In 2009, NASA Central’s Jim Bader bought a dream car, a Ford GT. Of course, he did what every owner of a Ford GT would do. He took it to the track and got bitten by the racing bug. What happened next also was something owners who track their expensive supercars come to realize fairly quickly: the car is too precious and expensive to put into a tire barrier or a K wall.

“I took the Ford GT a couple of times to Gateway in St. Louis and I got addicted to road racing with that car,” Bader said. “But the cost if you put it into a wall is astronomical to fix it. And, of course, the insurance company would ask what I was doing at the racetrack. If I were to damage that car at the track, I’d be on my own as far as fixing it.”

So, not long after he bought the GT, he was on the hunt for something he could drive on the track. While sitting around in an airport on a business trip, Bader was surfing the Web on his phone, looking into Factory Five Cobras as possible candidates, and comparing them with the Panoz GTS. One of the comments on the site spoke of a nice GTS for sale in California. So Bader called him before he even boarded his flight.

The car belonged to a spinal surgeon in Northern California. Bader never even met him, and dealt only with his mechanic. He sent photos and Bader got more information about the car. Next thing he knew, Bader was on his way to California to pick it up.

There are several iterations of the Panoz racecar, but there are three you see most often for sale. Many of them are GT-RA “school cars,” which were originally cars used by students in driving schools put on by Panoz. Some were GT-WC cars, which were used in the Panoz Women’s Cup racing series headlined by drivers Lynn St. James and Danica Patrick. NASA Great Lakes member Dr. Audrey Zavodsky also raced in the series. Then there is the GTS model, which is what Bader owns, and it’s a spec built GT2 car.

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“The school cars used a lot of off-the-shelf components from Ford,” Bader said. “A lot of the parts were off the Mustang, the rear end, the brakes and the 4.6-liter engine were off the Mustang Cobra. I think that was probably more of an economical car to own, and still is. I looked at buying some new rotors for mine, and I was in sticker shock because they were $450 apiece for brake rotors. I’m kind of wishing I had Cobra rotors on there because I could probably pick those up for $120.”

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When Bader got it home, he peeled off the existing graphics and sponsorship decals. He found the paint to be in surprisingly good shape, as is the rest of the car. He tracked it a few times in 2013 and over that winter upgraded the seats, the wiring and replaced the transmission with a new TKO 600 five speed.

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Bader first heard of Panoz cars when he and his brother attended the first Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta. The Women’s Cup was part of the card that weekend and Bader and his brother even toured the factory where the cars are built.

“I never had any aspirations at the time of buying one because they were pretty expensive brand new,” he said. “They stickered for somewhere around $70,000 and $80,000.”

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Probably one of the best things about the Panoz is that it’s a purpose-built racecar, the key benefit of which is that it’s simple and easy to work on because everything is easy to access.

“You pull that hood off and you have access to, of course, the engine,” Bader said. “The transmission is fairly easy to get to. The suspension is all right in your face. I’ve got a lift at my shop and once you get under the car, everything’s pretty straightforward. There’s no rocket science on this car. There’s nothing on there that doesn’t need to be there. There’s not a lot of high-tech gizmos that can go bad, so that I like.

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“You don’t want to get to the track and fight electrical or electronic problems,” he continued. “It’s basically 1950s and ‘60s technology in a 2000 body car. To me it’s desirable because you don’t have to have an engineer come with you to diagnose a problem.”

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If you don’t already know it, the story behind Panoz Auto Development, is as fascinating as the cars. After making his fortune with the invention of the nicotine patch, Dr. Don Panoz invested in his son’s car company and decided to go racing in a big way. He formed the American LeMans series. They built cars for their own racing series, the GTR1 to compete at the 24 Hours of LeMans and cars for grassroots racing. Panoz has now put his might behind the DeltaWing racecars. And, despite having invented the nicotine patch, he still smokes cigarettes.

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Bader plans to continue in HPDE4 and then possibly go into Time Trials next season. He’s also keen to try out more tracks in the coming years.

“I plan to go to Road Atlanta next year, so that’ll be kind of a homecoming for the car,” he said.

Owner:

Jim Bader

Year:

2000

Make:

Panoz

Model:

GTS

Weight:

2,800 lbs. w/o driver

Engine:

351 Windsor

Suspension:

Front: Penske shocks and springs

Rear: Penske shocks and springs

Tires:

Front: Hoosier 295-30R-18

Rear: Hoosier 315-30R-18

Brakes:

Front: Brembo disc, Brembo caliper Rear: Brembo disc, Brembo caliper

Data system:

NA

Sponsors:

NA
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Image courtesy of Brett Becker