By on May 18, 2020

Rare Rides has covered a few De Tomaso vehicles in past, but today’s Italian classic predates all those presented thus far. From 1970, it’s the second car ever offered by its parent brand, and the first model which was produced in a mass quantity of over 100 vehicles.

Let’s learn about the Mangusta.

The Mangusta was successor to De Tomaso’s very limited production introductory model, the Vallelunga. Produced from 1964 to 1968, just 53 examples exited the factory in Turin. Part of the reason so few cars were produced was that De Tomaso didn’t want to make his own cars. After the Vallelunga was designed by Fissore, De Tomaso planned to sell it on to a third party for production. However, nobody took the bait, so he farmed out production to Ghia instead. And a new car brand was formed.

De Tomaso’s second product entry was a bit more intentional. Given the company’s ongoing relationship, De Tomaso hired Ghia to design the Mangusta. Penning its shape was the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro. The new car was a long time in development, as a completed prototype was shown in 1965 at the Turin Motor Show and displayed as the Sport 5000. De Tomaso was so interested in Ghia and its work that he purchased the company in 1967; right around the time the Mangusta entered production. Surely the move was an economical one, ending the contract work between the two firms.

As might be expected, the donor chassis for the Mangusta came from the Vallelunga. The steel platform saw extensive reinforcements , as the Mangusta was larger, heavier, and much more powerful than its predecessor. The production Mangusta was a unique design amongst its competitors, given it featured very unusual gullwing doors for the hood. The rest of the body’s design was more typical of a Seventies Italian super car.

Power was familiar enough: European examples used Ford’s HiPo 289 (4.7L) V8, while American ones suffered with a larger 302 (4.9L) engine from the Mustang. The difference in power was considerable, as Europeans had 306 horses underfoot while Americans made do with 230. Unfortunately, later versions for all nations employed the 302.

In use as a car, the Mangusta was a pretty flawed ride. Its weight distribution was poor, 32/68 front/rear, which made for some interesting handling. The unbalanced weight combined with a compromised chassis. Though De Tomaso reworked the chassis for Mangusta use, nothing could hide its original lightweight sports car intentions (the Mangusta weighed a whopping 1,300 pounds more than the Vallelunga).

Still, Mangusta stayed in production through 1971, and a full 401 examples made their way out of Turin. By then, De Tomaso was ready with a prime time successor. It was the coupe the company is now known for: Pantera.

Today’s Rare Ride is glorious in metallic light green. For sale in Germany, it asks $354,000.

[Images: seller]

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24 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1969 De Tomaso Mangusta – Building a Brand...”


  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    I was about 5 years old, around 1970, and a neighbor pulled up on a dark brown Mangusta with tan interior. Not quite the kind of car you expected to see in a middle class subdivision in Cincinnati. The neighbor was a recent Italian immigrant who was a brick mason and had no other interesting cars. I have no clue why he bought that car but it was cool as hell.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Made Man?

      • 0 avatar

        Entirely possible, that element was pretty present in Cincy and NKY through the Eighties.

        Eventually they cleaned up the crime strip which was Newport, and I think that lessened the activity a lot.

      • 0 avatar
        CincyDavid

        Never crossed my mind that the neighbor might be connected. I do recall that my mother thought it was inappropriate that he wore a leather jacket ala Donnie Brasco(spelling???) to mass at Our Lady of Lourdes. My dad’s late uncle owned the Oldsmobile dealership in Newport KY and could tell some stories about the mob guys in Kentucky driving Ninety Eights so they would blend a little and not just scream out “bad guy” like a black Fleetwood would.

        The Newport Aquarium sits on the site where Simon & Fischer Olds used to be.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Pantera – given that a Pantera can be had for a relatively reasonable price, that the Pantera has a vibrant enthusiast community dedicated to helping owners short out the problems with the car… I can’t feel any attraction to the Mangusta. Unless you’ve got so much money you want a very expensive piece of sculpture you can occasionally move around. (32/68 weight distribution? YIKES!)

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      A friend of mine had a Pantera, I remember the cabin being hot as hell even with the A/C full blast

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Jay Leno’s Garage has a nice segment on the Pantera. Seems that Ford forced lots of running production changes over the years of production. The Pantera enthusiast community supports folks in making those upgrades to their cars if they get one that hasn’t had the work already done.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          It is one of those cars that you really have to pony up for the nicest one you can find. I know a dude that got a rougher one he was going to “bring back” and it just crushed him. There are cars you can do that with, but this isn’t one of them.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Still waiting for a modern-day version of the Pantera.

      Can’t some Billionaire purchase the rights to the De Tomaso brand and do it right (unlike some of the recent attempts)?

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        “Can’t some Billionaire purchase the rights to the De Tomaso brand and do it right (unlike some of the recent attempts)?”

        Billionaires probably get to be billionaires specifically by *not* making decisions like “purchase the rights to the De Tomaso brand and do it right”.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Wonder what a Porsche 911’s weight distribution was back then? Probably not as bad as the Mangusta, given its smaller, light alloy engine compared to the Mangusta’s iron block V8.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      For weight distribution, Road & Track in their March 1965 issue gave the percentages as 43 for the front and 57 for the rear for a non ‘S’ 911 that they road tested. They gave the total weight as 2360 curb weight and test weight 2750 lbs.

  • avatar
    BubbaMT

    When I was in high school, SF East Bay circa 1970, the swim coach at the school my friends attended had a Mangusta. He apparently been in the Olympics and made some money from that. He had a habit of loaning it to students. The only time I saw it was when it crashed at the hands of a student and was in flames in the front yard of a house near mine. Those magnesium components burned real good.

  • avatar
    cognoscenti

    A family friend had a 1971 DeTomaso Pantera (with the 351 Cleveland), and enjoyed it for over a decade. He let me take it out on country two-lane rural blacktop roads in the late 90’s and we had some fun. That car, while also inherently flawed, still makes the Mangusta a non-starter in the USA. One interesting note about the Pantera: the owner complained that everyone thought it was a kit car. So, he bought a Viper and solved that problem.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    There’s a word that sums up this car — rubbish.

    Among enthusiasts including me at the time, everyone knew it was nothing but a car for show-offs. Not a serious machine. The reviews made it plain. Made for people without the first clue about anything but looks. The handling was dreadful, the accomodations poor, etc. etc. I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago when the Bizzarini was featured. Expensive kit cars riding on the back of the Italian styling groups and low wage artisan craftsman. Chassis design by back of envelope jottings and a glib frontman to tout the execrable result.

    Ford basically bought out de Tomaso in 1970 or so and tried to make the silly thing work. Real doors instead of gullwing goon ones. Changed its name to Pantera and put in the 351.

    And it wasn’t very good either. The full story in some detail, i.e. more than 300 words and written by people with a passing grade in actual English, is archived here:

    https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/a15141823/detomaso-pantera-archived-test-review/

    • 0 avatar
      psychoboy

      “Ford basically bought out de Tomaso in 1970 or so and tried to make the silly thing work. Real doors instead of gullwing goon ones. Changed its name to Pantera and put in the 351.”

      The Mangusta has real doors:

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/3111439954_15_0-610×407.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      Right! if people who’ve only seen Mangustas in photographs would just read the copy, they’d notice that the gullwing panels on it refer to how the rear engine cover opens-the driver and passenger doors are…normal doors. Also not sure Ford owned deTomaso in 1970. In 1970, British Motor Car Distributors, San Francisco was at least the west distributor. At least in Los Angeles, these were warehoused at their Compton parts distribution Center on South Sussanna Rd, where BMCD shipped their dealer parts for MG, Austin-Healey, etc to retailers from-I used to pick up parts there, and saw the Mangustas twice parked against the inside wall while waiting for my orders. By the way, if you check the two versions of the Mangusta sales folder that they issued, you notice their name and address on the back, and the fact that early Mangusta’s listed the 289 but later cars listed the 302 as the motor that they came with.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    I saw one of these around 1970. It was parked in the shade of some trees in a semi-rural area. Since there was no one saying, “Get away from that car.” I walked around it for a while. It was Italian Red and seemed very low compared to other sports cars of the time such as XKE and 911.
    The Mangusta was near new and there was a list of problems on the passenger seat presumably to bring to the attention of the dealer.
    The one thing on the list that I recall was, “Excess heat coming from shifter area.”

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Why the all the sniveling? Mid engine, American V8, and the rest is just a tune, mod and or upgraded away from a great car and driving experience.

    Shocks, sways, bushings, aftermarket/custom seats, heat shields, whatever. Yeah the radio probably sucked too.

    Cars were meant to altered back then. Now we don’t want to turn a wrench or row a gear box.

    Close to 3,000 lbs isn’t terrible for what it is, nor is 32/68 f/r. The current Corvette is 40/60 and I’ll but not as fun taking a decreasing radius, off camber.

  • avatar
    Vae Victis

    I got to drive my brother’s modified Pantera (it was so loud that I had to wear ear plugs if I intended to drive it for any distance) for a year in 1990, and the first thing that I’ll tell you is that it absolutely too much for area Corvette owners — even sitting still. If I had parked the Pantera on my drive, Corvette owners would come driving past until I finally moved it into the garage — they were obsessed. If I parked it at a local ball field, shopping mall or college, everybody would come and check it out. Also, there wasn’t a car that I or my brother ever encountered on the highway that could run with it including one 1990 ZR1 — this encounter still provides sidesplitting laughter to this day. It weighed 3050 (at a grain elevator so I know that the weight is accurate). Police did not know what it was and would pull me over to find out the answer. Also, registering it with the Sect. of State was difficult for the same reason (they too had no Idea of what a Pantera was). The sad thing was that my brother had to sell it; it wasn’t what he needed when starting a family, and having two children with college to save for I wasn’t in any position to buy it.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    The De Tomaso Mangusta is one of the few real-world cars that sounds like it’s from Grand Theft Auto V.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’ve long been a fan of the Mangusta. Chasing Classic Cars (Season 15, Episode 9) recently featured the restoration of a ’69 Mangusta for Dave Robinson, the drummer for The Cars. Robinson had bought the car 20 years earlier, snapping it up from a buyer that had planned to heavily modify the car for some kind of racing. He had never driven the car (had only heard it run once, when he bought it), and had kept it in storage.

    The bodyshell was in remarkably good shape, with very little rust, and very little prior bodywork done on it.

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    Yesterday my in-laws gave me an old book titled “Automobile Quarterly’s World of Cars” , dated 1971. A red De Tomaso Mangusta is one of the 200 cars featured on that book (which also featured Studebakers, Packard, RR, Cord, Chevy, Chrysler among others). A 0-60 of 5.9 seconds with the 289 and 155 mph top speed sounds great for the time, but the American version with the 302 only did 7 seconds flat and 120 mph top speed. A 5 spd ZF transmission was the best you could get back then.

    It sounds like a real sports car to me

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