- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

NEW IBERIA, La. (AP) - Many connections have been forged over the decades between people from Louisiana and France.

A New Iberia man may have discovered a new one: love of an Italian automobile.

Sonny Walet, 68, acquired a 1972 De Tomaso Pantera in 2008 as a passion project. After years of tinkering with the vehicle, Walet transformed the Pantera into the impeccable state it is in now. Instead of reveling in his success, Walet made the decision to sell it to someone else.

“There was nothing more I could do with it. I thought I might as well sell it,” Walet said.

According to the car’s listing on bestcarfinder.com, the yellow Pantera is equipped with a manual transmission, 408-horsepower engine and two-wheel drive. The overall condition of the car, Walet said, was “fantastic” and he put it on the market with a listing price of $56,000.

“It drives like a sports car,” he said.

Walet, who owns Walet’s Olde Tyme Hardware in New Iberia, is also a member of Pantera International, an online community dedicated to the obsolete automobile. The community caters exclusively to Pantera owners and membership is only allowed to owners of the sports car.

After discovering that Walet’s car was on the market, Nicolas Quentin from Bordeaux, France, stepped up to express interest. After seeing a real Pantera for the first time when he was around 10 years old, Quentin said the car has been on his mind ever since.

“I don’t know why. The Pantera is not the nicest car in the world, not the fastest, not the best completion but since that day I never (forgot) this car,” Quentin said in an email Saturday morning after corresponding briefly in a telephone call to him in France.

Quentin said he has been a huge car hobbyist ever since and even called his fascination in cars an “addiction.” Only six months ago, Quentin owned four cars but decided to sell two. With the money from those purchases, he bought a Ferrari F355 Spider, with which Quentin was more than satisfied.

However, thoughts of the Pantera still came to his mind even after the purchase.

“It was still coming to my thoughts sometime. Like a ghost, you don’t really think about it but it is still there,” Quentin said.

So, Quentin decided to sell his remaining two cars and finally buy a Pantera for himself. Quentin said he wasn’t concerned about the online transaction but said he preferred to communicate via email so he could focus on the English being spoken.

“Very quickly I had a good feeling about Sonny. I didn’t know him but I felt I could trust this man,” Quentin said.

The business side of the transaction came easily as well for both parties.

“We talked and negotiated on it for a while. I said what I wanted and he said what he wanted until we came up with something we were both happy with,” Walet said.

Quentin paid for the Pantera in advance and Walet said the car shipped on July 9. The real power of the story, Walet said, was in the way they both met.

“I think it’s a neat story about the power of technology. We’re two people from different parts of the world who were able to come together and make a transaction thanks to it,” Walet said.

Quentin, however, is thrilled about his new purchase and said Walet could drive it anytime.

“Perhaps one day Sonny will come to France and I will be glad to give him the keys of his car to go for a savage (ride) on the French south west Road!” he said.

___

Information from: The Daily Iberian, https://www.iberianet.com

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