By on December 22, 2017

Image: 2001 Qvale MangustaTechnically 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.

Image: 2001 Qvale MangustaThe 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.

Image: 2001 Qvale MangustaMeanwhile, 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.

Image: 2001 Qvale MangustaAfter 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.Image: 2001 Qvale MangustaKjell 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.Image: 2001 Qvale MangustaThe 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.

Image: 2001 Qvale MangustaWorth 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.

Image: 2001 Qvale MangustaIn 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]

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19 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 2001 Qvale Mangusta, Certainly a Purebred Italian...”

  • avatar

    Wow, that is a face only a momma could love.
    Good find Corey. Odd, but good.

  • avatar

    We have one that shows up regularly at Cars and Coffee Richmond, and the owner has a wonderful time explaining what it is to the onlookers. I surprised him by actually knowing what the car was.

    The biggest surprise you get regarding the car when you see it in the metal is the size. There’s something about pictures that gives you the impression that it’s larger than it is. We’re talking about being slightly larger than Miata sized (which is about 7/8ths the impression pictures give you), and that 4.6 is absolutely shoehorned into the engine bay.

  • avatar
    The ultimate family-friendly hybrid vehicle is finally here.

    There is a similarly named vehicle in eastern Los Angeles – longer, wider, lower and older… the “Q’vole ‘Mano”…

  • avatar

    World’s Fastest Suppository.

    I’m sure the styling and the liberal helping of stuff clearly sourced from a Mustang probably didn’t help it much on the lot. But, yeah, gotta respect the performance this car had.

  • avatar

    Looks better with the top off. It would be a great ride for making people go “Da Fuq?” but not for $32K.

  • avatar

    Looking at that I can’t help but think the MG SV was a brilliant transformation on a shoe string budget

  • avatar

    I remember the first time I saw one of these–in traffic, from the rear. Apparently its one good angle. I was mightily disappointed with what I found when I finally saw the rest of the car.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Important to note, the Qvale Mangusta didn’t have the prosaic Mustang modular 16 valve 4.6L engine. It was shipped with the limited production SVT 4.6L DOHC 32 valve, hand-assembled mill. That’s why it’s so wedged into the engine bay. That engine was a distinctly more powerful, smoother, freer-breathing, more flexible powerplant that was in its 2000 context, fully appropriate to the Qvale. The chassis is very stiff, and handling, with IRS, is nothing like a stick-axle Mustang of the era. I had a modded ’96 SVT Cobra vert at the time and nearly bought a Qvale in 2001 despite its styling quirks. But in the end, I elected to put more cash into further mods for my SVT Cobra, emphasizing handling and dynamics over more power (no, didn’t install a blower). I got surprisingly close to the Qvale’s dynamics, for a fraction of the tab, given I already owned the Cobra. Having saved the difference, I added a Mercury Marauder a couple of years later, which had an assembly-line version of the SVT mill. The 4.6L DOHC variants also saw action in the Mach 1 Mustangs, the Panoz Esperante and Roadster, and its first iteration appeared in the Lincoln Mk VIII as the InTech engine, also making its way into the ’90s Continental. All were fun, responsive powerplants.


  • avatar

    CC effect. I saw one of these on the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday.

  • avatar

    Has a crying emoji face.

  • avatar

    If you told me that a child designed this car I would believe it.

    But the legendary Marcello Gandini? This has to count as one of his most disastrous styling endeavors ever. What an ugly car.

  • avatar

    The late Kjell Qvale and his company British Motor Car Distributors take the Mangusta name back to the 1968-1970 deTomaso Mangusta, when his company was the west coast distributor for this car. As his company name implied, he was also distributing Austin-Healey, MG, and other British cars in the west. I remember stopping at his Compton,CA parts distribution center for these cars to pick up parts, and seeing several Mangusta’s stored to one side of the warehouse. The Qvale Mangusta portion of his business was only a small part of his contribution to selling sports cars in the US, including being the one-time owner of Jensen Cars and the financial partner in the Jensen-Healey project.

  • avatar

    a buddy of mine has one of these… interesting car. Agreed that the 32V 4.6L engine is an awesome choice, and it sounds great with the Borla exhaust. The roto-top is pretty cool… offering the ability to utilize the car as a coupe, a targa, or a convertible. Styling is definitely a matter of taste… looks good from some angles… others, not so much.

  • avatar

    The only angle they look good is the angle facing away from the car.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

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

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