The Panoz Auto Development Corporation was founded in 1989 by Dan Panoz, the son of pharmaceutical and motorsport mogul Don Panoz. All of the vehicles produced by Panoz were given extensive testing at the Panoz-owned Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georigina and handcrafted at the Hoschton workshop.
When Don Panoz purchased Road Atlanta, the track was using aged Nissan 300ZX's. So the decision was made to replace the well-used cars with Panoz bodied GT cars. The Panoz Racing School contracted with a company in Florida to design and build cars that could be used in their racing school. At the time, the Panoz Auto factory was building the AIV Roadster and working on designs for the Esperante, and were unable to take on another project. This soon changed as the Florida based company was unable to comply with the delivery time and build quality, so the project was moved to Panoz Auto.
In 1998, the first batch of GTRA's were delivered to Road Atlanta. The 'RA' in the GT name represented 'Road Atlanta.' The Panoz Racing School was designed for amateurs to learn racing in a low-cost environment. After successful completion of the driving school, students were eligible for an SCCA regional racing license.
The GT-RA's were powered by a 5-liter Ford V-8 fitted with an electronic fuel injection system delivering around 250 horsepower. The chassis was of steel-tube frame construction and clothed in a fiberglass and thermal-formed plastic bodies. They had a TTC 'R' Tremec 5-speed gearbox, disc brakes at all four corners, and a 25-gallon fuel cell.
Later, a second batch of GTRA's were built for an all-woman racing series headed by Lynn St. James. The series was meant as a support race in the ALMS series. These cars were powered by a 4.6 liter 4-cam Cobra powerplant and given proper safety updates to comply with the standards required by the Professional Sports Car racing. These cars were given the designation 'GTWC' representing 'Women's cup.' They were built in the late 1990s.
The woman's series ran as the Women's Global GT series for two seasons, after which it opened up to men as well, and renamed to the Panoz Pro series.
In 1999, Panoz experimented with a 351 Ford crate motor that delivered 400 horsepower. The plan was to build these cars as a spec series that could later run within the SCCA GT1 class. Initially, they were given treaded tires, but that later changed to slicks. These cars were called GTS cars for SCCA.
Panoz also built cars for other driving school programs, including Sebring and the Texas Motor Speedway. Most of the Sebring cars were powered by the Australian Falcon 5-liter while the Texas cars were given Ford Explorer V8 engines.
Skip Barber purchased the Panoz Racing School on July 1st of 2007 which prompted the sale of the Panoz School and Pro Series cars.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2011
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