1988 Panther Solo 2: Second Time’s a Charm



From the January 1988 concern of Automobile and Driver.

The British press has given its house­grown Panther Solo 2 an amazing buildup. Automobile not too long ago known as it “an important British sports activities automotive for the reason that E­-type Jaguar.” Autocar, mixing its meta­phors deliriously upfront of the automotive’s debut on the Frankfurt Auto Present, stated, “Solo will not simply steal Porsche’s limelight; it’s going to seize it by the throat.” These testimonials, you must perceive, had been made earlier than anybody had the chance to drive a completed Solo. Thus the second era of Panther’s idea, with its turbocharged, 16-valve Cosworth en­gine, four-wheel drive, and race-car-style composite physique building, already has a monumental popularity to dwell as much as.

We now have pushed as many miles as any­one in the one absolutely bodied Solo 2 proto­kind and haven’t discovered it wanting; how­ever, the automotive we drove was removed from prepared for manufacturing. The Solo 2 has all the precise elements, to make sure. However they alone are not any menace to the likes of Jaguar, Porsche, and Ferrari. Fortuitously, nobody at Panther underestimates the job that continues to be to be completed.

What began as an easy thought to construct a contemporary, low-priced two-seater has develop into a fancy story.

Younger C. Kim—Korean-born, American-educated—purchased Panther Westwinds out of receivership in 1980 and renamed it the Panther Automobile Firm. He took one of many firm’s present merchandise, the Pan­ther Lima, reengineered it, organized for a provide of chassis and aluminum our bodies from Jindo Industries, the household con­glomerate in South Korea, and put it again in the marketplace because the Kallista. Though the automotive was nicely obtained, it quickly turned clear to Kim that the sale potential of such pastiche classic automobiles was restricted.

However there was, Kim believed, a spot available in the market for a mid-engined sports activities coupe, constructed round a transverse energy­prepare from a contemporary front-drive sedan. His inspiration got here partly from a maga­zine article on a contest at London’s Royal Faculty of Artwork. With a short to design a sports activities automotive round a mid-mounted Ford Escort XR3 four-cylinder, the scholars had created designs that, of their bluff noses and far-forward driving positions, resembled Group C race automobiles. Kim known as the school and talked to the scholars’ tu­tor, Ken Greenley, a contract automotive design­er who had discovered his commerce at Vauxhall, the British GM subsidiary. The upshot was that Greenley and his associate, John Heffernan (ex-GM, ex-Audi), received the contract to fashion the Panther Solo.

Kim commissioned ubiquitous Len Bailey, of Ford GT40 fame, to design the chassis. The fuel-injected, 105-hp, 1.6-liter XR3i engine was chosen. The consequence, the primary Solo, was proven, and acclaimed, on the 1984 British Motor Present.

Quickly afterward, nevertheless, it turned clear to Kim that he wouldn’t be capable of meet his targets for the Solo. It could be not solely slower than the conceptually sim­ilar Toyota MR2 but additionally dearer. A transfer upmarket, to a automotive that might of­fer a lot increased efficiency and be primarily based on extra refined know-how, appeared to carry extra promise.

Kim redirected Panther’s sights towards a Solo with four-wheel drive and the tur­bocharged, 16-valve, 2.0-liter 4­-cylinder of the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth. Ever-enthusiastic Bob Lutz, then heading Ford of Europe, examined the Solo proto­kind, listened to Kim’s plans, and promenade­ised a provide of the Cosworth engine.

Doubling the Solo’s horsepower, shift­ing its engine orientation 90 levels, and including four-wheel drive required reasonably greater than a element redesign. As well as, Panther had determined, for advertising rea­sons, {that a} two-plus-two cabin was want­in a position. The workforce began afresh with a brand new, four-inch-longer chassis, drawn up by Raymar, a bunch of defected Ford of Eu­rope engineers who had labored on the Sierra RS Cosworth and the Sierra XR4x4. On the design facet the Solo was Greenley’s child. Ever sensible, he started the automotive’s growth program by slicing up the Solo l physique buck—with a sequence noticed.

When the Solo 2 emerged, solely hours earlier than its promised debut at Frankfurt, the extent of the transformation was im­mediately obvious. Though the brand new automotive is considerably much like the primary Solo within the form of its nostril and in its thrown­-forward stance, its physique is totally dif­ferent. To some eyes, the distinction is just not for the higher. Greenley says that some critics thought the primary Solo seemed too bland; in distinction, the brand new automotive has been designed to promote its efficiency.

It actually does that, and the rear finish provides greater than a clue to the involvement of race-car producers. March, which supplied the composite-materials tech­nology, additionally undertook the aerodynamic testing; it proposed the System 1–fashion rear wing, with a fastidiously formed airfoil part and tucked-in finish plates. March additionally developed the duct designs to feed air to the engine, the radiator, and the inter­cooler. As a result of every passage has separate inlet and outlet ports, the Solo 2, considered from the again, is sort of extra holes than bodywork. The curves that encompass the numerous ports aren’t all harmonious.

March’s wind-tunnel work resulted in a form that gives downforce of 33 kilos on the entrance and 82 on the rear on the Solo’s projected 150-mph most velocity. There was some sacrifice of low drag for downforce, however the drag coef­ficient of the ultimate automotive continues to be about 0.33.

Using aerospace and race-car com­posite supplies was not initially a part of the plan. Having concluded that neither aluminum nor fiberglass was preferrred, how­ever, Panther’s rising engineering workforce was interested in racing building tech­niques. Other than the mix of low weight and energy that composites might present, they promised accuracy within the match of adjoining elements—one thing that specialist producers at all times discover diffi­cult to attain. March chairman Robin Herd had lengthy held an ambition to be­come extra concerned with street automobiles, and Comtec, his firm’s composite­-materials subsidiary, had the experience and the capability that Panther wanted.

The development of the Solo combines the brand new supplies with an outdated thought. A fabri­cated sheet-steel middle part contains the floorpan and the entrance and rear bulk­heads; a tubular house body extends from the rear bulkhead to assist the facility­prepare. Nothing too uncommon about that: in precept, the Jaguar E-type was constructed the identical manner. Within the Panther, although, the roof part, the B-pillars, and the door frames are molded from a composite sandwich of epoxy resin, aluminum hon­eycomb, and glass fabric and bonded to the metallic chassis; carbon fiber is used within the A-pillars. The completed construction is so sturdy that metal roll bars are pointless. Comparable supplies are used for the un­pressured physique panels, together with Kevlar within the wheel arches for cover from stones. Kevlar can also be used for the U.S.­-mandated door beams.

To satisfy frontal-impact necessities with such a brief nostril, Comtec has undertake­ed an energy-management system that employs the identical precept because the crush­in a position foot-box part of a System 1 automotive. The open ends of a horseshoe-shaped, honeycomb-filled field part lie on both facet of the entrance baggage compartment and abut the cockpit bulkhead. The entrance bumper is connected to the curved finish of the horseshoe.

This sturdy however light-weight construc­tion ought to allow the Solo to weigh lower than 2400 kilos in manufacturing kind. As that is written, no automotive has been accomplished to this ultimate specification; the present automotive we drove had fiberglass bodywork.

The chassis growth has been automotive­ried out on a rudimentary gadget identified across the works because the “milk float.” Though the ultimate automotive has been designed to Raymar’s structure, Raymar itself is not any lengthy­er concerned; Panther now has a 30-strong engineering workforce of its personal. It’s on the energy of the milk float’s take a look at numbers that efficiency estimates for the Solo have been primarily based: the 150-mph most velocity, 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, and a cornering restrict of 0.92 g. Contemplating the Solo’s power-to-weight ratio, the velocity claims aren’t unrealistic. The Cosworth engine comes with the Borg-Warner T5 five-speed gearbox of the Sierra RS, although the Solo’s total gearing is slight­ly increased than the sedan’s.

Ford would not but supply a four-wheel­-drive Cosworth Sierra, and even when it did, putting in its system within the Solo would not be so simple as turning the engine and the transmission round. The Panther’s four-wheel-drive system is a Ferguson System design, with a number of elements from the Sierra XR4x4 and a brand new switch case. For the sake of compactness, cockpit house, and weight distribution, Panther determined to mount the engine backward, its gear­field pointing towards the entrance of the automotive. The switch field, subsequently, takes the drive to the entrance straight from the epicy­clic gearset, whereas the drive to the rear is thru a Morse chain—an association reverse to the Sierra’s. To offer room for the rear differential with out additional lengthening the wheelbase, the engine and the gearbox have been angled eight levels to 1 facet. A set of helical gears within the switch field accommodates the asymmetrical structure and reverses the di­rection of the backward engine’s rotation.

Just like the front-engined Ford four-by-fours, the Solo has a torque cut up of 34 per­cent entrance, 66 rear. Sierra differentials are used at each ends. Viscous-coupling limited-slip units are fitted to the middle and rear differentials.

It’s, to say the least, an uncommon ar­rangement. Wanting additional, the engine seems to experience excessive, partly as a result of, in advert­dition to being angled to the facet, it is tipped up three levels in again. And Pan­ther engineers needed to keep away from routing water strains from entrance to rear, so the cool­ing division is situated completely behind the engine: the radiator, above it the intercooler, and twin followers behind. The stan­dard air-conditioning tools may also be situated in again.

The Solo’s suspension, in distinction, is typical, with Escort-derived struts up entrance and a lateral hyperlink and a management arm at every rear wheel. There are not any anti-­roll bars, and the Sierra steering would not want and would not have energy help. The braking system, with discs throughout, is provided with an adaptation of the Scorpio’s digital anti-lock system.

The wheels and tires—195/50VR-15 Goodyear Eagle NCTs—look weak for a automotive of high-performance aspirations. However Phil Gillott, who has been in control of the Solo’s chassis growth since Panther took it in home, is adamant that they’re the optimum measurement. He lowered the rim width from seven to 6 inches within the inter­est of higher steering really feel, and he causes {that a} automotive of the Solo’s weight with 4­-wheel drive wants tires of the identical measurement entrance and rear and that 195-section is kind of broad sufficient.

On the street, at the very least on the reasonable speeds that the present automotive allowed, Gillott’s concept held up. Although unassisted, the steering felt properly weighted and correct, with out feeding again bumps and ridges within the pavement. A bootleg assault at some tight corners confirmed traits very just like the Ford four-by-four sedans’, with a willingness to oversteer underneath energy; the Solo felt excellent for a sports activities automotive.

We discovered another issues on this first encounter. The Solo 2 rode surpris­ingly comfortably. The integrity of the construction was spectacular, too, though the panels had been product of fiberglass and did not match completely. There appeared to be no creaks or rattles from the suspen­sion, although there was loads of noise from different sources: the cruel observe of the Cosworth, the whoosh of the turbo, and, most of all, the heterodyning of the spur gears within the prototype switch field.

Even when that final drawback is solved, it appears unlikely that the Solo 2 might be a qui­et automotive. The rear window and the engine cowl are one massive composite construction, and the encompassing seal is the one higher barrier between the cockpit and the facility unit. The engineers even have warmth­-transfer issues to resolve.

Assuming that the Solo will not actually be too sizzling to deal with, the driving force and passenger ought to discover its cockpit a pleas­ant place to be. The driving place is okay, and there’s a racing-car really feel within the structure of the controls and the curved cen­ter console. The visibility by means of the steeply raked and multicurved windshield is sweet, and neither the entrance nor the rear pillars are too obtrusive; the view in any course is healthier than most automobiles of this kind supply. Though the Solo 2 supposed­ly has extra room across the pedals than the Solo 1, the footwells are nonetheless slim; there’s nowhere to relaxation the left foot.

The inside design scheme, in line with the Solo’s physique building, is excessive­-tech each in seems to be and in supplies. In­stead of panels of polished wooden, the sprint and the door panels have the shiny floor and black weave of carbon fiber. The seats are Recaros, re-covered in grey leather-based. By the way, you may overlook the rear seats for carrying actual individuals; the house is helpful for baggage, although, as there’s pre­cious little room for that elsewhere.

Specifically produced Stewart-Warner in­struments with pale-blue faces are a pleasant contact. They’re clustered, System 1 fashion, round a big tachometer, with the comparatively tiny speedometer relegated to the underside proper, the place it is partly ob­scured by the Scorpio column switches. A lot of the inside tools—central door locking, electrical window and mir­rors, and so forth.—can also be from Ford. The tubular­-spoked Momo steering wheel and the large, turned-alloy gearshift knob might be revised for the manufacturing automobiles.

The Solo is now going by means of the lengthy routine of certification. To begin with, it will likely be out there in Britain solely, but it surely has been designed with all markets in thoughts. When it arrives within the U.S., most likely no prior to 1990, it might nicely have a dif­ferent engine—maybe a 2.9-liter Ford V-6 relying on whether or not Ford positive aspects EPA approval for the Cosworth. The U.Ok. worth might be round $46,000. Panther plans to construct 100 automobiles in 1988 and hopes to start supply in July. Manufacturing is because of rise to 600 in 1989.

There’s nonetheless a lot to be sorted out. March will provide the composite panels for the primary automobiles, however Panther expects to take over their manufacturing, in a brand new facili­ty to be inbuilt Essex. Meaning leaving the historic environment of the outdated Brooklands racetrack, the place the Kallista is presently made.

Such a transfer might be important, for because the Solo challenge has modified and develop into extra formidable, so has Panther. A serious­ity shareholding has been acquired by an­different Korean industrial group, Ssangyong. Younger Kim retains twenty-percent possession and stays chairman and chief government, however his horizons are actually set past the Solo. The manufacturing of a special form of four-wheel-driver, the Stampede, reworked from a utility four-­by-four made by Ssangyong’s Dong-A Motor Firm in Korea, is more likely to in­crease Panther’s whole output to 5000 vehi­cles a 12 months. The Stampede can also be scheduled for the U.S.

Younger Kim wanted the reference to an present automotive producer to get a foot within the door of the increasing Korean in­dustry. Panther has a lot to supply the Ko­reans, Kim says, pointing to the engineer­ing workforce that’s now striving to develop the Solo to be worthy of Britain’s super-en­thusiastic welcome.

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1988 Panther Solo 2
Car Sort: mid-engine, all-wheel-drive, 2+2-passenger, 2-door coupe


turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve inline-4, iron block and aluminum head, port gas injection

Displacement: 122 in3, 1993 cm3

Energy: 201 hp @ 6000 rpm

Torque: 204 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm 

5-speed handbook


Wheelbase: 99.6 in

Size: 171.0 in

Width: 70.1 in
Top: 46.5 in
Curb Weight (C/D est): 2450 lb


60 mph: 5.7 sec

High Velocity (est): 150 mph 


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