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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • 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.

  • Carson D Honda and Toyota still make the best American cars.
  • Slavuta I just though, with this rate we could make Cinco De Mayo a national holiday as well. Since we have tens of millions of American Mexicans, and probably more than African Americans
  • Wjtinfwb Well, it LOOKS pretty great for 36 years old and 356k miles! I've seen plenty of 2 decade newer trucks that looked like a shrapnel bomb went off inside and and exterior that looked worse. This owner got everything out of that truck it had. Time to let it retire to the farm.
  • Wjtinfwb Stellantis. They've gone from Hero to Zero in 24 months with some really stupid decisions and allowing politicians to influence their business. They also hung onto old products way too long and relied on RAM and Jeep to pull them through. RAM plays in the most competitive market of all, full-size trucks and competition is brutal with Ford and GM keeping their foot to the floor on development and improvement. Chrysler now has one model, a 5 year old van. Dodge made a living off old cars with stupendous power, that's gone with the mothballing of the Hemi. The Hornet is an overpriced joke. Now they have new Durango Pursuit's self-destruction because of a plastic oil cooler that self destructs and dumps oil into the coolant lunching the engine. Grand Cherokee, a staple of Jeep has not been well received and has limited power options due to canning the Hemi. Now they've got to build interest around the Hurricane turbo in-line 6 in trucks, Charger's and Jeeps. If that engine turns out to be problematic its likely lights out in Sterling Heights.
  • Ajla Tim, any chance when you "pop on" you can have someone look into why comments under your authored posts don't allow any formatting, links, or editing?