Panoz Auto Development (pronounced PAY-nose) is an American boutique marque, which has produced three basic models to date—one of which is not sold in the United States. An enterprise of Don Panoz, but run by his son Dan, Panoz Auto Development is part of a conglomeration of the Panoz family’s automotive interests; including the Road Atlanta racetrack, Elan Motorsport Technologies racing car manufacturing, and the American LeMans Series racing, uh, series.
Donald Panoz founded Panoz Auto Development in 1989 and based it in Braselton, Georgia (a suburb of Atlanta) to handcraft custom sports cars. The brainchild of his son Dan, the first Panoz offering was the Panoz Roadster.
Handbuilt and made to order, these were highly elemental vehicles. The original Panoz Roadster had no top, no radio, no heater, no air conditioning, and no power steering. Given the nature of the car—at its essence a sunny day plaything or a track day flyer—those items were really rather superfluous.
The second version of the roadster switched to the aluminum V8 Ford used in the 1996 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra. Additionally, the stainless steel tube frame was shelved in favor of an all-aluminum frame. This, in conjunction with the aluminum body, made the Panoz Roadster AIV (aluminum intensive vehicle) the first American mass-produced aluminum intensive automobile.
A full-on grand touring model called the Panoz Esperante followed the Roadsters. Based once again on Ford’s Mustang mechanicals, the Esperante—like the Panoz Roadster—was built by hand and primarily of aluminum for weight savings. However, where the Roadster was all about minimalism, the Esperante was a luxurious daily driver.
The cars featured the same SVT Cobra Mustang engine previously used in the Panoz Roadster AIV; a 4.6-liter aluminum V8 producing 305 horsepower and 320 ft-lbs of torque. The front-mid engine, rear drive convertible, featured an aluminum body, an extruded aluminum chassis with steel subframes, and a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic transmission was offered as an option.
Following the Esperante, the Panoz Auto Development Company offered its most powerful model ever. The Panoz Abruzzi “Spirit of LeMans” debuted at the 2010 24 Hours of LeMans race.
This time, the Panoz organization turned to Chevrolet for power—bolting in a 640-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 Corvette racing engine producing 590 ft-lbs of torque. Where previous Panoz automobiles used aluminum bodies, the Abruzzi is skinned with a process Panoz literature refers to as REAM—Recyclable Energy Absorbing Matrix System. A composite material, it is said to be lighter than carbon fiber yet equally strong.
While used Panoz cars are out there, finding Panoz cars for sale can take a bit of doing.