In terms of creating powerful cars, Italian company De Tomaso earned a good reputation. One of the greatest motors to come out of the manufacturer was the Mangusta. The name came from the Italian word for mongoose, a killer of cobras. Rumour has it the car was named because it had been set to replace the Shelby Cobra. Company founder Alejandro de Tomaso and Carroll Shelby were friends, but no deal was signed. We’re looking into the history of this exceptional vehicle to see how it was designed.
Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Mangusta was meant to blend Italian elegance with American muscle. The car was based on the chassis of the Vallelunga, which it replaced. The Mangusta came with a Ford 289 V8 engine in Europe, while the American version used a Ford 302 V8. The Mangusta sported gullwing doors, independent suspension, rack & pinion steering, air conditioning and power windows. According to journalist Paul Fere the Mangusta reached a top speed of 155 mph.
The car debuted at the 1966 Turin Motor Show, immediately being recognised for its beauty. 401 Mangustas were built, with 150 sent to Europe and the rest being sold in the American market. The American cars were produced with two pop-up headlights. A bespoke car was built with a Chevrolet engine for General Motors-Vice President Bill Mitchell.
The Mangusta was inexpensive to build for the time, though it wasn’t without its issues. It had a less than solid chassis that suffered from stability problems. The interior wasn’t very spacious and had low ground clearance.
The car was eventually replaced by the De Tomaso Pantera in 1971. In the early 2000s, the model was revived in the form of a concept vehicle called the De Tomaso Bigua. Following a dispute between De Tomaso and business partner Qvale, the name changed to Qvale Mangusta.
The Qvale was designed by former Formula 1 designer Enrique Scalabroni. It utilised a Ford 4.6L DOHC V8 engine and came with safety-conscious design that could deaden the impact of crashes. It also had a unique roof mechanism that was inspired by the folding roof of the TVR Griffith.
The new model was praised by the public, showing that the Mangusta still has a place in the market.