Panoz have been building bespoke American made sports cars for over 20 years, in a factory way down in the Deep South of the USA.
The company commenced operations back in 1988 in Ireland of all places, when Daniel Panoz bought the rights to a chassis designed by the talented Frank Costin, who in fact pioneered the monocoque chassis and was the brother of Mike Costin, the co-founder of Cosworth. He had also built racecar chassis for the likes of Maserati and Lotus.
The deal only came about when Panoz found out that the small Irish car builder ( Thomson Motor Company) who he was working for at the time, was going into liquidation and he saw an opportunity.
Within just 12-months the Panoz Automotive Development Company opened its doors in a salt storage shed about 50 miles from Atlanta, Georgia.
Daniel Panoz had what I would call a modest start to the sports car manufacturing game. He had himself, a Frank Costin chassis, and two former engineers from the now defunct Thompson Motor Company but he ready to start building his exclusive American sports car at the ripe old age of just 27 years old.
Home base was Hoschton, Georgia, about 55 miles from Atlanta and their first car was the 1990 Panoz Roadster. It was powered by a front mid-mounted Ford V8 and was the first US car to use a Superplastic formed aluminium body.
The Roadster was then completely redesigned in 1996 with an advanced two-tiered extruded aluminium chassis and the pushrod cast iron engine was ditched for a new all aluminium, 305-horsepower 32-valve V8.
That same year Daniel and his father Donald created Panoz Motor Sports and sought the expertise of Adrian Reynard to build a rear wheel drive Esperante GTR-1 for competition is endurance races like the 24-Hours of Le Mans.
Against tradition, this was the first front-engine racing car to compete in the race in many years.
Despite the Panoz team having almost no racing experience, they went head to head with Ferrari, Porsche and Mercedes and were running ninth outright after 18 hours of racing, when an oil failure took them out of contention.
But that didn’t stop them trying again, and in 1998, the Panoz GTR-1 finished Le Mans in seventh place.
In 1999, the GTR-1 was further developed to run in the superfast LMP-1 Class for the American Le Mans Series as the Panoz LMP-1 Roadster and winning the Team and Manufacturer’s titles that same year from BMW and Audi entries.
The Panoz Esperante road car was released in 2000 and was billed as a “luxury sports car capable of high performance and broader appeal.”
Made almost entirely from aluminium for lower weight, the Esperante also constructed using Superplastic Forming and bonded aluminium extrusions for strength.
Weighing in at 1440 kilograms and powered by a 305 HP quad-cam V8, the car will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds and the quarter mile in 13.7 seconds.
The Esperante is an essentially hand-built sports car and at US$97,360 is said to be utterly reliable and extremely good value when compared with its European competition.
The car is equipped with ABS, Traction Control, dual front airbags, power convertible top, hand stitched leather interior and a 300-watt Blaupunkt audio system.
The latest edition to the Panoz stable is the race inspired Esperante GT-LM packing a redesigned suspension, advanced aerodynamics and a supercharged 420 HP V8 for US$121,326.
Standard equipment on this latest model includes 18-inch BBS RK alloys and dual piston aluminium PBR calliper with Brembo rotors.
Inside, you’ll find aggressively bolstered sports seats and plenty of billeted aluminium trim.
Panoz have released a couple of teaser images of an all new 2011 Supercar they are calling the Panoz Abruzzi “Spirit of Le Mans”.
This special car will be presented to the public for the first time at this year’s 24 Hours Le Mans and event, which saw Panoz take out the GT2 class in 2006.
Cutting edge technology will be used to construct the Abruzzi in the form of the “REAMS” (Recyclable Energy Absorbing Matrix System) material technology.
Never before used in the construction of a car, REAMS offers extraordinary performance, structural and environmental advantages over current processes.
The Abruzzi also employs another innovative development called “TRIFECTA COOLING” which is three stage cooling system that lowers the coolant temperature on the inflow and outflow from the radiator. The results are better engine performance and efficiency at high speed.
This exciting new sports car will occupy centre stage in “The Village” at Le Mans from June 7-13 and should attract more than its fair share of motoring enthusiasts.