- Engine: 2279cc/4-cyl
- Power (bhp/rpm): 108/5000
- Torque (lb ft@rpm): 138/3000
- Top speed: 110mph
- 0-60mph: 9.9sec
- Fuel consumption: 22mpg
- Transmission: 4-sp man/3-sp auto
- Length: 11ft 10in (3.61m)
- Width (inc mirrors): 5ft 3in (1.61m)
- Weight: 1800lb (816kg)
- Books: Panther (the inside story) by Bruce Powell (OOP) DIKAPPA183 by Bruno Eismark (available through the Panther Car Club); Lima & Kallista buying guides from the Panther Car Club.
- Clubs: http://www.mypanther.de; www.pantherclub.de
- Websites: Panther Car Club. 01543 278 860, HYPERLINK “http:// http://www.panthercarclub.com”; www.panthercarclub.com
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When Panther launched the Lima in 1976, it was aimed squarely at the Morgan 4/4 and Plus 8 – but where the Morgan’s construction was as ancient as its styling, the Lima was rather more up to date beneath its retro skin. With a glassfi bre bodyshell mounted on top of a modifi ed Vauxhall Viva fl oorpan, there was Magnum 2.3-litre power to give the Lima plenty of urge with excellent reliability. Three decades on, while the Morgan continues to command premium prices, the more unusual Panther is a comparative bargain, and it’s also easier to restore. There’s little in the way of practicality on offer, but throw in great parts availability thanks to stock Vauxhall running gear, and one of the most helpful and sociable clubs around, and you’d be mad not to at least consider Lima ownership.
What to look for?
All Limas feature a 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine with a 7.3:1 compression ratio, apart from some S1s with an 8.5:1 ratio, denoted by an H in the engine number on the chassis plate. These high-compression engines offer a little more go, especially if twin carbs are fi tted too, but both versions of this powerplant are tough, unless there’s a turbocharger fi tted – as this tends to result in melted pistons. High-mileage cars suffer from piston ring wear, leading to oil being burned, and oil also leaks from the cam cover, which can distort as the pressing is thin. Exhaust manifold bolts work loose and drop out; the whole exhaust system should be inspected, as they ground readily. Most Limas have a four-speed manual gearbox, but a three-speed auto was offered. The latter is unusual and conversions between the two are possible, but it’s not straightforward. Some owners have fi tted a Sierra fi ve-speed ‘box; if you’re looking at a car with the original manual transmission, the most likely problem is with sloppy linkages, making gearchanges awkward. Things can be adjusted, but only to a point. As far as corrosion is concerned, you only really need to worry about the chassis, with S1 Limas being more rust-prone than S2s. However, both generations of Lima suffer from the same weak spots; the box sections that run the length of the chassis, and the base of each A and B-post. Doors can rust too, as they’re steel items from the MG Midget, but modifi ed along the leading edge, so they’re not a straight swap. Smell for leaking petrol, as fuel lines can corrode along with fuel tanks – S1 and S2 Limas have different tank designs. Other areas to check include the wire wheels (for loose, rusty or broken spokes), tired suspension and brakes (although there are no particular weak spots) and a split bottom pipe on the radiator, allowing coolant to escape. Incidentally, S2 handbrakes tend to be ineffi cient, but thanks to everything being Vauxhall-sourced, you can get everything you might need to keep a Lima purring.
Most Limas are cherished, so restoration projects come onto the market rarely. If you do fi nd one, and it’s complete, you’ll pay around £2000 for it. Good cars start at £5000 but you’ll need £7000 to get something really nice – the best Limas go for up to £10,000, but to command such sums the car has to be exceptional.
All Limas are identical mechanically, but the tubular chassis of the S2 is much stiffer than the S1’s Viva fl oorpan. The result is improved handling, so the car feels much more solid, with higher levels of interior refi nement – earlier cars had some scuttle shake, but later ones don’t. As you’d expect of such a light car, the 2.3-litre engine offers relaxed cruising and although this four-cylinder unit is quite slow-revving, there’s decentacceleration available in any gear, while the servo-assisted brakes offer reassuring stopping power too.
The Panther Lima debuts, with 2.3-litre Vauxhall Magnum twin carb power only.
The bodyshells are now made in a separate factory, based in Plymouth.
The Series 2 replaces the Series 1, after around 700 S1s have been made; the new arrival has a new box section tubular steel chassis. In October, a Lima Turbo is unveiled; just 10 are known to have been made (all S2). Then Panther goes into liquidation in December.
Panther is now bought by the Korean company Jindo Industries.
The Lima is superseded by the Kallista after around 350 Series 2s have been built. While the Kallista looks similar to the Lima, it’s completely different with Ford running gear and aluminium outer body panelling.
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