Unique of the Week: 1969 De Tomaso Mangusta

Classic Cars

The De Tomaso Mangusta is certainly not as famous as its Pantera successor, but is extremely rare with only 401 units built.

We’re all familiar with the De TomasoPantera, an Italian-designed sports car that was on the market for 20 years,beginning in 1971. Hell, even Elvis Presley owned one but reportedly grew so frustrated with it constantly failing to start, he ended up firing his gun at it for some target practice. Such is thenature of Italian sports cars and owners love-hate relationship with them. But less is known about the Pantera's predecessor, theMangusta.

Meaning "mongoose" in Italian, thename supposedly came from when company founder Alejandro de Tomaso discussed withCarroll Shelby the idea of replacing the Shelby Cobra with a racing car thatwould be built in Italy by De Tomaso. And since a mongoose is able to kill aCobra, the name for the car stuck. But Shelby didn’t bite (pun intended); the business deal simply wasn't meant to be. Shelby signed with Ford instead where hewent on to develop the GT40 and the rest is history. ButDe Tomaso still went ahead with a road car version and it finally went on sale in 1967.

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Poweroriginally came from a mid-mounted Ford 289 V8 with 306 horsepower and mated toa five-speed manual transmission sourced from ZF. In the US, buyers had tosettle for a Ford 302 V8 with an output of just 221 hp. It had a top speed ofaround 155 mph. The car itself was visually quite stunning, yet another design courtesyof Giorgetto Giugiaro while he was working at Ghia. Like other famous cars byGiugiaro, such as the DeLorean, the Mangusta featured gullwing doors but thesewere placed directly over the engine and luggage compartment. Conventionalside-opening doors remained for the driver and passenger.

Other mechanicalfeatures included disc brakes on all four wheels. Like other exotic cars, theMangusta was somewhat ahead of its time by it having a four wheel independentsuspension, rack and pinion steering, air conditioning and power windows. Itwas decently priced when it came to market but because of its 32/68 weightdistribution and underdeveloped chassis, drivers had to deal with issues ofpoor handling and stability problems.The interior dimensions were also quitecramped and ground clearance was very low, making it difficult to drive overcurbs and other bumpers without scraping the underside.

All told, just401 Mangustas were built by the time production ended in 1971. Only 150 unitswere for the European market while the rest went to the US. In 1970, about 50of these US-spec cars were given pop-up headlights as opposed to the normallystandard fixed units. This 1969 DeTomaso Mangusta that’s currently up for sale on eBay has 60,150 miles on the odometer but it still runs great and has absolutely no rust. Its five-speed manual gearbox wasrecently rebuilt and the car itself still runs great. As of writing, onlyone bid has been placed but the reserve price of $125,000 wasn’t met. There is a buy it now price of $180,000.

Without question, the De Tomaso Mangusta is yet another beautifully-designed Italian exotic car that’s also quite rare. For comparison, more than 7,000 Panteras were built during its lifetime so the next owner of this Mangusta will certainly have something special in their garage. Photos courtesy of gillisgan.