Panther West Winds was founded in Byfleet, Surrey UK by Robert Jankel, in 1972. The company was always known as Panther Cars and traded under that name. Panther specialised in building `retro` styled cars using modern mechanicals and high-performance power-trains. The cars were finished to the most luxurious standard. This ambitious project was essentially low-volume and therefore the show-room price was very high. Some of the cars were brilliant, some were not so. As always in these cases, the balance-sheet was the final arbiter. Panther was not making money and finally went into liquidation in 1980.
Later in that year the company was purchased by Young Chull Kim, a South Korean industrialist. This was `boom-time` in the far-east and South Korea led the way, invading European markets. Kim`s company Jindo Corporation, re-started production in 1981 at Byfleet. In 1984 the company opened a new factory at Brooklands Circuit but in 1987 Jindo sold out Panther Cars to Ssong Yang.
The new owners opened a factory at Harlow, Essex in that year and re-commenced production. However, by the end of 1990 all Panther production was shut down and the factories closed. Ssang Yong transferred production of the Solo sports-car to South Korea, fitting it with a slightly wider glass/fibre body. It was not a success though some examples did find their way onto the European market. In 1999 Ssong Yang was swallowed-up by Daewoo Corporation, now Chevrolet, and that was the sad end of an inspired dream.
In the near future we will explore Panther`s production run and will introduce the reader to some exotic and outstanding cars.
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I was born in Hereford UK in 1948 and brought up in Gloucester UK. I played Rugby football internationally as a schoolboy. At the age of 17, a new and wet driving license in my paw, I entered motor racing. I was supported and financed by my parents and so my journey began.
In 1965 I bought a 1293cc Mini-Cooper `S` and campaigned it for a season. Having quickly made some good friends in the racing fraternity, several interesting opportunities came my way. I joined a sports-car team and raced in the Le Mans 24 hours in 1968 and 1969 in a Lola T70. Mechanical failure defeated both efforts. During that period I owned and raced a `D type` Jaguar and an AC Cobra. In those days cars like that were available and not too expensive, now they reside in museums and private collections. I had a chain of interesting cars through my youth including Jaguars, Minis, Mustangs and Lotus-Cortinas.
As a young driver I had my share of accidents too. Often the car would only be worth scrap-metal value by the time I got it home! I worked for an Aston-Martin/Jaguar dealership for a while, which enhanced my experience and gave me the opportunity to sample some very exotic machines, Ferrari, Facel-Vega, Iso and Maserati to recall a few of them.
At the end of 1969 I moved to South Africa to work on my uncle`s farm but the S.A. government had other ideas and drafted me into the army. After five years had passed I was thanked and released from the service. While I was there I bought a beige Cadillac Eldorado, previously the property of Marilyn Monroe. While I was away on a patrol my girlfriend had it re-sprayed pink! I was unimpressed by both the joke and the bill for the work!
When I returned to UK in 1974 I left it behind. On my return I found that the once-mighty British motor industry was in decline and was headed for oblivion. Motor racing was now very expensive so I turned to commercial transport. Driving large trucks gave me freedom and a chance to see some of the world. I don`t remember ever making a career choice but for the next thirty years a truck was my home. For about ten years in that period I owned two trucks of my own.
I also owned a famous MGB-GT, known as `Lucky`. If you`d like to read `The Story of Lucky` there is an article in Inopian`s archive. I finally retired, due to ill-health, in 2008. Since I had varied knowledge and many experiences on our subject I decided to share the stories of the cars I enjoyed (and hated) with the new generation.
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