Panoz AIV Roadster - The American Lotus Seven

If the Lotus/Caterham Seven was made in America it would look something like this
If the Lotus/Caterham Seven was made in America it would look something like this

Panoz Auto Development was founded in 1989 by Dan Panoz, the son of billionaire Don Panoz.
Their first car, the Panoz Roadster, was launched in 1992.

The Roadster was a two-seater, open-top roadster inspired by traditional American sportscars or ‘hot-rods’ from the 50s.

The AIV Roadster can be distinguished from its non-AIV counterpart thanks to the huge air intake on the long hood
The AIV Roadster can be distinguished from its non-AIV counterpart thanks to the huge air intake on the long hood

The Roadster was built on a chassis derived from the one used by the TMC Costin, a British lightweight sportscar, to which Panoz had bought the license.

It used 4th gen. Ford Mustang running gear, engine and transmission, as well as a solid rear axle and independent front suspension. The cars, thanks to their Ford mechanicals, were also sold through Ford dealers, along with warranty.

Lotus - Panoz AIV Roadster - The American Lotus Seven - American Cars

An updated version of the Roadster, dubbed the Panoz AIV Roadster, debuted in 1996.
The AIV stood for Aluminium Intensive Vehicle, referring to the fact that the Panoz was the first mass produced American car made mostly out of aluminium.

It had an extruded aluminum space frame with a central backbone that saved both weight and assembly time. Special adhesives were used to attach the frame to the body.

The AIV Roadster can be distinguished from the non-AIV model thanks to the huge air intake on the hood, which was fitted to improve engine cooling.

The SVT Cobra's 4.6-litre V8 was also used by the AIV Roadster
The SVT Cobra's 4.6-litre V8 was also used by the AIV Roadster

The engine was the same 4,604 cc V8 used by the Ford Mustang SVT Cobra, which produced 305 hp at 5,800 rpm and 410 nm of torque at 4,800 rpm. That meant that the AIV’s power-to-weight ratio was much better than the standard Roadster and air conditioning could now be installed without causing significant changes in the car’s performance. Still, there was no radio, no heater and further more no place to install any of those.

The power was sent to the rear wheels via a 5-speed, short throw manual gearbox.

Thanks to the massive weight reduction and power increase it was now possible to install A/C without seriously compromising the car's performance
Thanks to the massive weight reduction and power increase it was now possible to install A/C without seriously compromising the car's performance

The AIV Roadster could launch from 0-60 in just 4.3 seconds, an impressive figure at the time, although top speed was not as exciting, topping out at 225 km/h (140 mph) due to the body’s high cx value.
The handling, however, was quick, nimble and precise, thanks to the new racing inspired, four-wheel independent suspension system with coil-over absorbers, and the brakes were powerful.
The Panoz, unlike most American sportscars, was very stable, at least until you pushed it too hard.

Lotus - Panoz AIV Roadster - The American Lotus Seven - American Cars

The Panoz AIV Roadster ended production in 1999.

A special edition, called Signature Edition 2000, was created by modifying 10 AIVs, which were fitted with special paint, a supercharger and a signature.

Lotus - Panoz AIV Roadster - The American Lotus Seven - American Cars

In total, just 176 AIVs were made during the model’s production run, which combined to the 44 non-AIV Roadsters bumps the total up to 220 cars.

Some of these cars were owned by several celebrities, such as Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler.

It was replaced by the Panoz Esperante.

Lotus - Panoz AIV Roadster - The American Lotus Seven - American Cars

The Panoz AIV Roadster has appeared in the following games: Midtown Madness (1999), Midtown Madness 2 (2000), Test Drive 6 (GBC) (2001), Test Drive 2001 (2001) and rFactor 2 (2012).

Lotus - Panoz AIV Roadster - The American Lotus Seven - American Cars

This article is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Donaldo Panunzio, better known as Don Panoz, who has sadly passed away exactly a year ago, on September 11, 2018 of pancreatic cancer, at the age of 83.

He will be remembered for the amazing sportscars he helped create and for his huge influence in the American racing scene, which continues still to this day. May he rest in peace.

R.I.P. Don Panoz
February 13, 1935 - September 11, 2018