De Tomas Mangusta is simply outstanding…
De Tomaso Mangusta
Somewhere between the original Vallelunga and the better known Pantera, DeTomaso produced this Cobra powered Mangusta, and in my mind, there just isn’t a more beautiful Italian-American hybrid.
Argentinian race car driver, Alejandro de Thomaso, famously conceived the Mangusta (Italian for mongoose) after a supposed deal-gone-south with Carrol Shelby, father of the famous 427 and 289 Cobras. De Tomaso chose the name as the mongoose is the only creature that can beat the deadliest snakes in the world, the cobra, of course.
Part Ford GT-40, part Lamborghini Miuria, the De Tomaso Mangusta is gorgeous from any angle, and as you would expect, it’s cramped and tight inside as this car is only 43 inches high. But it’s all worth the contortions getting in as the Mangusta is a blast to drive.
Twist the key on the far left of the dash and the rumble of an American V-8 awakens, filling the cockpit with noise and transmitting a shudder through the car.
No need to wait for the temperature gauges to rise as friend and owner, Darryl Adams, hands his machine over to me already warmed up. Darryl had never been in the passenger seat before and the experience for him was “enlightening”, giving him a new perspective while riding shotgun and coaching me through driving technique.
“Only 401”, the license plate reads. That’s all DeTomaso built, and I remind myself of that as I snick the gated shifter into 1st.
Offset pedals, way to the right, take a bit of getting used to, but the ride is surprisingly modern, and once you get the hang of steering input, clutch take-up and brakes, the Mangusta makes you feel as if you’ve been driving it for years.
And about that steering; you do have to catch it a bit, as it’s lots of turns lock to lock and imprudence at speed that has left many drivers in the ditch. Owners and drivers have always said how easy it is get the rear end to break away but it takes lightning reflexes to catch it before it’s too late.
After some spirited drive, we spoke of the 289 Cobra motor, easily massaged by owners through the years. Chassis flex has often been sited as a problem and Darryl also showed me where the frame was stiffened as early cars were just not capable of handling the horsepower of the Shelby V-8.
Languishing for years, the Mangusta became collectible a few years back, and though prices have leveled off, they are still cheap money compared to other exotics of this era.
$200,000 is a baseline for the not so good examples, and you’ll have to add another $150,000 more to buy something really nice.
Great car, fun drive, and thanks to Darryl Adams for letting me behind the wheel.