Despite it sounding a bit Italian, Panoz Auto Development as American as apple pie. It was established by Dan Panoz, the son of pharmaceutical mogul Don Panoz. It’s not a big manufacture of cars but that allows them to treat their few cars with better respect. Hand crafted and rigorously tested before being handed to their owners, Panoz cars bear the mark of exclusivity.
The company itself was founded in 1989 by Daniel Panoz who had applied in 1988 for a job at the Thompson Motor Company, an Irish car builder. When the company was liquidated, Dan seize dthe opportunity and bought the rights to one of the chassis TMC was using, one designed by Frank Costin, the man who also built chassis for Maserati, Lotus and Lister.
Just one year after the birth of Panoz Motors, the first model came out: the 1990 Roadster. Built in the company’s small factory in Atlanta, Georgia, the car set about reigniting the true spirit of the American roadster. BY 1996, the AIV Roadster came into full production.
In 1997 the company decided to enter racing to better promote their products. The difference between Panoz and other manufacturers was that their strived to keep their road cars as close to their racing versions as possible. The next model to come out of the Panoz plant was the Esperante with its racing version, the GTR-1. It was entered in the famous 24 Hours Le Mans.
In order to better develop their products on the track, Panoz then intensified its involvement in racing. It moved Le Mans across the ocean into America in 1998, it opened up a racing school and took part in other racing championships, such as the US Road Racing Championship which it won in 1998.
In 2000 it developed the race purposely-built Esperante GTS, a car which would serve in he Sports Car of America. Measures were taken to ensure the car was cheap to maintain and race, such as replaceable acrylic panels instead of fiberglass. All those efforts in racing paid off in 2006 when Panoz took the gold in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in the GT2 class with an Esperante GTLM.
Put in a nutshell, if you’re looking for an American sports car that also races on the track, Panoz is the company to call on.