Unique of the Week: 1969 De Tomaso Mangusta

Classic Cars / Comments

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 Tomaso Pantera, 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 the nature of Italian sports cars and owners love-hate relationship with them. But less is known about the Pantera's predecessor, the Mangusta.

Meaning "mongoose" in Italian, the name supposedly came from when company founder Alejandro de Tomaso discussed with Carroll Shelby the idea of replacing the Shelby Cobra with a racing car that would be built in Italy by De Tomaso. And since a mongoose is able to kill a Cobra, 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 he went on to develop the GT40 and the rest is history. But De Tomaso still went ahead with a road car version and it finally went on sale in 1967.

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

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Other mechanical features included disc brakes on all four wheels. Like other exotic cars, the Mangusta was somewhat ahead of its time by it having a four wheel independent suspension, rack and pinion steering, air conditioning and power windows. It was decently priced when it came to market but because of its 32/68 weight distribution and underdeveloped chassis, drivers had to deal with issues of poor handling and stability problems.The interior dimensions were also quite cramped and ground clearance was very low, making it difficult to drive over curbs and other bumpers without scraping the underside.

All told, just 401 Mangustas were built by the time production ended in 1971. Only 150 units were for the European market while the rest went to the US. In 1970, about 50 of these US-spec cars were given pop-up headlights as opposed to the normally standard fixed units. This 1969 De Tomaso 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 was recently rebuilt and the car itself still runs great. As of writing, only one 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.

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