Historic Car Brands

De Tomaso

 

De Tomaso Modena SpA – De Tomaso Automobili Ltd since 2014 – is an Italian car-manufacturing company that has had more than its fair share of ups, downs and intrigue. The company is best known for its high performance sports cars.

 

 

De Tomaso was founded in Modena, by expat-Argentinian ex racing driver, Alejandro de Tomaso and his wife Isabelle HaskelI. The couple had met at various racing circuits in Europe and The Americas, where she was a respected competitor and they were married in 1957.

Isabelle was an American heiress, the daughter of one-time car race driver Amory Haskell, whose later passion was horse racing. Isabelle was an accomplished horsewoman as well.

Alejandro de Tomaso was born in Argentina, where his paternal grandfather had emigrated from Italy. In 1955, de Tomaso was implicated in a plot to overthrow Argentine president, Juan Perón and fled to Italy, where he took up motor racing.

 

 

After some motor racing successes – together and individually – Alejandro and Isabelle retired from racing and set up the De Tomaso sports car manufacturing business in 1959.

 

 

Vallelunga

 

De Tomaso Vallelunga – Rikita

 

De Tomaso’s first road-going production model was named the Vallelunga, after the racing circuit and was introduced in 1963. This mid-engined sports car was powered by the 104bhp (78 kW) four-cylinder engine from the Ford Cortina and had a top speed of 215km/h (134mph). It had a fabricated steel backbone chassis, which became a common feature of De Tomaso cars. The aluminium coupé body was designed by Fissore and several were built before production was moved to Ghia in 1965, where they were assembled with fibreglass bodies. Approximately 60 cars were produced.

 

 

Mangusta

 

De Tomaso Mangusta – Jorgens

 

The Mangusta was introduced in 1966, when De Tomaso moved from European to American Ford engines. The car had a 4.7-litre, iron-block, V8 engine and steel and aluminium coupé bodywork from Ghia. 

De Tomaso took ownership of Ghia in 1967 and about 400 Mangustas were built before production ended in 1971.

 

 

Pantera

 

De Tomaso Pantera GTS – Charles01

 

The Pantera appeared in 1971, powered by a 351 Cleveland Ford V8 and featured a low, wedge-shaped body, designed by Ghia’s Tom Tjaarda. 

In an agreement with Ford, De Tomaso sold Panteras in the USA through Ford’s Lincoln and Mercury dealerships. Between 1971 and 1973, 6128 Panteras were produced in Modena and that proved to be the largest-ever-volume De Tomaso model. 

Also in 1971, the Ford Motor Company acquired an 84 percent stake in De Tomaso, with Alejandro de Tomaso holding the balance of shares. In 1973, Ford bought all of De Tomaso’s shares and took control of the entire production process in the three factories that shared the workload in northern Italy. 

However, the 1973 oil crisis caused a large-engine crisis in the US car market, forcing the BigThree to focus on compact cars. Consequently, Ford pulled out of the Pantera deal at the end of 1973. 

Ford sold back its stake in the company in 1974, but De Tomaso retained the right to produce the car for global markets outside the USA, so Pantera production continued, but at the greatly reduced scale of fewer than 100 cars per year during the 1970s and 1980s. At these low volume levels, the cars were largely hand-built.

De Tomaso also owned motorcycle company Moto Guzzi from 1973 to 1993.

 

De Tomaso Pantera – Lothar Spurzem

 

In 1990, the Pantera 90 Si model was introduced, incorporating a Marcello Gandini facelift, suspension redesign, partial chassis redesign and a smaller Ford engine, with fuel injection. Only 41 90 Si cars were made: two were crash-tested, 38 were sold, and one went directly into a museum. The Pantera was finally phased out in 1993, making way for the radical, carbon-fibre-bodied Guarà.

 

 

De Tomaso luxury cars

 

1981 Deauville – Deauville81photo

 

Although De Tomaso is principally known as a maker of high-performance sports cars, the firm also produced a small number of luxury coupés and saloons in the 1970s and 1980s.

The 1971 Deauville was an effort to rival contemporary Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz saloons. With the same engine as the Pantera, but mounted in the front, the Deauville was clothed in an angular Tjaarda/Ghia four-door body, but did not have the build quality of competitive luxury sedans and only 244 were made, over the next 14 years. A one-off estate wagon version was built for Isabelle Haskell.

In 1972 De Tomaso introduced a coupé based on the Deauville, with a slightly shortened chassis and the same Ford V8 engine, called the Longchamp. Its body design, however, was substantially different and influenced by the Lancia Marica prototype, also designed by Tom Tjaarda. A total of 409 cars of all variations were built by the time the production ended in 1989. 

 

 

Maserati ownership

With the assistance of the Italian government, De Tomaso took over Maserati in 1976 after its owner, Citroën, declared that it would no longer support the loss-making company. 

The first De Tomaso Maserati, the Kyalami, was a Longchamp redesigned by Frua, with the Ford engine replaced by Maserati’s 4.2-litre V8. The Kyalami remained in production until 1983, overlapping the Biturbo that was introduced two years earlier. 

Other Maseratis released under the De Tomaso ownership included the Quattroporte III/Royale and IV, the Barchetta, the Ghibli and the Shamal. All were based on the Biturbo, except for the Quattroporte that was based on the Kyalami platform. De Tomaso had introduced this concept of platform sharing to save development costs on new models. 

In 1993, De Tomaso sold Maserati to Fiat SpA, due to slumping sales and low profitability.

 

 

Innocenti ownership

 

Innocenti Mini de Tomaso – De l’essence

 

In 1976 Innocenti was taken over by Alejandro de Tomaso and was reorganised by the De Tomaso Group under the name Nuova Innocenti. Innocenti’s model range consisted of licence-built BMC products, led by Mini variants.

From 1976 to 1987 the top of the range Innocenti was the Innocenti Mini de Tomaso, a sport version of the Innocenti Mini developed by De Tomaso, initially equipped with the BLMC 1275 cc engine and, from 1982 to 1987, with a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged Daihatsu engine.

De Tomaso sold Innocenti to Fiat SpA in 1993.

 

 

Guarà

 

 

The Guarà was designed by the Maserati Barchetta designer, Carlo Gaino of Synthesis. Based on a Maserati competition car from 1991, using Ford and BMW parts in a composite body, the Guarà was available in coupé and barchetta versions. As with all De Tomasos except the Pantera, production was both limited and sporadic.

 

 

Biguà and off-road vehicles

In the early 2000s two co-operative car ventures were planned by De Tomaso, but both failed. A two-seat Gandini-styled convertible, the Biguà, was developed from a 1996 Geneva concept in partnership with Qvale, an American firm which had long imported European sports cars into the USA. But as production of the Biguà Mangusta began, the relationship between De Tomaso and Qvale soured. As a result, Qvale took over the project and rebadged the car as the Qvale Mangusta.

Production was short-lived and Qvale’s Italian factory was bought in 2003 by MG Rover. The Mangusta’s mechanicals were then used as the base for the MG XPower SV. 

In April 2002, in partnership with the Russian company UAZ, De Tomaso began a project to build off-road vehicles in a new factory in Calabria, to produce 10,000 cars annually by 2006. However, after the death of Alejandro de Tomaso in 2003, no cars were built and De Tomaso went into voluntary liquidation in June 2004. 

The Guarà remained available in some markets in 2005 and 2006, but it appears that no cars were built after 2004.

In 2009, former Fiat executive, Gian Mario Rossignolo, bought the De Tomaso trademark and founded a new company named De Tomaso Automobili SpA. 

 

 

De Tomaso Deauville

 

De Tomaso Deauville – Bucht

 

At the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, De Tomaso presented a new model concept. The De Tomaso Deauville was a five-door hatchback/crossover vehicle with all-wheel drive and the proposed powertrain included petrol engines with 300hp and 500hp, as well as a diesel from VM Motori with 250hp. 

The Deauville remained a prototype, because the new company never started production and the company chairman, Rossignolo, was arrested in 2012 for misappropriating 7.5 million Euros provided by the Italian government to revive the De Tomaso brand. 

As a result, 900 employees of the company were made redundant and De Tomaso was put on the market.

 

 

Rebirth

 

De Tomaso P72 – Thick Cooking Oil

 

In April 2015 an Italian bankruptcy court approved the sale of the company to Hong Kong–based Consolidated Ideal Team Ventures, which began to produce cars in China bearing the De Tomaso name.

The De Tomaso P72 was a retro-styled sports car, introduced at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed and designed by Jowyn Wong. It was retro-styled after the P70 race car, built by Carroll Shelby in the late 1960s and only 72 vehicles were scheduled for production. 

In November 2022 De Tomaso announced a track-only hypercar named the P900, powered by a 900hp V12 engine. De Tomaso planned to produce only 18 P900s at a starting price of US$3 million.

 

P72 chassis

 

 

Formula One

De Tomaso made a few Formula One appearances between 1961 and 1963, with their own chassis and a mix of engines. The 1962 the De Tomaso 801 was powered by an in-house,135-degree, 1498cc V8 with a claimed 200hp at 9500rpm, driving through a six-speed Colotti transmission. It was entered in a number of races but appeared only at the 1962 Italian Grand Prix, where it failed to qualify.

 

1970 De Tomaso Tipo 505 – Brian Snelson

 

In 1970, De Tomaso built a Formula One chassis, designed by Giampaolo Dallara, for Frank Williams Racing, but the car was uncompetitive and failed to finish the first four races of the year. In the fifth race, the Dutch Grand Prix, the De Tomaso 505/38 flipped and caught fire, killing driver Piers Courage. The team persevered, first with Brian Redman, then Tim Schenken. However, with no results, the partnership was dissolved at the end of the season.

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