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Panther Lima/Kallista

Published: 22nd Oct 2012 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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If you’re after Morgan-style motoring but with a difference then either a Lima or Kallista will see you sitting pretty…

Fancy Morgan-style motoring but on a miserly budget? Then there’s really only one choice – the Panther Lima and the later Kallista. Now while the name Panther may not mean much to many, it’s one that dates back 40 years and was located at no less a place than Brooklands. Founder Bob Jankel had a passion for retro-style cars of the 30s, twinned with modern mechanicals, and his fi rst effort was the Jaguar S100 looking J72, which was followed by the De Ville, which again used Jaguar engines and mechanicals and V12 if you wished! At £27,000, and using Austin 1800 doors, the De Ville was at one point the UK’s most expensive car – dearer than a Rolls. Even Jankel’s Dolomite Sprintderived Rio saloon was more expensive than a Jaguar XJ12, when launched in 1975. The Lima was Panther’s alternative to a Morgan, although costing almost the same as one. It’s a different story these days, although Panther prices are on the up. Best get one while you can, then!


The Lima was launched in 1976 and was a curious mix and match of components. It was originally based upon a Vauxhall Magnum 2300 platform and running gear, while the 30s style appearance was dictated by MG Midget doors and windscreen, topped by a quality fibgress body.

In a car weighing 862kg it gave the Lima excellent performance from the 108bhp engine, which became downright shattering when Panther offered a turbocharged alternative just two years later. At the same time, body making was transferred from Byfl eet to Plymouth.

A popular car that was also available in automatic form, Lima was also sold via selected Vauxhall dealers, it’s quoted that 897 were made before the Series 2 surfaced in 1979. This featured its own Panther-built boxsection separate chassis (the Viva was due to be discontinued soon) for better rigidity and handling. There was also a Turbo derivative but only 10 were made (out of 350 S2s in total) before the company went into receivership and was purchased by Jindo Industries in 1980, a Korean engineering giant.

Two years later the revamped Kallista (the name is Greek for small and beautiful) surfaced and was almost a new car, not least because the majority of the car was now made in Korea but still assembled in the UK. Now made of aluminium instead of GRP, the Vauxhall bits and Midget doors were replaced by Ford Cortina and Capri running gear and bespoke bodywork. And yet, at just under £6000, it was £2000 less than a rival Morgan or Caterham and you only had to wait months, not years, to own one. Powering the new Panther was initially a Ford Escort 1600 XR3 engine, with Cortina running gear, but there was also the option of the Granada 2.8 V6 unit (carb not EFi. Transmissions were Sierra four or five -speeds on the smaller 1.6 and Capri five-speed or auto for the V6.

Save for the engine switching over to the full fat 2.8i tune in ’87, and then uprated to the improved 2.9i, the car and ran up to 1990 in largely unchanged form. Panther was under the ownership of SangYong who made a further 73 examples before calling it a day, the last 2.9 versions costing just under £13,000.


Comparisons between the Panthers and Morgans is inevitable and, while you can’t knock Morgan’s pedigree, you have to admit the Panthers were better driver’s cars, unless you were a hardcore classic sports car lover.

For a start, the Lima’s Vauxhall platform was no bad thing as Vivas always handled well. And that lusty, if breathless, 2.3 engine, which had bags of low down pull (almost as much as the V6 Ford-powered Kallista) rather than red line thrills, adds to the old car character. It’s as well to remember that the majority of Limas used an ‘export’ low compression engine tune (mostly single carb) yet were still faster than a twin carb Magnum 2300. In turbo form, Limas became real scalded cats, but melted their pistons, too.

Panthers are softer going and demand less from the driver than an equivalent Morgan, especially the ride. The Vauxhall chassis is far more complaint; the later larger, stiffer Kallista is better still and far less jolty. Both models feature a front chin spoiler which, while totally out of kilter with the vintage styling, is essential for stability, plus the harder riding Lima could be unusually tail-happy, too.

In terms of performance, Panthers are surprisingly evenly matched, giving TR6 levels


  • Early Limas used the conventional platform taken from the Vauxhall Viva HC and, so long as rust has been kept at bay, it’s easy to maintain and repairs panels are available. S2s have a dedicated box section chassis which is strong.
  • Do the usual checks for poor accident and rust repairs. Some parts are available but you may have to fabricate certain items.
  • Common rot spots on all include the chassis rails, rear axle location and the A and B posts. Midget doors were used on Limas and they rust. You can fit MG panels but they need modifying along the leading edge. It’s not difficult, though.
  • Mechanically all cars are straightforward and pose few worries. The slant four Vauxhall unit is long lasting, although hardly smooth. Bearing rattle on cold start up is due to oil pump location - but anything more than eight seconds before the oil light goes out points to pump or crank wear.
  • Excessive wear is usually on the slant four’s piston and bores although parts supply is reasonable but can be patchy. This engine was used in a variety of Vauxhalls as well as the Bedford van, which ironically will be the low compression engine.
  • Cam clatter is quite rare but oil leaks from the cam carrier and rocker cover aren’t. Cam belt breakages don’t mean the pistons kissing the valves. Exhaust manifolds bolts work loose and are awkward to get to.
  • Turbo engines can destroy their pistons (especially if it’s been converted to high compression) and turbo parts can be expensive if it needs an overhaul. Has it already been ditched (only 10 were made)?
  • There’s still a plentiful supply of Blydenstein tuning parts on the market; big valve heads work extremely well on this engine as does a 28/36 DCD Weber; better than the Stromberg carbs, either single or twins.
  • The Ford engines are quite robust. The CVH can smoke and fume and become tappety plus watch for failing head gaskets, too. Weber used on this engine carbs are expensive to overhaul if worn but alternatives are available.
  • Cologne V6 is similar to earlier ohv Essex unit so it‘s a simple engine to work on and, if carb not Bosch fuel injection fed, like the Capri 2.8i, is that much easier to maintain.
  • The V6 also has a tendency to overheat, especially if the radiator has been allowed to get clogged up. Blown head gaskets and cracked cylinder heads are symptoms to check for, so look for oil and water leaks in the engine bay along with white emulsion on the underside of the filler cap.
  • Limas used Vauxhall transmissions and, while rarely quiet, are robust. Change quality is always loose but should select gears okay. Some folk fit the evergreen Sierra five-speeder but you can also use the Vauxhall ZF five-speed which was used on Droopsnoot Fienzas, last of the line VX4/90s and even some Bedford CF vans!
  • One of the great things about the Kallista is its Capri transmission, boasting a slick gearchange and strong final drive which will take 100,000 miles if looked after and at this mileage. Plus parts supply is better than old Vauxhalls.
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