A Great Looking Car From Italy / 1969 De Tomaso Mangusta

The automobile featured in this article is the 1969 DeTomaso Mangusta. Some will say that this is the best looking car ever produced. Certainly it’s one of the best looking automobiles from Italy. What we do know is that every car built by DeTomaso was very eye appealing with many race car features. This car is a beautiful, muscular icon of the 1960s and is said to have been based on the Ford GT40

detamaso mangusta
1969 deTomaso Mangusta

The Italian automaker DeTomaso Modena S.p.A. is named not for an Italian but an Argentinian race car driver, Alejandro DeTomaso.

DeTomaso’s father was a well known politician and his mother was a member of the Ceballos family, one of Argentina’s oldest and wealthiest families. The Ceballos wealth was centered on large land holdings that were originally granted to the family by the King of Spain. Alejandro DeTomaso lost his father at the age of five years and was raised on his mother’s large estate. 

The logo DeTomaso used for his automobile company was a tribute to his home country of Argentina and his family heritage. The blue and white stripes of the logo’s background are the colors of the national flag of Argentina. The symbol in the foreground that looks like a letter “T” is the branding symbol of the Ceballos estate where Alejandro grew up.

1969 detomaso mangusta
The low. sleek and fast 1969 DeTomaso

The DeTomaso Mangusta and the House of Ghia

The 1969 DeTomaso Mangusta was a striking Italian supercar.The engine was a small block Ford V-8 that was tied to a ZF transmission. ZF is a German firm. Styling was done by Ghia which was recently acquired by DeTomaso. The designer at Ghia was Giorgetto Giugiaro. Ghia was considered one of the very best styling and coachbuilding firms in Italy having been founded in 1915. In 1970 DeTomaso sold Ghia to the Ford Motor Company.

The DeTomaso Mangusta was the second sports car produced by the company and at one time was offered to the Ford Motor Company as a replacement for the Cobra That deal was never consummated although Ford was involved in DeTomaso’s operations beginning in the 1970’s.

mangusta mid-engine car
Rear view of the unique DeTomaso Mangusta mid-engine automobile

The Mangusta was Alejandro DeTomaso’s idea to scale up the Vallelunga’s Lotus-type backbone chassis and put an American V-8 in it.

The Vallelunga was the first DeTomaso car made, right before the Mangusta. It was the comapany’s first road going model. It is thought that only a few dozen Vallelungas survive today, their ownership being a worldwide but small group of enthusiasts.

As an interesting side note, the word “mangusta” in Italian means “Mongoose” which is an animal that can kill cobras.

The DeTomaso Mangusta was produced from 1967 to 1971 with the prototype car introduced in 1966 at the Turin auto show.  The car’s hood was aluminum with gullwing rear deck lids. The car was a two seater with the highest quality leather seats. From the rear quarter the Mangusta is probably the most beautiful car ever made.

In 2004 DeTomaso went into liquidation but still continued to build cars. A few buyers emerged but nothing was consummated. Today De Tomaso Automobili S.p.A. operates as an automaker for prototypes and sports cars. Their product line still includes the two-door, mid-engine Vallelunga, Mangusta and Pantera.

See the AutoMuseumOnline cars on the links below…

The 1974 Porsche 914

The 1974 MG BGT V-8

An Interview With A Ferrari Artist


A good book for those wishing to explore the automobiles of DeTomaso is De Tomaso: The Man and the Machines by authors Wallace A. Wyss and Juan Manuel Fangio.

detomaso automobile logo
The DeTomaso logo

1969 DeTomaso Mangusta Specifications

As mentioned above the engine in the DeTomaso Mangusta’s was a 302 cubic inch small block Ford V-8 delivering 230 horsepower.

The engine was positioned midway on the chassis. While handling could be a bit tricky the car had a claimed top speed of 155 MPH. Zero to 60 time was claimed to be 7.0 seconds.

The car’s transmission was a ZF five speed manual.

The DeTomaso Mangusta had a wheelbase of 98.4 inches and a length of 168.0 inches. The width was 72.6 inches and the height 42.1 inches. Weight was 3,050 lbs. This was a low and sleek automobile. The DeTomaso Mangusta looked like a race car and in reality was a detuned sports-race car.

The DeTomaso Mangusta was produced in very low numbers with only 400 built.

detomaso engine comprtment
View of the engine compartment behind the seats

The DeTomaso Mangusta Collector Cars

Many collectors would say that the DeTomaso Mangusta is the best looking car on four wheels. As mentioned above, the DeTomaso Mangusta’s are very rare automobiles having only 400 produced. This low production number nevertheless represented the first “mass production” vehicle from DeTomaso. Some estimates today put the figure of surviving Mangusta’s at less than 250. The number of cars in restored showroom condition are even fewer.

A restored 1969 DeTomaso Mangusta that comes up for sale may have an asking price well over $100,000.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)