Inspired by a crazed animal, the supercar was out for revenge.
Before automakers gave cars confusing namesfilled with random numbers, dashes and letters, companies actually spent time finding the perfect name for a vehicle. Believe it or not, automakersfrom yesteryear were inspired by a variety of things, which include flyingsaucers, ships and, apparently, even animals. There aren’t a lot of automakers outthere with the guts to name a car after a mongoose, but Alejandro de Tomaso’s companydidn’t follow conventional rules and did everything by its own book.
DeTomaso was started by Alejandro de Tomaso, an Argentinianrace car driver with large dreams and the desire to become a householdname. In an attempt to blend racing technology with the demands of enthusiastsfor road use, de Tomaso went on to make the world’s first mid-engine productioncar on his very first try in the form of the Vallelunga. While the car went onto establish DeTomaso as a serious contender, it’s not named after a ferociousmammal. Three years after introducing the Vallelunga, the automaker came outwith 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 theVallelunga’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. Whilethe engine was a masterpiece, what really set the Mangusta apart was its futuristicand sleek exterior that was designed by Giugiaro. The supercar was ahead of itstime in terms of appearance and is still a stunner roughly 50 years later. TheMangusta was the first car de Tomaso built in large quantities as roughly 401 modelswere produced throughout the supercar’s four-year lifespan. The Mangusta may not have had what it took to keepup 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 forcesto help Shelby dominate the racing series that would become known as Can Am. By1965, de Tomaso’s engine for Shelby and Brock’s race car wasn't ready, whichprompted Shelby to back out of the deal. This left de Tomaso with fivepartially completed cars and the Proto P70, the 7.0-liter engine that he wasworking on. Angry with Shelby’s decision, de Tomaso vowed to take down theTexan’s Cobra with the snake’s iconic enemy, the Mangusta, or mongoose inItalian. It may not have been the Cobra killer that de Tomaso wanted, but thecar led the way for one of the best classics ever, the DeTomaso Pantera.