De Tomaso was started by Alejandro de Tomaso in 1959 in Italy, although Alejandro was born in Argentina in 1928. He had to flee to Italy in 1955 after being implicated in a plot to overthrow the Argentinian president, Juan Perón. Needless to say he was a character as interesting as his cars and today we’re going to discuss one of those fine automobiles, the Mangusta or Mongoose in English.
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After fleeing to Italy, Alejandro had a very interesting and successful life, first he married Elizabeth Haskell. She was an American Heiress, which I assume helped him fund the start of his new adventurous lifestyle which began with him racing for Maserati in Formula One. This didn’t go great for the Argentinian who participated in four Formula One championships and scored no points.
In 1959, he founded the company De Tomaso in Modena and began working on high performance production cars and used an aluminium backbone chasis which would become the companies trademark. He would later sell most of the company to Ford and then buy it back and then buy, which meant saving, Maserati. These however are all things to discuss at a different time. Today I just want to talk about one beautiful car the company made.
The name of the car is Italian for Mongoose, an animal which can kill cobras and rumour has it the name is in response to a failed deal that Alejandro tried to make with Carrolle Shelby. The two were supposed to work on a race car for CanAm because the cobra was not eligible and Alejandro wanted to use it as a chassis for his new 7.0 liter V8, the two had conflicts over design and the project fell apart with Shelby instead working with Ford on the GT40 that Ken Miles would drive at Le Mans.
Alejandro would instead go on to build the Mangusta and I for one am glad he did.
The car was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro at Ghia, which makes sense as De Tomaso would later buy the Ghia company in 1967, the same year that the car was released. Giugiaro had previously designed the Ferrari 250 GTO for Enzo Ferrari and the Aston Martin DB4, so this car was expected to look stunning and it did.
The front of the car to me looks like if a BMW M1, a Lamborghini Miura and a Ford Mustang from the 60’s had a baby. It’s absolutely stunning and I think it’s honestly way prettier than the Pantera which succeeded it. The car looks aggressive and competent.
Moving round the back you’ve got an iconic design with the split rear window which was at the time, a very popular style. Even better on each side of this was gullwing doors which gave access to the engine and luggage compartment.
In the US, due to safety restrictions 50 of the models were retrofitted with pop-up headlamps and seat belts to allow them to be imported after an waiver for low-production run cars being imported expired.
The last piece was the incredible looking exhaust tips, of which there are four, driving behind this car must have been a great sight to see.
The company would later go on to be 84% owned by Ford but even before that the engine of choice for the company was Ford and this car was no exception. The Mangusta was fitted with a mid-mounted 4.7 liter, 306 hp, Ford 289 V8 engine driven through a five speed, ZF transaxle.
The car was also fitted with all round disc breaks, independent suspension, rack and pinion steering as well as air conditioning so it was ahead of its time.
One was built with a Chevrolet engine specifically for Bill Mitchell, Vice President of General Motors, under specific orders and instruction from him.
In terms of handling there was an issue with the car, the light body and heavy engine gave the car a 32/68 front/rear weight distribution and when you couple that with a less than solid chassis, the car handled poorly and stability was an issue.
That being said, it was fast in a straight line achieving a top speed of 155 mph which doesn’t sound like a lot now, but back in 1967 that was a fast car. It was do 0-60 in 4.9 seconds which again was a very respectable time in those days.
This was the first car that De Tomaso made in any sort of large production run and it garnered much attention including of the Ford Motor Company who bought 84% of the company just four years later. This car would sell 401 units during its short 4 year run but that isn’t a bad figure when you compare it to Lamborghini and others of the time.
The car was also relatively inexpensive for a mid engine sports car and the Pantera that would succeed it would be the same, I would rate it as the C8 Corvette of the 60’s.
I love this car and its definitely a beautiful car which has some how gone under the radar.