Panther Kallista

To the sceptic, the Panther Kallista in 1.6 or 2.9i form is a flamboyant joke: no more than a full-scale toy for the wealthy. Such dismissal is unfair.

Both models use Ford engines and running gear. The 1.6L. utilises the 96 bhp CVH engine as found in the XR3i, while the injected 2.9 V6 develops a healthy 150 bhp which can catapult the injected version from standstill to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds and, for the courageous, reach a top speed of 112 mph — a full 12 mph faster.

Amongst passers-by a Kallista generates an enormous amount of mirth, concealed or otherwise, and it has to be said that it is an impractical machine.

Boot space, by which I mean the area behind the front seats, is negligible, any journey is an ordeal after a couple of hours, and performance is delivered indelicately, but still you want to keep coming back for more. Any excuse will be found, and one’s instinct for self-preservation is subordinated by the urge to drive the car hard.

Build quality is in fact very impressive. Its assembly from the aluminium pressings stamped out in South Korea is of the highest order and puts to shame many a mass-produced vehicle. Walnut-veneered fascia and cappings, good carpet and comfortable, cloth-covered seats all contribute to a feeling of opulence even without the leather trim offered as an extra.

More than anything, the Kallista is an efficient car. The manufacturer has set the parameters, which it fulfils superbly but beyond which it is a lost cause. Primarily it is a sports-car, but not of the no-frills Fifties variety, for driver-comfort is high on the agenda together with a performance which is electric, especially in the 2.9i — and it is unsuited to long distance touring for the reasons of space if nothing else.

It is thanks to the likes of Panther, Morgan, TVR, Westfield, Caterham and Reliant that many enthusiasts are able to satisfy their mania for independent sportscar driving, so long may these companies continue to live and thrive. WPK