There’s an abundance of very cool cars out there in the world, but despite all those cool cars available, some folks would rather build a car that’s entirely their own, and therefore, a one-of-one example. That’s what we were treated to when we recently visited the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, OH – a one-of-a-kind, 1948 Panoz Roadster featuring a 427 cubic inch Ford Windsor V8 engine. We got the full rundown of this build, which took 13 years to complete, from the Crawford Museum’s Program and Marketing Manager, John Lutsch.
“This Panoz Roadster took 13 years to build and put together,” Lutsch told us. “Its name is Panozster – a combination of Panoz, which provided the chassis, and roadster. It’s a labor of love.”
For anyone unaware, Panoz, located in Hoschton, GA, was and still is a very high-end American designer and manufacturer of sports cars for both the racetrack and the road. Panoz sports cars use advanced technologies and have true motorsports heritage.
“Panoz had competition cars in races such as LeMans,” Lutsch says. “However, that racing effort has since fallen off. But, they had a chassis left over and the gentleman who built this car was able to purchase that chassis from them and actually got technical help putting the car together.”
Lutsch says the Panozster is an amazing tour de force in terms of panel beating, as all the body work you see is hand formed aluminum that was beaten over wooden body bucks.
“That kind of fabrication skill these days is really hard to find,” he notes. “If you look closely at the body work, your first impression is, ‘Oh, that’s a really interesting fiberglass car.’ However, it’s all aluminum. When the paint work is that flawless and the seams are that flawless and the amount of little detail – to do it all by hand is an astonishing piece of work.”
Now you understand why the build took 13 years to complete, and it definitely shows. Part of that build process was of course the engine choice. The owner chose to go with a 351 Ford Windsor V8 engine under the custom hood.
The 351 Windsor got bored out to 427 cubic inches and is equipped internally with numerous, custom, aftermarket components. There’s also an aviation theme to the car, an example of which can be seen in the Continental aircraft engine valve covers, which were all custom fabricated from real Continental valve covers, not reproductions.
“The whole upper manifold area, the head area is all custom fab too,” Lutsch says. “It’s a really amazing piece of work in terms of the engine. And, I can tell you since I’ve traveled in this car, that it puts the power to the ground very effectively. It’ll peel your eyeballs back in your head. It’s kind of scary, but it’s a blast to drive and ride in.
“On top, the stack intake and injection setup is meant to replicate the group of stacked Webers that would be on a vintage 289 Cobra. The visual cues are there for an early ‘60s kind of engine configuration.”
The 427 cid Ford Windsor V8 is one thing, but again, this Panozster is one-of-one, so several other aspects of the build that make the car unique can be seen in the hood and in the cockpit.
“Talking about some of the aircraft personality that’s in the car, you can see it in different areas,” he says. “The seats are basically aluminum shells that very much look like fighter plane seats. They’ve been very beautifully hand upholstered with leather. The leather pretty much works its way around the cockpit into the doors. The dashboard actually has aviation instruments in it. The shift lever is one half of an aircraft yoke. They took half of it and turned it into the gear lever, and you can see it’s got the remote shift linkage in there.
“Another aviation cue can be seen on the underside of the hood where drilled aluminum was used for interior bracing. The aviation cues are pretty evident once you work your way back into the cockpit. To me, it’s a very interesting amalgamation of a 1950s hot rod aesthetic combined with aviation elements, which you don’t see very often in cars.”
Taking an aspect of this roadster beyond automotive and aviation are the headlights, which are from a Harley-Davidson V-Rod motorcycle. The Panozster has these neat elements from different aspects of transportation, which is super, super cool.
“There really isn’t one square inch on this car that hasn’t been very carefully thought about and very carefully designed,” Lutsch says. “Everything fits together absolutely perfectly. You have a real treasure in terms of not only a cool car, but kind of a living example of the highest form and the highest quality of metalworking. It’s a tour de force.”
The Panozster build was an investment somewhere around $300,000 to put it all together.
“It’s worth a lot more now as a finished unit, as it should be,” Lutsch says. “It took a lot to get it here and we’re delighted that it’s spending a little bit of time with us. I can’t wait to get back in it again. It’s a real beast.”
Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade1, Elring – Das Original and NPW Companies. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor Greg Jones at [email protected].