It’s nearly as familiar a story as boy meets girl — racing driver decides to build ultimate roasters. And so it was when Argentinian racer Alejandro de Tomaso migrated from the USA to Italy with his American wife in the late 1950s. He played around with assorted racing cars but really wanted De Tomaso Automobili to create stunning sports cars. After suffering various failed prototypes and false starts he finally came up with his first winner — the Mangusta.
This innovative but sporran two-seater had one great selling point — lots of bang for the buck. The Mangusta was wide and sat low to the ground, coming with disc brakes all round and alternative engines — a big 118 for Europe and an even bigger one for America. It had distinctive gullwing doors that opened above the rear engine and luggage compartments but it wasn’t exactly comfortably appointed and didn’t even drive that well, being hard to handle and suffering from instability at high speed. But buyers didn’t care about the shortcomings, because the mighty Mangusta’s performance was nothing less than awesome.
This was not intended to be a well-appointed GT car, instead being designed with a view to creating powerful appeal for enthusiasts who liked the exhilarating notion of driving a racing car on the road. Muscular macho character did not deliver a vast pool of buyers, but there were certainly enough out there to ensure that 80 Mangustas were sold in each of the production run’s five years.
This added up to commercial success and allowed Alejandro de Tomaso’s company to thrive and prosper in the coming decades. There are thought to be around 200 Mangustas out there somewhere each still capable of pinning its driver to the bucket when pedal is metalled.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1967 (until 1971)
Europe – 4,728 cc V8; USA – 4.9 I (302 cid) V8
With 4.9 I engine – top speed of 155 mph (249 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.9 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Italian word mangusta translates as ‘mongoose’, renowned enemy of cobras – the car being so named because a consignment of Ford engines intended for De Tomaso instead went into Shelby Cobras. May the best creature win!