Elvis' De Tomaso Pantera : The Car Elvis Shot

By: Elvis Australia
Source: www.elvis.com.au
September 21, 2008

Elvis' purchased this 1971 yellow De Tomaso Pantera sports car in 1974 for $2,400 as a gift to then girlfriend Linda Thompson. This is the car Elvis shot - on more than one occasion! George Klein, Myrna Smith and Sheila Ryan all tell rather amazing stories about Elvis and this De Tomaso Pantera sports car.

Elvis driving his De Tomaso Pantera and below a photo from latter years
Top photos, Elvis driving his De Tomaso Pantera and below a photo from latter years

George Klein was at Graceland one afternoon and commented on the Pantera sitting around in the back driveway. He asked Elvis about it and Elvis was apparently annoyed at the car at the time. It had quit on him driving in Memphis [It had a Ford engine!] and he had someone pick him up and drive him back to Graceland, and left the car on the side of the road. Even after it was returned to Graceland, they were unable to get it started again ... Now ... as Elvis is standing there relating this story to George he pulls out a handgun and shoots the car ... and it starts up and runs. (Thanks to George Klein for help with this story.)

Myrna Smith: 'I will never forget a hair-raising spin around Memphis in his little yellow Pantera. He was a great driver but I knew he was trying to scare me. He thought it was funny'. When they finally schreeched to a stop in Graceland's driveway, Elvis completed the 'shock treatment' by pulling out a gun and shooting the dashboard as he castigated the car for not running right.

Elvis' 1971 yellow De Tomaso Pantera - With bullet hole in steering wheel.
Elvis' 1971 yellow De Tomaso Pantera - With bullet hole in steering wheel

Sheila Ryan: One time we were gonna go for a ride in the yellow Pantera and I was petrified. I was worried because he didn't drive that often. We were always in a limousine.

It was late and dark and we were on the Mississippi interstate. Elvis was driving. It's just the two of us. And we were going seventy-five and I'm thinking, okay, I can deal with seventy-five. And then eighty-five and ninety-five and a hundred and thirty. We were going a hundred and thirty. Then Elvis says, 'Here, you take the wheel'. And takes his hands off and I was like, 'Please, that's not funny. Please'. And I was like begging him. I was really scared. It was a side of him that I didn't see often. Carefree. He wasn't on the job. He wasn't working. He wasn't in Vegas. He wasn't doing shows. He was just having a good time. When I saw those gates with the musical notes on them, I was really happy to be back.

About the De Tomaso Pantera

The Pantera was a sports car produced by the de Tomaso company of Italy from 1971 through 1996. The word 'Pantera' is Italian for 'Panther'. The car was designed by Tom Tjaarda and replaced the de Tomaso Mangusta. Unlike the Mangusta, which employed a steel backbone chassis, the Pantera was a steel monocoque design, the first instance of de Tomaso using this construction technique.

The first 1971 Panteras were powered by 351 inĀ³ (5.8 L) Ford Cleveland V8 which produced 330 hp (246 kW). The 1971 Pantera could accelerate to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.5 seconds. Late in 1971, Ford began importing Panteras for the American market to be sold through its Lincoln Mercury dealers. The first 75 cars were simply European imports and are known for their 'push-button' door handles and hand-built Carrozzeria Vignale bodies. A total of 1,007 Panteras reached the United States that first year. Unfortunately, these cars were poorly built, and several Panteras broke down during testing on Ford's own test track. Rust-proofing was non-existent in the early 1970s (not only on the Pantera) and the quality of fit and finish was poor, with large amounts of bondo being used to cover body panel flaws.

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