This is an original Panoz AIV from 1997, it’s billed as America’s first aluminum-intensive vehicle, and it was developed to offer state-of-the-art engineering with 1950s hot rod influenced styling.

At the time of its release in 1996, the Panoz AIV (Aluminum Intensive Vehicle) was one of the most advanced sports cars being made in the United States. It’s powered by the Mustang SVT Cobra all-aluminum DOHC V8, and it could do the 0-62 mph dash in just 4.3 seconds.

Fast Facts – The Panoz AIV

  • The Panoz AIV Roadster, introduced in 1996, stood out for its pioneering use of aluminum, which comprised roughly 70% of its structure, including the chassis and body. This significantly reduced weight and improved performance.
  • Founded in 1989 by Daniel Panoz, Panoz Auto Development is known for creating innovative American sports cars. The company made its mark with the Panoz Roadster in the early ’90s, followed by the aluminum-intensive AIV Roadster in 1996. In later years the company would produce a series of advanced road and race cars.
  • The AIV Roadster was fitted with a Ford Mustang SVT Cobra 4.6 liter V8, producing 305 bhp and 300 lb ft of torque. This enabled the lightweight roadster to do the 0 to 62 mph run in just 4.3 seconds, making it one of the fastest accelerating American production cars of its time.
  • 176 production examples of the Panoz AIV were made, as well as 6 prototypes. They were sold from 1996 to 2000, and the car would later be featured in the racing games Midtown Madness and rFactor 2.
  • The Panoz AIV you see in this article is a 1997 model from relatively early in the production run. It’s fitted with a 5-speed manual transmission (as they all were), it’s finished in Black with a Tan interior, and it has a convertible soft top.

The Panoz AIV Roadster

The Panoz AIV Roadster was a vehicle that could only have been made by a low-volume automaker, it was fitted with a cutting edge extruded aluminum spaceframe chassis with a central backbone that offered excellent rigidity, a low weight, and high levels of corrosion resistance. The process to build each car was intensive however, requiring at least 350 hours of labor per vehicle.

Above Video: This is the original MotorWeek review of the Panoz AIV Roadster from 1998. It gives an excellent overview of the car, and it includes plenty of driving footage to give you an idea of what driving the car is really like.

The name AIV stood for (Aluminum Intensive Vehicle) and it wasn’t just a marketing gimmick, the vehicle is 70% aluminum by weight including the chassis, engine, and body. As a result of this extensive use of lightweight aluminum alloys, it has a curb weight of only 2,570 lbs (or 1,170 kgs).

Power is provided by the 4.6 liter DOHC Modular 32 valve V8 from the Ford Mustang SVT Cobra, and the same 5-speed transmission was also used.

Whereas the Mustang SVT Cobra had a 0 – 62 mph time of 5.9 seconds, the Panoz AIV Roadster could do it in just 4.3 seconds due to the fact it was 821 lbs lighter, this was despite the fact that both cars had the same engine producing 305 bhp at 5,800 rpm and 300 lb ft of torque at 4,800 rpm.

Unlike the Panoz Roadster that came before it, a vehicle with a tubular steel frame and a live axle rear end, the Panoz AIV Roadster was developed with independent front and rear suspension. This, coupled with four wheel disc brakes, resulted in it being one of the quickest production cars in the United States around most circuits in the country.

This was a good thing considering the fact that at the same time, the parent company of Panoz Auto Development, owned the American Le Mans Series, Road Atlanta, Sebring International Raceway, Mosport International Raceway, and the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA).

The AIV Roadster would remain in production from 1996 to 2000, in total there would be 176 production examples made, along with an earlier 6 prototypes.

Panoz AIV Roadster 9

Image DescriptionThe Panoz AIV Roadster is said to have been developed as a modern take on the classic 1950s American hot rod, but with state-of-the-art engineering and razor sharp performance.

Almost 30 years have now passed since the model was first introduced, and sadly Panoz is now no more, but thanks to the aluminum chassis and body, and the use of the relatively bulletproof Ford V8, many of the cars have survived in excellent condition.

The one key benefit of the decision to buy the engine, drivetrain, differential, brakes, and suspension from other companies off the shelf is that owner’s are typically able to source most spare parts with relative ease and without breaking the bank.

The 1997 Panoz AIV Roadster Shown Here

The car you see here is a Panoz AIV Roadster from 1997, making it one of the earlier production examples. As you would expect, it’s powered by the correct Mustang SVT Cobra DOHC V8 which is mated to its 5-speed manual transmission – no automatic option was ever offered.

One of the other benefits of the later AIV Roadster over its earlier predecessor, apart from the improved engine and chassis, is the fitment of an air conditioning system which makes the car a little easier to live with during the warmer and colder months of the year.

Panoz AIV Roadster 18

Image DescriptionPower is provided by the Mustang SVT Cobra DOHC V8, this is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, and it produces 305 bhp at 5,800 rpm and 300 lb ft of torque at 4,800 rpm..

This particular AIV is finished in Black with a Tan interior, it also has a folding soft top, and alloy wheels. The interior of the vehicle is surprisingly well fitted out for a low production volume sports car, easily matching or bettering the interiors of much larger automakers from the same era in the same market segment.

If you’d like to read more about this car or register to bid you can visit the listing on Mecum here. It’s due to roll across the auction block in early April and at the time of writing there is no estimate attached to the lot.

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Images courtesy of Mecum

Published by Ben Branch -