Saturday 18 November 2017

Dan Panoz

ROISIN BURKE

petrolhead and pharma heir Dan Panoz took an Irish high-performance car concept and drove it into the international big time.

Dan moved from Pittsburgh in the US to Athlone as a child when his father Donald started up Elan Pharmaceuticals in 1969. From childhood he was car-mad, constantly drawing car designs. In 1988 26-year-old Panoz went to work for the Wexford-based sports car builder Thompson Motor Company (TMC), but soon afterwards it went bankrupt.

Seeing an opportunity, he bought the rights to a TMC chassis designed by the legendary auto engineer Frank Costin of Maserati and Lotus fame. Panoz used this chassis as a starting point to set up a luxury sports-car factory in a warehouse outside of Atlanta, Georgia, along with two former TMC engineers.

There in the US deep south, the Panoz Automotive Development Company produced the Panoz Roadster (1990) and the Esperante (2000), limited-edition hand-built cars that challenged some of the aristocratic European names like Ferrari and Porsche.

Together with his father he also founded Panoz Motor Sports, a racing business with race venues, an American Le Mans series and a racing school.

Panoz cars became a fixture at Le Mans from the mid-Nineties. Last summer the company introduced to the famous French racing circuit the Abruzzi Spirit of Le Mans, a 600-horsepower supercar aimed at the European and Middle East markets.

Panoz cars bear a crest which incorporates a shamrock, in homage to the company's Irish roots.

As well as heading up Panoz Auto Development, Dan is a regular presence at the family's Chateau Elan, a winery, resort and spa in Braselton, Georgia. He even designed dedicated vine-planting machinery used there.

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