Inspired by a crazed animal, the supercar was out for revenge.
Before automakers gave cars confusing names filled with random numbers, dashes and letters, companies actually spent time finding the perfect name for a vehicle. Believe it or not, automakers from yesteryear were inspired by a variety of things, which include flying saucers, ships and, apparently, even animals. There aren’t a lot of automakers out there with the guts to name a car after a mongoose, but Alejandro de Tomaso’s company didn’t follow conventional rules and did everything by its own book.
DeTomaso was started by Alejandro de Tomaso, an Argentinian race car driver with large dreams and the desire to become a household name. In an attempt to blend racing technology with the demands of enthusiasts for road use, de Tomaso went on to make the world’s first mid-engine production car on his very first try in the form of the Vallelunga. While the car went on to establish DeTomaso as a serious contender, it’s not named after a ferocious mammal. Three years after introducing the Vallelunga, the automaker came out with its second car, which would arguably become the company’s first supercar. The DeTomaso Mangusta was an evolution of the Vallelunga and brought the automaker into supercar territory.
To do this, de Tomaso did away with the Vallelunga’s 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine in favor of an American 288 cu.in. V8 engine from Ford and the same five-speed ZF gearbox out of the Ford GT40. While the engine was a masterpiece, what really set the Mangusta apart was its futuristic and sleek exterior that was designed by Giugiaro. The supercar was ahead of its time in terms of appearance and is still a stunner roughly 50 years later. The Mangusta was the first car de Tomaso built in large quantities as roughly 401 models were produced throughout the supercar’s four-year lifespan. The Mangusta may not have had what it took to keep up with its competitors from Ferrari and Lamborghini, but the supercar had a kickass name.
In 1963, Carroll Shelby, Peter Brock—Shelby’s chief designer—and de Tomaso joined forces to help Shelby dominate the racing series that would become known as Can Am. By 1965, de Tomaso’s engine for Shelby and Brock’s race car wasn't ready, which prompted Shelby to back out of the deal. This left de Tomaso with five partially completed cars and the Proto P70, the 7.0-liter engine that he was working on. Angry with Shelby’s decision, de Tomaso vowed to take down the Texan’s Cobra with the snake’s iconic enemy, the Mangusta, or mongoose in Italian. It may not have been the Cobra killer that de Tomaso wanted, but the car led the way for one of the best classics ever, the DeTomaso Pantera.