Ed "Newt" Newton
An ad by auction house Robson Kay for ‘The Pink Panther Car’ credited to auto builder and designer Jay Ohrberg.
Before I decided to go to an actual (for the most part) college, I had given some thought to attending a vocational school so I could become an automotive mechanic. I was fascinated with cars when I was young and I still am thanks to my dad encouraging my curiosity under the hood. Somewhere along the line, I decided to become a journalism major, but my love of cars—especially Mustangs—has never faded. Which brings me to the topic of this post—a futuristic car constructed in 1969 called the “Panthermobile.”
The origins of the Panthermobile are, from what I can surmise, a bit contested. Many reliable sources point to the legendary car builder and designer Jay Ohrberg as the man responsible for the creation of the Panthermobile. Which is completely reasonable as Ohrberg has created and tricked out many other famous cars like the 1969 Dodge Charger from The Dukes of Hazzard, the DeLoren from Back to the Future and KITT the chatty car from David Hasselhoff’s other boob tube show, Knight Rider just to name a few. A quick visit to Ohrberg’s official site where his creations are cataloged which includes photos of a vehicle referred to as “The Pink Panther” car and also the “Pink Panther Limo.”
There are other sources that credit the great car designer Ed “Newt” Newton, the long-time pal of Rat Fink creator and fellow car designer and hot rod enthusiast Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Together Newton and Roth designed the “Orbitron”—a car comprised of parts of Roth’s 1955 Chevy, some Corvette valve covers, the backside from a 1956 Chevrolet and Lincoln breaks. Just looking at the Orbitron seems to lend more credence to the belief that Ed Newton is, in fact, the brainchild behind the Panthermobile which was built using the body of an Oldsmobile Toronado.
So who exactly came up with the idea for the Panthermobile? According to the book Americas Wildest Show Rods of the 1960s and 1970s authored by respected car historian Scotty Gosson, it appears that the design was conceived by Ed Newton and was then given to Bob Reisner of The Pink Panther Show. Reisner then handed it off to a small team led by bonafide car legend and the inventor of the covetable “candy apple red” paint color Joe Bailon (aka “Candy-Apple Joe”) to build. This theory is also documented in the book by David Fetherston, Show Car Dreams. Now that’s some Scooby-Doo-style investigative reporting for you, Jack.
A shot of the impossibly cool interior of the Panthermobile.
The car itself was, of course, various shades of pink in and out and measured a whopping 23-feet in length. Behind the pink cockpit of the car lies a sick seven-litre engine and then something sexy called the “Pleasure Capsule.” This part of the Panthermobile lives up to its name as it is tricked out with a bar; pink satin upholstery; pink shag carpet; an old school pink push button phone and seats already in the recline position. It was also equipped with a little black and white television and a camera that allowed the driver to spy on the party going on in the back. The car was featured in a live-action intro for The Pink Panther Show cartoon during its very first season in 1969 which showed the car rolling through the streets of LA on its way to Mann’s Chinese Theatre, despite the fact that the Panthermobile never was, and probably still isn’t, street legal.
The Panthermobile was sold at an auction in 2007 for a cool $143,500. By 2011 the car had fallen into disrepair when it made another appearance at an auction in England where it was purchased by Galpin Auto Sports (who also credit Newton with the creation of the vehicle) in Los Angeles. The engine was toast, the interior of the car was a mess and the pink paint on the exterior of the car had been updated on more than a few occasions. Galpin’s restoration was so spot-on it is almost as though the Panthermobile had just emerged from some sort of super-secret hermetically sealed garage from the early 70s. I’ve posted a load of photos of the original Panthermobile and the new and improved Panthermobile below for you to check out.
The original Panthermobile.
More after the jump…