Boat Review by: Rick Layzell
Life’s rare occasions permit us opportunity to be a part of history. To be clear I am not much of a history buff, but I am passionate about all things boats -- all boat types, designs, technologies, and power systems. The opportunity to test hull # 1 of the Pantera 24 was my chance to drive a piece of boating history.
The performance segment in boating really took off in an area of Miami commonly referred to as Thunderboat Row where iconic brands like Cigarette, Apache, Donzi, Cougar, Formula and yes, Pantera, all came to life. These brands (and many others who are no longer with us) all became iconic pieces of South Florida’s offshore powerboat racing circuit. The brands and their incredible successes were borne in part from one common denominator – their hull design. While the brands I mentioned above all exist in one form or another, it was Pantera who had been quiet the last decade. Not anymore.
Enter Carbon Marine, with a passionate ownership group of business professionals and performance boating enthusiasts with a mission to build upon the successes of yesteryear, including Pantera’s world championship heritage, by exploring new technologies, systems, and processes never seen before in boat manufacturing. Essential to the success of Pantera is the adaptation of 100% aerospace grade carbon fiber using infusion and pre-preg carbon parts in the manufacturing process. Read that again: these boats are built with carbon fiber. Lightweight hulls’ is an understatement. You may note that the extensive use of carbon fiber exists in some of the worlds finest super cars, not to mention it’s the cornerstone to modern F1 Racing manufacturing and design. Think about what that means in power-to-weight ratio for a boat. More on that later.
Carbon Marine has made it known their intent is to bring Pantera back to form with several signature model lengths and designs. The new 24’ model will be available as a Classic 24 in traditional design with a 6.2 L Mercury powerplant, while the Sport 24 will be available with a Mercury Racing 450 HP outboard (and a stretched cockpit), and the Carbon Elite Edition will have your choice of a Mercury Racing 520R or an Ilmor 570.
In addition to the 24’ offerings, the 28’ & 36’ Pantera models will also come to market as Classic, Sport or Carbon Elite Editions
Success with these new technologies is dependent on incorporating them with Pantera’s proven designs, so I was pleased to see that much respect was given to the Nunez family and their accomplishments. Joe & Pepe Nunez started Pantera in 1974 and they last won a world championship in 2000, always sticking to the proven results of the deep-V hull design. The classic Pantera 24’ has always been known for it’s 24-degree deadrise and 7’ beam. From the rub rail down to the keel, the heart of the boat is unchanged.
Above the rub rail, however, there is a notable visual change on the deck where yacht designer J. David Weiss was called upon to incorporate styling cues from his successes with the Singer 911 Porsche restorations. His work gives the Pantera 24 the appearance of being longer in the foredeck. He also revamped her bare bones, race-focused interior to incorporate modern styling cues and finish options.
We had the opportunity to test the very first production hull of the 24’ Carbon Elite Edition and… WOW. The new Pantera 24 is packed with that rich sense of history but it explodes with a wealth of modern technology.
First up – my initial nerve-wracking moment at the launch ramp. Our test boat was a presold model (I’m not nervous, you’re nervous) with an extensive array of customized options for the customers tastes.
The first and most noticeable standout feature was the customers decision to paint the boat to match his Maclaren super car. The colour was a rich and beautifully deep blue. Just imagine standing beside her, walking around while she’s on the trailer about to be launched, and realizing that the early morning sun is playfully exposing the carbon fiber underneath the candy coated blue. I should note, blue has always been my favourite colour. Oh my! All along her hull, that sexy blue paint runs all the way up, over the rub rail and across the deck…and the exposed carbon fiber is everywhere. Below the waterline the exposed carbon fiber is in a traditional grey colour and that is just as beautifully finished as the rest of her. OH MY!
The list of selected technologies is seemingly endless, but here are a few of my favourites:
There are few specifications prospective buyers, and classic Pantera lovers, should know:
Considering that the average 24’ fiberglass boat in today’s market would sit somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 lbs (2260 kg and 2720 kg), a couple thousand pounds is lost on the Pantera 24 thanks to the extensive use of carbon fiber. That matters.
Now, let’s talk power.
Our test boat was equipped with an Ilmor Merlin 570 big block and Gibson 4.5” exhaust bullets for sound management. The 570 means 570 HP. Ilmor hand-builds the 570 in their race shop, and the block is based on the GM Performance LS series. Extensive use of forged steel and forged aluminum yields a more durable final product while sophisticated technologies deliver incredible enhanced performance, low end torque, and high RPM. The final result is a fuel efficient, compact, and lightweight power plant – and yes, the engine was also dressed in blue with extensive use of stainless steel shining brightly in the exposed carbon fiber engine room.
This is the science behind the benefit of power to weight – an incredibly powerful engine seamlessly coupled with an incredibly light carbon fiber hull means incredible performance benefits.
On a typical test day, the BoatDealers crew run data for hole shots, cruising speeds, and top speed results. But a Pantera is not a typical boat test. Final propeller decisions were still being evaluated by the Pantera team, which made making top speed trials unavailable (Mother Nature had moved our test day ahead a full day on their schedules). Nevertheless, we did see an impressive 64.7 mph at 5,450 RPM. That Ilmor power plant will absolutely rev to 6,000 RPM – in my opinion low to mid 70’s top speeds are very possible, perhaps in the right conditions she might even find her way to 80 mph.
Hole shots were ridiculously fast and the smile wouldn’t leave my face. Sitting in the passenger seat with one of the Pantera team members at the helm, I could barely hit the stopwatch fast enough between takeoff and getting on plane. The Pantera 24 is handily on step in under 3 seconds. That power paired with a lightweight hull makes a massive difference.
Cruising speeds were truly endless and with ¾ fuel and two of us on board we found she handled well at 21.7 mph at 2,250 RPM, and 37.5 mph at 3,350 RPM. The moment I truly appreciated was 29 mph at 2,750 RPM with – get this – a fuel burn rate of only 7.8 mpg. Power to weight reigns supreme once again.
My opportunity to take the helm of the Pantera was finally granted, and I quickly found her to be playful and exceptionally powerful. We had completed the bulk of our trials so my driver’s seat time was purely experiential. It was existential. I have piloted literally thousands of vessels in this size range, and I can honestly say I have never piloted anything like the Pantera. While her acceleration as noted is exceptional, her cornering capabilities, her feel on the water at any speed has no imitator. Some boats feel like they ride on rails -- the Pantera had me convinced the rails were under me in every turn because she is such a confidence inspiring hull to run.
Sometimes you don’t want to run the ‘first’ production hull. This time, I was thrilled to be granted the opportunity, and the talented team of professionals behind the production and design didn’t disappoint. The quality and attention to detail is evident everywhere, and it’s all wrapped in a very clear passion for the brand and for performance boating.
With a close company connection to the Voltari Electric boat brand, a desire to shift Pantera manufacturing to a southern USA footprint, and a commitment to new engineering and technologies, Pantera has a long future ahead of it. Add in the purists whose love for the brand is decades long, and the future is very bright indeed.
The Cat’s Eyes are back and they are here to stay!
|Dry weight:||3,200 lbs||1,451 kg|
|Fuel Capacity:||74 US gal||280 L|
|Base Engine / Drive:||Ilmore Carbon Elite Edition|