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!