- 302 cu. in. Ford V-8; ZF five-speed manual transaxle
- Believed to be one of only 50 built with retractable headlights
- Displays less than 13,000 miles, believed to be original
- Two-owner example; forty-six years of firsthand ownership
- Accompanied by original sales invoice, owner’s manual, and tool roll
As a former racing driver for O.S.C.A. under the Maserati brothers, the entrepreneurial Alejandro de Tomaso founded a company bearing his own name in 1959 in an effort to compete in the world of race cars. Following in the footsteps of several other racing drivers of the same era, de Tomaso believed that he would have a surefire success on his hands if he combined a racing-style chassis, a robust Ford engine (pioneering mid/rear-engine configuration straight from the prototype playbook), and striking Italian design. His initial effort, the Vallelunga, launched in 1964 and powered by an English Ford four-cylinder motor, was well received but alas could not compete with the heavy iron in other Italian hybrid cars.
Noting the extraordinary success of Carroll Shelby’s Cobras, followed by the outright dominance of the Ford GT40 in sports prototype racing, the brutally lovely Mangusta was born. (Italian for “mongoose,” its namesake is the only predator of cobras to be found in nature—such was de Tomaso’s ambition!)
Its styling was penned by the great Giorgetto Giugiaro, and it was built by Ghia of Turin. Compared to the Ford GT40 concept, with which it shared many conceptual and engineering similarities, the Mangusta was more subtle, streamlined, and elegant, but was no less aggressive in appearance than the fearsome Ford. The more delicate styling did not mitigate the car’s performance, and the Mangusta boasted a top speed of 155 mph.
U.S.-delivered examples were imported under federal waivers due to low production numbers, allowing the work around certain U.S. requirements. When the exemption expired in 1970, it forced de Tomaso to slightly redesign the car to conform with U.S. regulations, most notably headlight height requirements, which led to the Mangusta’s new pop-up headlight configuration. In addition to that modification, the car’s power plant was upgraded from a 289 cu. in. to a 302 cu. in. V-8.
This particular Mangusta, chassis no. 8MA1144, was purchased new by Mr. Warren Danz of Peoria, IL, on 25 September 1970. The car is noted as being equipped with air-conditioning, electric windows, and an AM/FM radio. Mr. Danz traded in a 1968 Chevrolet Corvette as part of the purchase, which helped put a nice dent in the Mangusta’s out-the-door price of $9,296.00. Mr. Danz would own the car for the next forty-six years, before it was acquired by the current owner in 2016.
Today the Mangusta presents nicely, having benefitted from a repaint in the 1990s, which has mellowed with age. The interior is trimmed in black leather and is believed to be original to the car; it features a Ferrero wood-rimmed steering wheel and a wooden shift knob. It should be noted that the original de Tomaso knob is included. Under current ownership the car has received new fuel and coolant hoses, a new fuel pump, as well as a carburetor cleaning upon its last service. The car is accompanied by its tool roll, initial sales invoice, owner’s manual, select service records, and a previous registration card.
One of 401 Mangustas built, this car stands out among an estimated 250 remaining as a low-mileage, two-owner example, with the desirable retractable headlights. Mangusta, Italian for “mongoose,” is the only predator of cobras to be found in nature—an appropriate name for a car that set its sights on Shelby’s Cobra.