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Any fan of Elvis Presley can attest that the long-gone celebrity loved Cadillac cars. Not only did Presley drive a pink Cadillac himself, but he also gave hundreds of Caddies away to friends, fans, and family members. You might not know that the celebrated king of rock ‘n’ roll bought an entirely different kind of car for his girlfriend in 1971, then dumped them both a mere two years later.

The penultimate girlfriend and the De Tomaso Pantera

Elvis Presley with girlfriend Linda Thompson riding in a car after a concert in March 1976
Elvis Presley with Linda Thompson | Tom Wargacki/WireImage via Getty Images

Elvis Presley was famous for several reasons, not the least of which was his penchant for gifting people with expensive cars. Most of the Elvis-given cars were Cadillacs, but he occasionally bestowed a Lincoln Continental on a worthy recipient.

Linda Thompson came into Presley’s life in the summer of 1972, just months after his first and only wife, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, filed for divorce. When Presley and Thompson locked eyes at a private movie screening in Memphis, Tennessee, the “Hound Dog” singer and the newly-crowned Miss Tennessee Universe were 37 and 22 years old, respectively.

In 1974, the “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” singer paid $2400 for a used De Tomaso Pantera for Thompson, who was by then his live-in girlfriend. According to Elvis Australia, the 1971 Pantera came with a hand-crafted Carrozzeria Vignale body and a muscular engine that could go from a dead stop to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds. The sporty vehicle was not made as well as it could have been, and the finish rusted quickly, but it did boast push-button door handles.

Combining the beefy get-up-and-go of a Ford Cleveland V8 engine with signature Italian styling, the De Tomaso Pantera was produced in various iterations from 1971 through 1992. Around 7,000 of the sporty cars were made, and the one that Elvis shot is probably the most famous of them all. Perhaps not as notable as Presley’s pink Cadillac, the high-testosterone Pantera remains a featured part of the Presley legend since he pulled out a pistol and shot the car on two separate occasions.

Elvis Presley assaults an automobile

Judging by how Elvis Presley managed his frustration with television with a firearm, it is as little if any surprise that “The King” put more than one bullet into the yellow Pantera. Noting that the car was plagued with problems, Hagerty explained that the famed rock ‘n’ roller once took potshots at the steering wheel and peppered the driver-side door with bullets because the vehicle refused to start.

American radio personality George Klein was with Presley at another car shooting. As Klein told Elvis Australia, the Ford-powered sports car had broken down en route to Graceland and was parked in a back driveway after being towed home. While visiting the rock star at Graceland, Klein asked about the failed car. In response, an annoyed Elvis pulled out a pistol and shot the car again.

Remarkably, the car started up and was operable afterward, according to Klein. Soon after, Elvis broke things off with Thompson and sold the bullet-riddled Pantera in 1976.

Elvis Presley and Linda Thompson, after the Pantera

After giving up the keys to the Pantera and breaking up with Elvis Presley, Linda Thompson left the Graceland home she’d shared with “The King” for more than four years and set her sights on Hollywood, where she landed a full-time gig on the countrified comedy show, Hee Haw.

According to Curbside Classic, Elvis went on to buy several more cars, including a mint-green Triumph TR6 he presented to Ginger Alden, to whom he was engaged when he died of an apparent drug overdose in 1977.


The De Tomaso Pantera Should Not Have Been Forgotten