Hallmark Cars and a history with Panther
It was 1984 and Hallmark Cars was born. It marked the beginning of a fascinating journey intertwined with Panther cars. Our very first sales car was a Panther Lima Mark 2 which left a lasting impression with its well-proportioned design, undeniably more captivating than a Morgan and equipped with Vauxhall running gear. The Lima got advertised in the good old Exchange & Mart, within a week it was sold, given its success we set about finding some more.
This time it was the Kallista which was added to our ever-growing stock of sports cars. The aluminum bodied car had switched to Ford running gear with a choice of 2.8 (carb. or injection) or 1.6 CVH engine. Bitten by the Panther bug, I ran one myself for quite a while as well as getting the privilege of driving our Panther fleet.
As this was now our top-selling car, we went to visit the factory in Byfleet where we received a very warm welcome. Shortly afterwards Panther Car Company moved to Harlow in Essex which was a short drive away from us. It was owned by a wealthy Korean company but run by the British, it was a very impressive production line that they had.
They were keen to form a working relationship with us, as secondhand examples were not really their forte, they ran a lot of advertising but any enquiries for used examples, Panther recommended us, and we became approved factory agents.
Their popularity meant that most evenings we were on the road all over the country picking up more Panthers all sold within a blink of an eye.
In the late 80’s the Panther factory started designing a new model called the Solo. It was displayed for the first time at the Motor Show in Earls Court, London and was an immediate success, receiving a substantial number of deposits. Sadly, production difficulties delayed the launch and I think only a handful of cars made it onto the streets.
Our Panther collection expanded to include J72s, selling one left hand drive example to the Marquis of Bristol who had it shipped to Bermuda for his holiday. He part exchanged an AC Cobra replica which was our first Cobra to add to our stock list. An absolute flying machine which we sold back to the last owner of the J72!
Well, all good things must come to an end and unfortunately in 1990, a terrible recession came in. The days of the `yuppies` were over!
The Panther company struggled to survive even trying to switch production to Korea but eventually they closed their doors for the last time. Without the UK factory support, the popularity dwindled, and we eventually chose to switch to AC Cobra replica cars, which were our salvation and became our focus.
But as happens in life we went full circle and after many years in 2005, we found ourselves with another Panther Kallista and once again the interest started to return. Since then, we have multiple models of Panther’s pass through our doors, with one remarkable instance of a lovely lady who had bought a Kallista from us back in the late 80’s and still had the car some 30 years later.
The Kallista when we sold it in 1989
The Kallista when we bought it back 30 years later
I showed her a photo of her with the car on the day she collected it and she said “Oh, I’ve still got that jacket!” We think this has set the record for the longest ownership of one of our cars. I went to North Wales to bring her car home and it has since been passed to a loving new owner. The good news is that after 40 years of trading, we are still going strong and have developed a great understanding and knowledge of this beautiful classic car.
Following a fantastic career in the classic car world, I decided it was time to retire and passed the reins to Mike a stalwart at Hallmark since 1991 and now manages the business.
Founder Hallmark Cars.
This article was featured in The Panther Car Club magazine