Rare Rides: The 2001 Qvale Mangusta, Certainly a Purebred Italian

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 2001 qvale mangusta certainly a purebred italian

Technically complicated, Italian designed, and American powered, the Qvale Mangusta mixed together ingredients from two continents into an exotic sports coupe.

But it wasn’t supposed to be called Mangusta, nor was it to wear a Qvale badge. The looks aren’t the only dramatic part of this coupe.

The idea for the Mangusta was conceived in the early 1990s. A man by the name of Giordano Casarini was working for Maserati as a technical director. During some trips to the UK, Casarini saw the then-new TVR Griffith and was quite taken by its style and success. The Griffith was on his mind as he returned to Italy.

Meanwhile, racing legend and car company owner Alejandro de Tomaso was wondering what he might do to create a resurgence for his car company, which had gained fame in the 1970s with models like the Pantera.

De Tomaso was friends with Casarini, and went to him for some advice. Naturally, Casarini suggested that de Tomaso might come up with a similar vehicle to the TVR. De Tomaso liked this idea very much, and immediately began to negotiate a release for Casarini from his day job at Maserati. He was successful.

After the design was underway (via Marcello Gandini of Lamborghini Countach fame), Casarini turned to Ford to supply engines, just as he had done with the Pantera (a 351 cubic-inch V8 in 1971). Ford agreed to supply a Mustang 4.6-liter V8 and the supporting electrics and transmission.

By 1996 a prototype was ready, and it was presented at the Geneva Motor Show as the De Tomaso Biguà. Before development could continue, however, de Tomaso needed some cash. His health was in decline, and an appeal to the Italian government for funding was denied. In comes Qvale.

Kjell Qvale was a North American importer for Maserati vehicles in years past. In 1997 a new company was formed for Mangusta production, Qvale Modena SpA. Kjell’s son Bruce led the project from there on, finding the operation a much-needed production facility.

The production itself ended up being high-tech, with the chassis for each Mangusta being made of laser-cut steel sections. The body consisted of resin panels utilizing the same resin transfer molding technique as the Alfa Romeo SZ and Lotus Elan M100. Gandini developed a unique convertible roof for the Mangusta called a “roto-top.” With this covering, the main roof panel was removed manually, leaving the rear portion of the roof to rotate forward into a space behind the seats.

Ready for introduction in production form, Qvale brought the coupe to the 2000 Los Angeles Motor Show. It was to be the De Tomaso brand’s return to North American shores. Around the same time, de Tomaso himself was working on another project — a new generation of the Pantera.

Qvale got wind of the Pantera idea and, as the present financial backer of De Tomaso, was not pleased. The two parties could not resolve their differences; Qvale cut ties with de Tomaso and put a Qvale name on their coupe. It hit showrooms in early 2000 with a price tag of $78,900. The Mangusta would prove to be de Tomaso’s last car effort, as he passed away in May of 2003 at the age of 74.

Journalistic acclaim followed for the Mangusta, but the car never took off with the general public. Between 2000 and 2002, just 284 cars rolled off the line at Modena. Another company took note of the Mangusta, though. Over in England, MG had a few ideas of its own. In 2000 Qvale had contacted MG about a European distribution deal, but MG wanted more.

By 2001, Qvale and MG had negotiated a deal to sell all Mangusta production assets to the British company. MG started on their new car, and as Mangusta production wound down, MG’s XPower SV was introduced. Also built in Modena, it would remain in production from 2003 to 2005. Qvale has not produced a car since.

Worth noting, just 55 Mangustas were equipped with automatic transmissions, which is what you see here today. Never before have I seen a Mangusta for sale with an automatic.

In addition to the common-for-exotic-prices Ford engine under the hood, matters are not helped by the interior — which appears to be a mashup of Ford Mustang and other components.

Despite that, the Mangusta is undoubtedly rare, and available at a dealer in New Jersey for $32,995.

[Images via seller]

Join the conversation
2 of 19 comments
  • Chuck Goolsbee Chuck Goolsbee on Jan 01, 2018

    Way back, I recall walking through Seattle, specifically right by the Kingdome (RIP) north parking lot, and it was filled with these cars, all running a cone course. Must have been auto-journalists.

  • 415s30 415s30 on Jan 08, 2018

    I saw one of those on the road and I couldn't remember the name.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?