Funky Motoring Facts with Brian Payne

In the wonderful world of motoring, the scene is littered with numerous examples of failed projects that could broadly be grouped under the heading ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time!”

In the early 1970s in the UK a company Panther Westwinds Ltd gave birth to the Panther 6, a weird sports machine with four wheels up front and two at the rear!

Okay it wasn’t a new idea, the Tyrrell racing team having won a Grand Prix a year or so earlier with their 6 wheeled Formula One car, which with its lower height up front with the four tiny wheels, gave it an aerodynamic advantage and at the same time put more rubber on the road for extra cornering grip.

What could possibly go wrong? 

Firstly, the Panther 6 of 1977 opted to put similar size wheels at both ends, none of which were considered small. This negated the aerodynamic advantages of the Tyrrell cars and at the same time created extra weight up front with added complexity and increased rolling resistance.

Meanwhile at the business end, power was provided by a massive 7.9 litre Cadillac V8, with a couple of turbos to assist in the performance department.

The Panther 6 went on display at the 1977 British Motor Fair with a price tag of a then staggering £40,000, and it is understood that some 15 orders were taken.

A year later company owner Robert Jankel was still dragging his feet with no orders filled, due to persistent rumours concerning the Panther’s handling (?) characteristics.

Mr Jankel then organised a press day to counter the adverse rumours and explained that the production delays were due entirely to Pirelli not supplying the right tyres to sort out the handling, such that it was.

Respected ‘Motor’ magazines’ test journalist reported that the sheer adhesion in a straight line was tremendous but at high cornering speeds the lumpy Caddy motor at the rear had a mind of its own.

Despite a few other niggling problems, like vague steering and inadequate brakes, the journos were mildly impressed, and despite their relatively soft conclusions, no firm orders were forthcoming.

Panther Westwinds Ltd still persisted, blaming their inability to get suitable tyres from Pirelli, and with no firm orders, series production never eventuated and by 1980 the company was in receivership.

So sadly (?) it was a case of Westwinds, gone with the wind!

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