Journal: The De Tomaso Mangusta, An Alternative Vision

The De Tomaso Mangusta, An Alternative Vision

By Adam Kaslikowski
February 20, 2013
15 comments

Not many sports car makers would name their prized product after a mongoose, but then Alejandro de Tomaso did a lot of things other car makers wouldn’t. For instance, having a steel backbone chassis for instance or dialing in a 32/68 rearward-biased weight distribution. That’s not to say that all these risks paid off—oh, heavens no. But de Tomaso went for it, and I have to respect that.

The De Tomaso Mangusta (mangusta being the Italian word for mongoose) was the Argentinian’s second car produced under the company that bore his name. It was largely an evolution of his first car, the Vallelunga. For the Mangusta, de Tomaso enlarged the engine to a good ol’ American Ford V8 engine, paired it with the same 5 speed ZF box used in the GT40, and wrapped all that goodness in a sleek and futuristic new Giugiaro-designed body.

Having only built 53 of his Vallelungas, the Mangusta was the first car which de Tomaso built at large quantities. By “large quantities” I mean only 401 were produced between 1967 and 1971. Since only about half of these mongooses survive in the world today, they are a rare breed, indeed.

The recent skyrocketing of Mangusta prices reflect their rarity. The car which followed the Mangusta, the Pantera, has always been a more well-known car, but it is now being eclipsed by its older sibling. Mangustas are trading at a premium over the Pantera and by a good margin.

American versions of Mangustas were originally imported under federal waivers—because of their small number—which exempted them from the normal safety laws and regulations of 1969. These early Mangustas came without seatbelts and included headlights that were far lower than federal standards allowed. When the exemptions expired the following year, the front end was hastily redesigned to include pop-up headlights instead. These new lights functioned through a crude level-and-cable arrangement, which fed into the cabin. Although more rare, these pop-up versions are generally less valuable as the quad headlight design is deemed more aesthetically pleasing.

The Mangusta was the individualist’s choice of supercar. As Saab was to Mercedes or BMW, De Tomaso was to Ferrari or Lamborghini. These storied Italian thoroughbreds were precisely with whom de Tomaso wanted to compete, and compared the Ferrari and Lamborghini V8 offerings of the day, the Mangusta was a going proposition. While his competitors dropped massive and exotic aluminum v12s with overhead cams into their masterpieces, de Tomaso took a decidedly different approach by using the humble but powerful cast-iron Ford V8. It would seem to have been the right choice: power is not among the Mangusta’s shortcomings. The marriage of exotic Italian coachwork with plebeian-yet-reliable American power is a potent match.

However, without a V12 to compete with the Miura and the Daytona, De Tomaso cars did not quite live up to their contemporary rivals in the supercar game. Given the contemporary reports of the Mangusta’s possibly erratic handling behavior, it is highly doubtful the chassis could have accepted a V12 (in either power or length) to battle the supercar heavyweights. Though less headline grabbing than its rivals, the Mangusta has popped up in everything from Kill Bill to a Kylie Minogue video to the original Gone in 60 Seconds.

Visual highlights of the Mangusta include gorgeous gullwing engine covers, a streamlined classic wedge-shaped body, and shrouded headlamps. To my eye the Giugiaro design looks like a more restrained and sophisticated Lamborghini coupe. It has perhaps even aged better than its rivals, taking on an exotic mystique and class. Alejandro de Tomaso did many things that other sports car makers would not, and the world is a better place for it.

Make: De Tomaso
Model: Mangusta
Coachwork Design: Giorgetto Giugiaro
Years Built: 1967-1971
Total Produced: 401
Engine: 4.7L-5.0L Ford V8
Power Produced: 221hp-306hp
Torque Produced: 300lb-ft
Curb Weight: 2,612lbs
Price When New: $11,500

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[…] Tomaso Mangusta. More Ford motivation here, for one of the earliest mid-engine supercars. From Mangusta to Pantera the venerable 351ci V8 ‘Cleveland’ motor provided ample grunt. There was […]

Rockdad
Rockdad
6 years ago

The business end. Piddly 4 nut wheel lugs replaced by proper racing wheels and Avon slicks. I knew a guy who B&B’d his engine, output over 500HP and he ripped all eight lugs off the rear end during acceleration. On the street here in OC.

Rockdad
Rockdad
6 years ago

From the front. This car is FAST!!

Rockdad
Rockdad
6 years ago

Okay all you Mangusta trashers, here’s one that has been properly sorted, seen at the Auto Club Raceway historic races in California.

Jim Levitt
Jim Levitt
6 years ago

The Mangusta changed my life.
When I first saw the show car in or around 1966-67, I said to myself if they are ever for sale here I WILL own one. The winter of 68-69 came and I found out they were available in the US in one place only. BMC Ltd in Anaheim. I was living in Phila, PA and just finished college and also had come into some money. I called them, they said they had one on the floor for sale. I took the first plane to LA, went to Anaheim and promptly bought it! I stayed there for a couple of weeks at a friends while making out a punch list of over 40 things on the car that needed to be taken care of and told them that when it was done to call me.
During that two week time I discovered gorgeous women in CA!! so I packed up my old 912 and decided to move to SoCal and my life was never the same since. As for the Mangusta, while being one of the most gorgeous cars in LA (pretty hard to do) it also was one of the biggest POS on the road!They were just awful cars with the worst handling car I think I ever owned.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
6 years ago

The Mangusta . A devastatingly beautiful body … wrapped around some of the most ill conceived and mechanicals ever created and engineered calling itself an exotic or a supercar . Which is to say …

Have a real good look ..

But take a serious pass when it comes to driving [ I have ] or owning one

You’ll be glad you did … 😉

Jerry Horton
Jerry Horton
8 years ago

Great article! I’ve been loving Mangustas lately. They seem to be an older, more sophisticated brother to the Pantera, and the bonnet gets me every time.

-Jerry Horton, drivekulture.com

Jordan Lockhart
Jordan Lockhart
9 years ago

Hood profile reminds me of the Lamborghini Espada. Beautiful! 😮

Ae Neuman
Ae Neuman
9 years ago

car ‘n film buffs should checkout kill bill v2.

a mangusta features !

[img]http://www.panteracars.com/killbill52704j.jpg[/img]

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
9 years ago

IIRC the Mangusta (Mongoose) name was chosen in reference to the Mongoose’s talent for killing Cobras, or Shelby Cobras in this case.

Afshin Behnia
Afshin Behnia
9 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Lange

Good memory! Adam (the author) pointed that out, but chose not to include it because we didn’t find anything that conclusively verified it. But I like the story and hope that it’s true.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
9 years ago
Reply to  Afshin Behnia

There is a massive thread about Mangustas in the Other Italian Section of Ferrarichat. I’ve not been through the whole thread but wouldn’t be surprised if the answer is in there? http://www.ferrarichat.com/forum/other-italian/228056-mangusta-thread.html

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
6 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Lange

Mr Lange good sir !

Me thinks once again your tendencies towards revisionist history not to mention your overt Italian bias is screaming thru loudly once again . Simply put NO Mangusta ever built was or is able to keep up with even so much as a Shelby GT350 Mustang … never mind killing off any of the Cobras . Fact is the Mangusta is a vile handling pile of bolts with all the performance and handling of an oxcart wrapped in a beautiful GG designed body who’s propensity for falling apart or worse .. killing its driver [ thats why so few survive ] has only been eclipsed in the so called ‘ supercar ‘ world by the joke known as the DeLorean . Suffice it to say ; the Mangusta [ named after the animal due to its aggressiveness … a trait the Mangusta was never able to live up to ] ItaloTrash ….still is ItaloTrash … and the fact that the prices are on the rise above the vastly superior [ albeit almost equally flawed *] Pantera only goes to prove just how delusional todays classic car market has become . Where Fair has become Foul … and Foul has become Fair .. to paraphrase the bard

Seriously Mr Lange ; No insult intended but … Pull your head out of the Ferrari / Italian stench and fog … grab a serious breath of fresh air [ you’re more than welcome to join me up here in CO ] and get in touch with the real history … not the blatant myth and revisionist garbage posing as history of late .

* Nobody in his or her right mind even so much as considers buying a totally original or god forbid restored Pantera because of their massive amount of flaws . You buy a nicely updated and/or resto modded one …. that’ll work … rather than be window dressing

Nate Turnage
Nate Turnage
9 years ago

Why do none of the “Continue to the next page to read more.” links actually work?

BTW, I have been completely nuts about De Tomaso’s cars. Thanks for covering them, twice.

Afshin Behnia
Afshin Behnia
9 years ago
Reply to  Nate Turnage

We’re going to be improving the UI in the next few weeks to make things more intuitive. To move back and forth between pages, click on the arrows in the red bar just above the comments / just below the article. It’ll be much more clear soon 🙂

Glad you’re enjoying the Mangustas!