William Sala Gr 5 Pantera,
Sala-Marverti built a Group 5 Pantera converted from a factory Group 4 (chassis 2862). First raced in 1976, and driven by Maurizio Micangeli and Carlo Pietromarchi, this car included wider Group 5 bodywork, but underneath it retained much of it's original Group 4 configuration.
However for 1979, an all new ground-up build would be needed to challenge the dominance of the Porsche 935s. Based on a new chassis provided by De Tomaso, this allowed the design team to take full advantage of the liberal Group 5 regulations.
Construction of Gr5 Chassis 001 (picture: AutoHeblo)
The chassis on the new Gr5 was reworked for reduced weight, lower cg and and much improved strength. Weight was listed as 1175kg with a carbureted 5.7 liter engine and 1050 kg with a 5.0 liter engine using Lucas fuel injection. Center of gravity was lowered by 15 cm. The front and rear body sections were redesigned for improved aerodynamics.
The new Sala built Pantera, chassis 001, made its public debut at the Grand Hotel in Rome on 10 March 1979 with the the same experienced driver team of Maurizio Micangeli and Carlo Pietromarchi.
Invitation to presentation of Sala - Marverti Gr5 Pantera, 10 March 1979
The ZF gearbox was used during initial testing, but found to be inadequate and replaced with a Hewland DG400. The car was first raced on 18 March in Mugello finishing 7th.
The team continued to evolve the Pantera with new suspension uprights, geometry and A-arms. The wheels were replaced with 19" x 16" rear and 16" x 12" front center lock BBS wheels. In reality, this car was as much, or more, of a William Sala creation as it was a De Tomaso.
The team competed in the 1979 World Championship of Makes and at the 24 hours of Le Mans that same year.
At Le Mans, the Italian duo of drivers was joined by Formula 1 driver Gianfranco Brancatelli who qualified the car in 22nd place. Unfortunately the team's efforts during the race lasted to just before 3am, at which point they were disqualified for inadequate distance covered.
Sala-Marverti Group 5 Pantera "long-tail" configuration at Le Mans 1979 - Bob McMillan photo
After Le Mans, the team finished off the 1979 season at Vallelunga. In 1981 they raced at the 1000 km of Monza and again finishing the year at Vallelunga.
Chassis 001 also underwent a few changes to the body during its competitive history. This included short-tail and long-tail versions as well as changes to the rear wing and nose. Shown below in it's final Group 5 configuration at Monza in 1980.
Chassis 001 evolved over 1979-1981. Shown here with a new nose and rear wing design at 1980 Monza 1000km (photo credit needed).
Thanks to Carlo Pietromarchi's and Maurizio Micangeli's efforts, they had taken the Pantera to its limit in Group 5 racing in Europe.
After the FIA dropped Group 5, chassis 001 was then, perhaps somewhat optimistically, converted to a "Group C" car. It ran few events in 1983, but not surprisingly was uncompetitive against the purpose-built factory Group C cars such as the Porsche 956.
Chassis 001 in Group C spec, at the Pantera International open-house event in California. Photos: Gr5Pantera.com
Chassis 001 is now back in Europe. Work is underway, with the support of some of the original team members, to return this car to the original Group 5 spec and to race at the Le Mans Classic in 2020. Should be a great one to watch!!