1997 Panoz
Esperante GTR-1

Incredible piece of American racing history and the fastest American GT car to ever lap Le Mans. Restored by Panoz and eligible for Peter Auto and Masters Endurance Legends events.

  • VIN001
  • Exterior ColorSilver
  • Interior ColorCarbon Fibre
  • MileageTMU
  • EngineRoush 5.3L V8
  • Transmission6-speed sequential manual
  • StatusInventory
  • StockFJ2901


1997 Panoz Esperante GTR-1
s/n 001
Silver with Carbon Fiber interior

- Prototype #1 of six factory constructed examples
- Formerly under long-term Panoz family ownership
- Exceptional restoration performed by Panoz works
- Complete engine overhaul by 25-year veteran Panoz engine specialist
- Comparable to McLaren F1 GTR, Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR, and Porsche 996 GT1

Panoz Company History

As a relatively new manufacturer to the world of racing and bespoke performance cars, Don Panoz knew it would be critical to develop the very best examples in this highly competitive arena. By 1992, with the help of his entrepreneurial father Dan Panoz, Don was able to build a small but highly sophisticated factory in Atlanta, GA to build their first road car, the Panoz Roadster. By 1997, the Panoz family entered the world of professional motorsports racing. Panoz Motor Sports Group and their race car engineering division Elan Motorsport Technologies were the key development divisions in this effort. Initially hoping to learn from motorsports engineering to benefit their road cars, Panoz soon realized the value of both race and road car engineering to develop formidable cars in both categories.

The GTR-1 began as a development partnership with Reynard Motorsports’ Special Vehicles Division to develop a car for the FIA GT Championship series. Keeping company with superlative GTR examples such as the McLaren F1 GTR, Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR, and Porsche GT1, cars now vaulted in value from $10-30M, the Panoz would become the only American performance entrant to compete at the pinnacle of this prohibitively expensive endeavor. The design configuration was specifically paired to match many features of the Esperante road car, but construction was radically different for the impressive GTR-1 including a highly sophisticated carbon fiber chassis built to sustain the rigors of 600+ hp and the stresses of high-speed competition. As an American constructor, Panoz was determined to use as many American built components for their car including a front mounted Ford V8 engine with performance specifications determined and assembled by Roush Racing. Initially, a total of six cars were constructed in coupe configuration spanning races from 1997-1999 with a return to competition in 2003.

Race victories in 1997 included Road Atlanta and Watkins Glen winning the GTS-1 class and finishing 3rd overall along with wins in the GT class at Sonoma Raceway and Laguna Seca. Although three cars were entered in Le Mans, none of the cars finished that year. In 1997 Panoz would finish second to Porsche in the constructor’s championship. For 1998 improvements and changes to the car allowed participation in IMSA and participation in the USRRC where the factory Panoz team would win three of the five events but, once again see second position just three points behind financial juggernaut Porsche. IMSA, however, proved to be more promising with Panoz winning seven of eight races and earning the constructor’s championship for the season. Efforts continued through 1999 with changes to the program and a shift in race class participation to the American Le Mans Series and as a Le Mans Prototype class entry including building a roadster version. In 2003 car #3 was rebuilt and campaigned as the Panoz GTP which resulted in a 9th overall finish at the 2004 12 Hours of Sebring and finally at Le Mans Spa-Francorchamps finishing 14th before retiring at the end of that season.

Historically, the Panoz GTR-1 has continued to be regarded by motorsports experts as one of the most successful independently built cars, arguably remaining, despite the passage of more than a quarter century, as the premier American performance effort. Having achieved the vaulted rank of the fastest American GT ever produced, this record must be put into context having achieved this victory against the Goliath General Motors and their Corvette, which remains the second fastest American car at Le Mans with a 3.47 lap time. Shockingly, the Panoz accomplished a 3.40 lap time (1998) a full seven seconds faster than the Corvette. Here too, still holding that record more than 25 years later. This proved to be true as well at Laguna Seca, with the Panoz beating the Corvette yet again, this time with a three-second advantage lapping at an eye watering 1.17.

History of this Panoz

With homologation requiring race cars to be based on legal road cars, the first GTR-1 was constructed with road car accessories and trim and a 5.3-liter Roush built Ford V8 engine. The subject car offered here is currently owned by a dedicated racing family with a primary member being a recognized Panoz historian who has documented histories from both Panoz and Reynard including histories as told by Panoz and Reynard employees involved in the build of these cars. This example is the first and only prototype constructed with a VIN and used as a factory mule for testing, evaluations, and new systems applications. As part of homologation requirements, this first car was configured to demonstrate road car potential, finished in blue, and then finished in yellow for display at the 1997 Autosport Auto Show.

Like all the Panoz GTR-1 cars, chassis #1 is constructed using a carbon fiber semi-monocoque substructure with carbon fiber composite body panels. The front suspension utilizes carbon composite double A-arm suspension with pushrod actuated coilover shock absorbers, while the rear suspension consists of carbon composite multilink rear suspension with pushrod actuated coilover shock absorbers. Braking is handled by ventilated carbon-ceramic discs with six-piston calipers and driver-controlled brake bias. Power is transferred via an X-Trac rear mounted 6-speed sequential manual transaxle. All six of the cars constructed including this prototype were front engine mid-bias, rear drive cars.

After construction, in late 1996-1997, this car continued as a development chassis through 1998 subsequently remaining with the Panoz team for ongoing evaluation. Shortly after the 2004 campaign at 12 Hours of Sebring and Le Mans Spa-Francorchamps, the car returned to the carbon fiber constructors located in Northern England where it remained until 2014. By 2015 the chassis was shipped back to Panoz where it was initially commissioned by JBM Classic (world renowned 1990-2000 era GT and Prototype Endurance World Championship race car experts) for restoration to GTR-1 specifications. In January 2018, as the restoration process was being prepared, the car was purchased by the current family owners. Having purchased the car directly from Don Panoz, a family friend of the current family owners, the three-year restoration was completed to exacting standards as directed by the Panoz factory and performed by expert Panoz factory employees. According to the current owners, the car was comprehensively restored at Panoz, directed by Paul Caves, Chief Mechanic for the Panoz factory who also restored all three GTR-1 chassis. Additionally, 25-year Panoz veteran employee and engine specialist Chris Smith comprehensively rebuilt the engine and dyno tested it which is documented with numerous photos taken while this car was under restoration. Don Panoz and the Director of the Panoz Museum have both confirmed the history and authenticity of this chassis as the first homologation chassis which was assigned a VIN per FIA GT regulations. As a factory development mule, this car has been carefully preserved and thoughtfully restored as a critical and seminal piece of Panoz history. Having never been raced, it has only been used in two track days since the restoration was completed approximately four years ago.

Current Condition and Features

Today this Panoz presents in exceptional condition having benefited from firsthand factory knowledge and a tremendous amount of careful restoration to all mechanical systems and cosmetic features. The carbon composite monocoque construction is a brilliant series of carefully engineered laminate layers applied in cross laminate patterns to achieve lightweight construction and highly durable stress cycling when pressed into the rigors of racing demands. Having never been pressed into competition events and use limited to just two post-restoration track days, this chassis is both cosmetically and structurally impressive. The exterior of the car is radical and visually dynamic with clean and well-maintained bodywork delivering a unique visual signature of aerodynamic excellence and daring proportions. The front engine position allows for a long dramatic hood line which is relieved by three large intake sections feeding the 5.3-liter Roush V8 engine. Forward scissoring doors open against the central canopy while the massive rear fenders conclude with a full width rear wing. The silver paint is in excellent condition as are the massive wheels and tires, rocker panel skirts, and upswept rear body panel. Lighting, lenses, and clear panels are all in excellent condition all of which support the superb craftsmanship and construction details applied during the original build and accurate restoration.

The interior is further evidence of technical sophistication and state-of-the-art mechanical engineering which beguiles the 27 years that have lapsed since initial construction. Systems, instrumentation, and an abundance of carbon fiber construction remind anyone fortunate to sit in the single seat cockpit that this is a highly purposeful performance machine capable of achieving the very best against all contenders.

With the hood removed, more evidence of weight-saving engineering is revealed in the front suspension, structural supports and front mid-bias weight distribution advantage achieved by placing the engine far aft of the front axle. A massive air induction plenum tops the 5.3-liter engine while cooling ducts provide relief to the impressive, ventilated carbon-ceramic disc brakes. Technical delights are featured in every part of the chassis, engine, suspension, and overall construction. Even the rear body section, when removed to reveal more of the sophisticated carbon fiber construction, is a marvel of technical genius put forth by Panoz, Reynard, and Ford/Roush engineering. The underside of the car is highly sophisticated including carbon fiber molded air management ducting designed to divert air for cooling or aid in fast underside exiting and downforce air management at high speeds.

With contemporary historic racing now eagerly including contemporary examples of superlative technology from more recent motorsports campaigns, this Panoz GTR-1 represents an excellent opportunity to acquire a superbly prepared and sorted car with documented period history and immense future capability. Professionally prepared to a high standard and authenticated by the original manufacturer and their museum director, this highly refined and technically sophisticated Panoz GTR-1 is ready to deliver exceptional track performance and competitive satisfaction at several historic venues including eligibility in various Peter Auto Historic Races and Master’s Endurance Racing Legends events.

The above vehicle information is complete and accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time it is posted to this website. Corrections or additional information is always appreciated. All advertised prices exclude government fees and taxes, any finance charges, any dealer document preparation charge, and any emission testing charge. Vehicles are subject to prior sale. All advertised to be true but not guaranteed. We assume no liability for errors or omissions.

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