Hugh Kleinpeter Gr 5 Pantera
Photo: Kurt Oblinger
Back in the USA, the Hugh Kleinpeter chassis, 1603, underwent a significant evolution during its IMSA days.
Unlike chassis 001 in Italy, Hugh's Pantera began life as a 1972 street model. But eventually became the most radical and well developed IMSA Pantera racecar in the late 70's and early 80's.
1603 was initially built to IMSA GTO specs, which for the most part followed Group 4 regulations, but even in GTO form, it surpassed the factory Group 4 efforts. Hugh is quoted in Wally Wyss' book, DeTomaso - The Man and the Machines, as saying "Whenever we came across a Group 4 or GT4 (Pantera) from Europe, we were at least 5 seconds a lap faster".
With IMSA looking for ways to break up the Porsche domination, in 1977 they created the GTX class based on Group 5 regulations. To match the new regulations, Hugh Kleinpeter continued to develop his Pantera noting, "Towards the end, we had a complete space frame for the car with the fiberglass body just cladding it."
Photo: Matt Stone
The picture above shows the fuel injected engine and some of the original main chassis structures remaining. Later, following a crash at Riverside Raceway, the chassis was further modified with a full custom fabricated tubular sub-frame.
Attesting to the effectiveness of the team's design and development, Hugh's "Team Pantera" captured the USRCC (United States Road Racing Championship) National Championship for the SCCA Southeastern Division in 1978 with three consecutive wins.
There is a nice account of the history of Hugh Kleinpeter's Pantera in Alexis Gousseau's IMSA History blog
Photo: Credit Needed
As shown above, 1603 was modified for right-hand drive to optimize weight distribution; completely backward for most of us here in the USA ... and, based on this photo, possibly causing some confusion for American drivers on proper entry procedures and seating position ;-) .... well, actually that's Rod Davis pictured above working on the car.
The removable composite front and rear body sections also reduced weight and allowed rapid access to the mechanical and chassis systems as is needed in a racing environment.
Photo: Matt Stone
Pictured above, remember this 935 from the "Group 5 Racing" tab? Here is 1603 in 1982 having a bit of a moment (raced in IMSA competition by Vic Manuelli and Bruce Mallery) at Riverside Raceway's turn 5.
This picture was run in full-color on the front page of the Orange County Register newspaper on the Monday after the race. A picture of the Pantera before the crash was also in the Los Angeles Times. As some say: "all press is good press", and this was probably the first and last time a race Pantera got as much publicity in the LA Times!
Photo: Vic Manuelli
Vic Manuelli and his "Fantasy Racing" team continued development of the Pantera and even captured the 1981 SCCA Division A-Sport Racing Championship title after beating a Ferrari 512 Boxer at the final race of the season.
The much modified 1603 continued to evolve and race after the 1981 Group 5 and IMSA GTX eras, racing under the IMSA GTP and GTO classifications up through 1984.
While classified as a GTP car, this Pantera was competing against not just the Porsche 935s, but also Lola T-600s and March 82g prototypes!
Picture above (provided by Vic Manuelli) is 1603 in its final IMSA GTO spec at Riverside Raceway. Unlike chassis 001, which adopted a major change in the body design with its eventual entry into the prototype class, 1603 always kept the identifiable styling of a Pantera.