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Green with envy: Georgia’s Panoz restores a one-of-a-kind street-legal Le Mans car

Georgia-based Panoz has just finished restoring the only remaining Esperante GTR-1 Homologation Special. Hailed as one of the most hardcore street-legal cars the small company has ever built, the 18-year-old coupe will be displayed at this year’s edition of the Dubai Motor Show.

As its name implies, the Esperante GTR-1 Homologation Special is essentially a street-legal version of the front-engined Esperante GTR-1 that unsuccessfully competed in the 1997 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It wears an eye-catching green paint job, rides on black center-locking wheels, and is markedly more muscular-looking than the Esperante on which it’s based thanks in part to an aerodynamic, model-specific body crafted entirely out of carbon fiber.

Inside, Panoz has attempted to make the race car’s track-focused, back-to-basics cabin more livable by adding niceties such as beige leather upholstery on the dashboard, the steering wheel, and the bucket seats, and carbon fiber trim around the instrument cluster. All told, the restoration process took over six months.

Power is provided by a Ford-derived, fuel-injected 6.0-liter V8 engine that generates over 600 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. The eight-cylinder spins the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transaxle built by ZF. Performance specifications haven’t been published, but the GTR-1 undoubtedly delivers neck-snapping acceleration because it tips the scale at less than 2,000 pounds.

Panoz is hanging on to the original GTR-1 in its private collection, but it’s open to the idea of using the original body and tub molds to build a replica for customers who are willing to part with nearly $900,000. Interested buyers can specify whether they want the coupe built with carbon fiber or with another material, and they can work directly with Panoz to design a unique car by choosing from a wide palette of paint colors and by customizing the cockpit.

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Alternatively, Panoz is actively developing an evolution of the GTR-1 that promises to be more comfortable, more user-friendly, and just as fast as the original model. If approved for production, it will be more spacious than the GTR-1 that was built in 1997, and it will be fitted with both a rear window and a climate control system.