Panoz is an automobile manufacturer whose sexy sports cars are exotics in the truest sense of the word. The company's cars are drop-dead gorgeous and come with steep price tags; additionally, given the fact that a relatively small number of Panoz vehicles are made each year, a Panoz offers more exclusivity than your typical Ferrari or Bentley. Panoz makes only sports cars and its current lineup consists of just one model, the Esperante, available in both roadster and coupe body styles. Introduced in 2001 and relatively unchanged since then, the Esperante is hand-built and made mostly of aluminum.
The Panoz story begins with Eugene Panunzio, a champion boxer who emigrated to the U.S. from Italy in the early 1900s. He shortened his last name to Panoz and settled in West Virginia. In 1960 his son Donald started the Mylan Laboratories pharmaceutical company; nine years later, Donald and his family moved to Ireland where he started another drug company, called Elan Pharmaceuticals. Donald's 26-year-old car-enthusiast son, Daniel, ended up working for the Thompson Motor Company (TMC) in 1988. TMC went out of business that same year and Donald bought the rights to one of its chassis, which was designed by Frank Costin, an engineer who'd made a name for himself building racecar chassis for Maserati and Lotus.
The next year saw the birth of the Panoz Automotive Development Company. A small, renovated salt storage shed located near Atlanta was the site of company headquarters. In 1990, Panoz brought out its first car, a powerful, cycle-fendered roadster called simply the Panoz Roadster. Initially, the Panoz cars were only produced to order, and hence not many were made. By 1996, the Roadster, now called the AIV Roadster, saw full production. The following year Panoz introduced the Esperante racecar, which saw success in USRRC and American Le Mans racing series. By the end of the decade, the Panoz family empire had grown to include racing venues, the American Le Mans series and a racing school.
In 2001, the Esperante became available as a street car. On its hood was the company's crest that was created by Daniel Panoz himself. The red, white and blue coloring indicates that the company is based in the U.S. Its swirls are a nod to the Japanese yin-yang symbol, while the shamrock points to the roots of the first chassis Panoz developed. The Esperante was produced through 2006 and was available in various roadster and coupe configurations. Though Panoz hasn't had a U.S. presence since then, by the end of the decade it showed it wasn't dead in a big way by creating the limited-production Abruzzi Spirit of Le Mans. The latter was a 600-horsepower supercar slated solely for the European market.