There’s good news out there for Panoz aficionados or customers who simply enjoy the provenance of an automobile builder with a background as rich as Don Panoz. His pursuits in non-automotive areas and accomplishments in automotive are enormous. In 2013, Panoz became an inductee into the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, joining Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.
I recently caught up with him while he served as Grand Marshal at the 22nd Annual Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance in Southern California. The Panoz 25th Anniversary Limited Edition 2015 Esperante Spyder, which Don named “Kiss Me Quick Red,” was prominently displayed at the fountainhead at the (Donald) Trump National Golf Club.
In 1980, Don helped his son Daniel Panoz realize his dream of building hand-made, customized luxury sports cars in Braselton, Georgia. Authentic sports car enthusiasts are familiar with the Panoz product. If you’re not, read on. Their cars are strictly American built. Dan Panoz and engineer John M. Leverett are the development team for this boutique automobile manufacturer.
Two new models taking centre stage for Panoz in 2015 are the 25th Anniversary Edition Panoz Esperante Spyder and its big brother, the Esperante Spyder GT version, which debuted in November at the 2014 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The new Esperantes have been transformed from roadsters to spyders, with more contemporary updated styling – wider bodies and elevated horsepower.
The Anniversary Edition Esperante Spyder GT sells for $204,750 USD, plus destination costs. These are limited-edition performance luxury sports cars, and only 25 will be built. Each car is one-of-a-kind, including any paint colour you can imagine.
An integral part of the Panoz business model is what they call “Extreme Personalization,” where the customer works with the designer to create a car to their exact specification. Many options are available to accent the gauge cluster, lower dash and air vents in variety of colours, textures to complete the customized interior. Carbon fibre, solid wood, brushed aluminum or paint are some of the many trim finishes available.
At a starting price of $179,120 USD (plus destination costs), the Spyder has core styling that is reminiscent of the previous Esperante but with an all-new interior. Through aerospace technology, the body is made of lightweight “super formed” aluminum manufactured in Riverside, California.
Both the Spyder and Spyder GT models feature a redesigned dynamic front end. A major styling difference in the new Esperante Spyder is an attractive carbon fibre panel located behind the seats where a convertible top would be. The GT model body is composed of “super formed” aluminum and carbon fibre body panels, and has flared carbon fibre fenders and rocker panels, carbon fibre rear diffuser, side skirts and side exhausts similar to the Panoz GT2 race car.
The suspension system in the 2015 Spyder is completely revised, and incorporates a hollow front sway bar, tubular steel independent upper/lower control arms, coilover springs and double adjustable nitrogen-charged shocks. It has hydraulically-assisted rack and pinion steering and a turning radius of 11.25 metres (36.9 ft).
Braking is supplied by Brembo and the wheels on the Spyder are 19-inch BBS forged aluminum riding on Z-rated Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, 245/40 in front and 285/35 in rear. The Spyder GT wheels are wider and there is an optional two-piece forged aluminum wheel available only on the GT model.
Engine choices for the Spyder are a standard 430-hp normally-aspirated all-aluminum block V8 engine or a supercharged 560-hp aluminum block V8. Transmission is either a Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed manual or six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The top track speed of the Esperante Spyder is (estimated) 276.8 km/h (172 mph) and the car can reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.9 seconds.
The GT version has a standard 560-hp Panoz/Elan Power Products aluminum block V8. You can custom order an supercharged engine with 800 hp.
Interior accoutrements of the Esperante Spyder and the Spyder GT are very similar. The standard sports seats are lightweight, but form-fitting. Race-inspired seats are available. All leather with optional Alcantara accents on seats, dash, door panels and as inserts on the carbon fibre Sypder’s shell. All seats are equipped with Schroth four-point safety harnesses with inertia reels and competition lock-out-switches, and operate either in street or competition driving modes.
The car’s vital instrument systems are graphically displayed on a 10.6-inch ID4Motion display with graphic high-tech gauges. A leather-wrapped Momo 13.75-inch steering wheel with controls for the display is standard, but a 14-inch D-shaped carbon fibre custom wheel can also be ordered.
The trunk has 249 litres (8.8 cu-ft.) of cargo space – large enough for two sets of golf clubs.
Fit and finish quality of the Panoz Esperante has evolved and according to one Panoz LLC representative, the 2015 Esperante Spyder and Spyder GT are receiving a positive nod from prospective buyers. These bespoke Panoz cars are not sold at dealerships, but directly from their Georgia headquarters.
Panoz offers a Factory Delivery Program where customers can stay nearby at Château Élan Winery & Resort owned by Panoz and take delivery of their new car. Panoz will ship it home after their stay.
The warranty is three years, unlimited mileage and, since the engines are built by Ford or GM, the owner can get it serviced at most Ford and GM dealerships or competent automotive repair shops in Canada.
25th Anniversary Edition Panoz Esperante Spyder GT
Base Price: $204,750 USD
Engine: Panoz/Elan Power Products aluminum block V8
Horsepower: 560 hp
Transmission: 6-speed manual or six-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Fuel Economy Ratings (city / hwy. / comb.): 10.6 / 7.5 / 9.2 L/100 km
Warranty (mos. / km): 36 / unlimited