by my feelings towards my high school graduating class.

      I’ve found that anytime anyone gets into a competitive hobby “for the fun of it”, the fun factor lasts about one season. Either you walk away in disgust, or you become a killer competitive m*****f***er like everyone else in the class. And decide that that’s the new definition of “fun”.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        “I’ve found that anytime anyone gets into a competitive hobby “for the fun of it”, the fun factor lasts about one season. Either you walk away in disgust, or you become a killer competitive m*****f***er like everyone else in the class. And decide that that’s the new definition of “fun”.”

        I couldn’t have said it better, I’ve gotten into a few competitive hobbies myself and almost always there was one guy who would show up, use the cheapest tricks (unfair), and run around us.

        Why did the SCCA seem to favor BMWs?

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Oh, NO! All those panthers being trashed on racetracks! They did that with the Ford Model A coupe and now you can’t find a good used one anywhere! Why not use Pontiac Azteks instead?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Why not use cars that were built for the track instead?

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      There are many more Panthers out there than BMW E30s; especially in the United States and Canada. I say race the things.

    • 0 avatar
      Conslaw

      I kind of like the Aztek idea. Surprisingly,after the initial hit, Azteks have not depreciated as much as you’d think. Cargurus.com has the average price of a 2002 Pontiac Aztek at $5,143. In comparison Cargurus has the average price of the 2002 Buick Rendezvous at $5,417. The Rendezvous is likely significantly better equipped on average.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Why do the racing people have to turn everything into a race car?

    It’s like how the brougham people need to put a landau or carriage roof on everything, or how the offroad people need to jack everything up three feet.

    I’m not going to cheer on Frankensteining a bunch of box Town Cars and ’92 CVs and Colony Parks- all of which are vehicles that are NEVER going to be made again and that weren’t made for the track in the first place- just because the hot shoe wing of the auto enthusiast community is bored with BMWs and Mazdas so they want something new to thrash during their weekend throat-stomping sessions.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      Isn’t that how it always is? I bet the things, being more or less trucks with sedan bodies, are killer at the demolition derbies!

      It’s not like there’s a shortage, with police departments retiring them left and right. It’s like old bugs – they’ve been hacked and stopped and modified for decades now. Maybe with the BOF design, plentiful parts, lots of junkyard supplies, and huge numbers coming out if fleets, these will become popular to turn into giant dune buggies and funky art-cars.

      • 0 avatar
        skakillers

        I saw a panther participate in a demo derby a couple of weeks ago (Union fair in, well, Union ME) and it did pretty well. FWD cars almost always win in a segment where RWD and FWD cars are mixed, because FWD cars only have to worry about protecting one end of the car. The crown vic did have a maneuverability edge over the other cars in the segment (mostly 6 cyl. tauruses (taurii?)) but I think it ended up coming in second.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      Well, considering that a large majority of these cars end up as taxicabs anyway, I don’t see the big deal….

  • avatar
    TybeeJim

    Re “plastic trophy” This is not a new thing. In 1966, I went to the local drag way with a friend to race his new GTO. He was promptly trounced by an R/T 440. So, wanting to win something, I broke out my ’65 Fordomatic Falcon 289V8 coupe and raced all day against almost everything (spotted VWs 5 car lengths) to win a 1″x3″ aluminum stick on plaque declaring me Junior Stock Eliminator for that day. Did I mention that in the process I ruined two brand new Goodyear Blue Streak Thunderbolt tires?

  • avatar

    Why not a spec GM B-body series too? Gotta be at least as many Caprices, Impala SS, P71 cop cars, Roadmasters, etc. as there are Fords.

    The downsized 1977 fullsize Chevys were very well engineered and handled better than the Fords of the same era. I can’t find a diagram of the rear suspension, but I’m pretty sure that they had a four link setup with two long trailing arms, with coil springs and a panhard/track bar.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      No Panhard bar on a B body and the Pre 98 Panther uses the same basic rear suspension a triangulated 4 link with longer lower control arms than the upper control arms.

    • 0 avatar
      doug-g

      Our family had a ’78 Bonneville coupe from that generation of B-bodies and a ’78 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham from the up-sized C-body. They were good cars for that period and it’s still not uncommon to see them in daily use thirty-plus years later.

  • avatar

    Isn’t this already called NASCAR?

    • 0 avatar

      “There’s nothing stock about a stock car” – Days Of Thunder

      They’re all the same car now. Non-production car chassis, a complete bastardization of all the ‘sport’ purports to be. I will grant you it is more of an endurance race as the heat and exertion over a 2-4 hour race can be extreme.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    There isn’t any real good reason to seam weld a Panther since they have a full frame the body doesn’t really add to the structural integrity.

    As far as the ultimate Panther to bring to the race it isn’t going to be a 79 with it’s stock chassis and brakes. Now bolt any of the aero frames under it and then maybe you are on to something.

    As far as power plants go you can bolt a 351 right into a pre 98 chassis. Heck pick one built before 1/92 and you can even bolt it up to the existing transmission since the AOD and early modular block used that Windsor bell housing pattern. Of course you could also bolt a V10 in there or a whole host of modulars with more HP than the ones they dropped in the Panther.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I seem to recall a Town Car commercial from the 90s that bragged about the body being built to uni-body specs and then dropped onto a frame. The point of the commercial was that the body was rigid enough to stand on its own but then was put on a frame for even greater isolation. If true than seam welding a Panther would marginally add to the stiffness.

      FYI I like the way you think about the fact that a any mod motor can be installed where another mod motor has been with minimal modifications. So you could change a 4.6 into a 5.4 or into a 6.8 V10. :)

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    I humbly submit PAG Air-Ride SPEC. Only PAG cars with air suspensions operating outside of factory spec (i.e. broken) are allowed, including:
    Lincoln Town Car
    Mercury Grand Marquis
    Lincoln Continental
    ’04+ Jaguar XJ

    Special Heavyweight Category for:
    Land Rover Products
    Navigator
    Expedition w/air-ride

    Cars converted to regular shocks are not allowed, nor are cars with air suspensions manually deactivated allowed. Qualifications include resting engine-off for one hour. If tire-to-well ratio is out of factory spec, car is admitted. Automatic qualification to entrants whose suspensions are completely inop.

    This would be an endurance race, both for how long the driver can endure the jouncy ride the longest before vomiting, suffering a seizure, or becoming so disoriented that they drive off the track and for how long until chassis components start falling off these cars. Bonus points for buxom all-female driving teams.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      You left out Crown Vics, Continentals and Mark VIIIs.

      I’d say there should be 3 classes

      RAS for the Panthers,
      4AS for the Conti and VIII’s
      and the Heavy weights.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I’d do it, but the only way such a thing works is to make it a claimer series. It is probably the only realistic way to control costs.

    • 0 avatar
      tbe30ll

      I agree completly, pull a part in my area offers engines for $120, so you could have a $500 claimer on the motor to keep people from going crazy with it. How about a $600 shock and spring claimer ($150 a corner)? I think a strict claimer class is the only way to keep costs low for a couple years. But then again there were people I used to race karts with that paid $750+ for a claimer gas briggs that could get claimed for $275…

  • avatar
    TravisOkulski

    Hey Jack,

    Figure I should comment since, y’know, I’m involved here.

    First, congrats on the win in the Neon, that’s awesome. I may have exaggerated a little about it being an E30 domination in Lemons now, but there is truth to the E30 being a car of choice for many competitors starting out and immediately wanting to be competitive.

    As for trying club racing for myself, that’s something that I’ve done. A lot. Raced karts at a local track and in the WKA Nationals when I was younger. I also autocross when I can (which is basically never nowadays). I’ve seen the cutthroat side you talk about, but I’ve also seen the relaxed side, which was pretty common where I raced in NY. Nothing wrong with either, I don’t think, though the really cutthroat club people made racing too expensive (new tires every week, multiple motors/chassis, etc) and it’s actually part of why we stopped racing. We wanted to win, but we didn’t want to go broke doing it.

    You are right, Spec Panther would be dominated by people with racing licenses or experienced pros. But they’d all be in Panthers (and no 1979 spec cars are allowed, just newer-gen stuff from 1990-2012), and I think that’s cool.

    How many people need to be onboard before we call this a bandwagon? Cause right now it’s just TTAC and us, I think. Is that enough for an entire bandwagon? I’m not sure.

    Oh, one last thing… If I’m a hipster, please come throw me off the top of my building. Please. I beg you. That’s not what I want to be.

    See ya!

    Travis

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      WKA isn’t grown men racing Miatas, is all I will say… and neither is autocross. If there are any “relaxed” people in my regions, they must be so relaxed they never come out. :)

      I read the 1992 restriction but I don’t think it would stick… at that point you might as well say mod-motor only because otherwise you’ll have the same issues. The new cars are much heavier than the old ones. People will bitch about PI engines.

      What would/will seriously kill the idea is the steering thing. These cars are extremely difficult to drive without power steering and it’s possible to get ahead of the pump pretty easily.

      Still, we’re on board. All we need is Autoblog.

      • 0 avatar
        TonyP

        “All we need is Autoblog.”

        You had me up until this. Though it may be fun to go wheel to wheel with a pack of 15 year old sociopaths.

        • 0 avatar
          Syke

          Oh, you mean the kid on the rental kart with his own $300.00 Simpson helmet? The one who is virtually offended that other people would show up on a Friday night, not out for blood?

      • 0 avatar
        TravisOkulski

        I dunno, WKA is pretty intense. You have kids that have no concept of dying so they’ll make purely insane moves. There are also dads that will murder in the name of their children. Or murder their children. I think it’s up there.

        At a NASA or SCCA event (hell, even PCA or BMWCCA), I totally get that people are there to thrash everyone, but I think quite a few people are out there just for kicks at LeMons and Chump. But that’s only from me seeing it on the sidelines since I’ve admittedly never run it.

        I want to though. Soon. Soon.

      • 0 avatar
        doug-g

        Jack, the Wert days at Jalopnik are over; nothing left over there but passive-aggressive dweebs with Texas connections.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Brick Vic FTW!!!

  • avatar
    mkirk

    In all seriousness, I like an early brick 2 door on a late frame with some sort of 351 stroker.

  • avatar
    inourspace

    Duuuddee did you read his article?

    “The class is open to 1992 to 2012 Ford Crown Victorias, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Lincoln Town Cars (from 1990 on). The spec is simple: We upgrade the brakes to those on the Police Interceptor, run a spec tire (aftermarket wheels are ok), minimum vehicle weight, and add a roll cage, since insurance would require that.”

    Then you suggest a stripped down car that wouldn’t even be eligible? I think you missed the point of the article. Panthers are cheap and if you wanted to find a cheap way to race they would be an intriguing and entertaining option.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    When it comes to bricks, the only Ford brick I would want is a Town Car or a 88-91 Grand Marquis. The Town Car because my mom had one and it was really nice, the Marquis because I thought that particular generation looked really good.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      That GM looked so chromey to me, and with the police car face it turned me off.

      I liked the 90 do-over of the TC though. All those expensive little options which went away quickly. Gold in the windshield stands out as one of em.

      • 0 avatar

        The front and rear for ’88-91 Crown Vics/Grand marquis were different. The fenders might interchange, but the hood/header panel/headlight doors/grille/bumpers (or at least the bumper stops) and taillights, of course were all different on either model.

        The gold tinted front windshield with a yellow/gold line at top and bottom was the RARE heated windshield option. Upgraded 100A alternator, and they would melt frost & even ice off your windshield with no scraping needed in just a few minutes. Available on Towncar/CV/GrandMarq/& even the TAURUS! It was called The Instaclear System.

  • avatar
    08Suzuki

    I want to race/win LeMons in a Dodge Stratus. And I think I can do it.

    No, really.

    (yes, this is a repost from Jalopnik)

  • avatar
    Travis

    Dammit JB, I’m pissed at you. I was at the Chumpcar race at Buttonwillow in the woefully fucking slow 924. You should let us people know when you’re gonna be out and about like that. I wouldv’e loved for the chance to meet you and shake your hand.

    Jackass.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      But if you’d come over to our pits you would have seen R&T wunderkind Sam Smith there and then *sob* you would forgotten all about me as you stared into his handsome face :)

      • 0 avatar
        doug-g

        God, I had forgotten all about Sam, how’s he doing. I guess I could check a R&T Barnes and Noble to find out… He was crying in his beer last time I “talked” to him. Wife problems maybe. Sam Smith, another reason Jalopnik used to rock. (He was always too good for that gig and I often told him.)

  • avatar
    redav

    “One thing you can say about our friends at Jalopnik: they’re never too stubborn to adopt a fun idea when they see one.”

    I would have phrased that differently–such as: “they have too few original ideas to not jump on any and every trend they find.” (This shouldn’t be taken as a diss to their site, but it shouldn’t not be taken as a diss, either.)

  • avatar
    danio3834

    IIRC, Murilee proposed this first. Although slightly more perverted, is still a great idea.

    http://jalopnik.com/5612751/greatest-racing-series-ever-dui-telepresence-crown-victoria-figure+eight-racing

  • avatar
    danio3834

    If my input were to be included in the rules, it should be open to Panthers of ANY year. If someone wants to put the time an effort into a wallowy box version, I say go for it. In spite of the extra weight, the ’03 up PI cars handle SO MUCH BETTER. Depending on how restrictive the rules are on modifications, those would hands down be the way to go.

    Regarding motors, anyone can do a top swap to make a regular 2v into a PI motor, non-issues as far as I’m concerned. When it comes to Windsors, the aftermarket support is a lot better/cheaper for making power, so the tie breaker there would be if power adders could be allowed on 2V mod motors. Rules could dictate NA only, but building a big power NA mod motor is fairly cost prohibitive, so who knows how things would play out.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      As I mentioned earlier, the only way this would make sense is if the cars are as stock as possible and if it is a claiming series. All racing is is the conversion of money into noise. At least a relatively low claiming price would be at deterrent to the inevitable big budget efforts.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        I agree. If this were to happen, it would have to be a limited factory stock class with few exceptions. If that were the case, you’d probably only see ’03+ PI cars, or aero cars modified to ’03+ PI spec. Barring some great exceptions in the rules, box Panthers would be uncompetitive.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Whoever takes an ’03 or up model, sticks a mustang 4.6 and stick in it, and takes to the track will dominate the field each and every time until their steering breaks, or the intake manifold goes.

    We can’t add GM B-bodies mostly because most of them would run circles around Panthers until something breaks.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Can’t include B-bodies because LT-1!

      But on that subject, if you offered me a 95 TC or a 95 Roadmaster to drive around corners, I feel like the TC would win all day long. Those B’s are so unwieldy looking!

      “If this car had a monocle, it would fall out now.”
      LOL

  • avatar

    Jack’s being too generous. He came up with Panther Love, and Panther Appreciation Week. I just took his great idea and ran with it.

    The only thing better than Spec Panther would be Spec Ranger.

  • avatar
    beefmalone

    Keep it 92+, mod motors, and stock suspension with only OE PI upgrades. Key factor: CHEAP. Lemons started out as a cheap car race but inevitably people end up with full bore race cars in disguise. Put a $1000-2000 claimer rule on the winner and resist the urge to fudge with any of the above rules. Then you might have something.


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