History of Pantera
Alejandro De Tomaso began racing in his native Argentina in 1951. Soon after he started racing, De Tomaso moved to Italy becoming a driver for Maserati. Most of his success was with O.S.C.A. (Officine Speciallizatate Constrruzioni Automobili), a company founded by the Maserati brothers after they sold Maserati. By 1959, after years of racing, De Tomaso finally decided to put his experience toward building his own racing cars and formed De Tomaso Automobili in Modena Italy.
His first cars were based off the Oscas he had been racing, but later turned to Ford as a source for engines. Thus beginning the long association with Ford Motor Company. De Tomaso Automobili went on to have an extensive racing history, competing in both Formula 1 and Formula 2 during the 1960's and 1970's in vehicles powered by Ford-Cosworth and Alfa Romeo engines.
De Tomaso's first commercial vehicle came in 1965 in the form of the Vallelunga, a mid-engined coupe powered by Ford. The Vallelunga has been heralded as one of the most ideally proportioned mid-engined cars ever made. Unfortunately the Fissore and later Ghia-bodied car was only built in small numbers, eventually making way for the Mangusta in 1967.
The Mangusta was De Tomaso's first attempt in establishing himself as a full-fledged carmaker. Giorgetto Giugiaro designed the car while with the Ghia design studio. A company that De Tomaso eventually purchased and later sold to Ford. The car was (and continues to be) an incredible design success, with automotive enthusiasts taking instant notice. Power came from the Ford 289 V8 in Europe and 302 V8 for U.S. spec cars. A company owned by Kjell Qvale called British Motor Car Distributors handled distribution in the U.S. This began a relationship that would eventually find Qvale and De Tomaso together again in the 1980's when Alejandro owned Maserati with Kjell again having distribution rights in the U.S.
The Mangusta was phased out of production in 1970 with less than 500 produced. The end of the Mangusta paved the way for De Tomaso's most celebrated car to date, the Pantera. As with the Mangusta, the Pantera was designed at Ghia, this time by Tom Tjaarda. Its sleek design combined with incredible power (Ford 351small block tuned to 330hp) lead Ford Motor Company to seek an arrangement with De Tomaso whereby the car was distributed through select Lincoln-Mercury dealerships in the U.S.
The market for high performance sports cars dwindled considerably in the early to mid 1970's for all exotic carmakers because of the Energy Crisis, and De Tomaso was no exception. This lead to the eventual parting of ways between Ford and De Tomaso. A relationship that saw just under 5,300 units sold in the U.S. De Tomaso continued sales of the Pantera GTS in Europe.
In addition to the high performance Panteras of the 1970's De Tomaso also designed and produced two luxury oriented cars, the Deauville and Longchamp. The Deauville as a four door, competed against other performance luxury vehicles like Jaguar's XJ. The two door Longchamp targeted the likes of the Mercedes 450 SLC. Both vehicles combined amounted to no more than 700 units by their discontinuation in the early 1980's. In 1991 a next generation Pantera was introduced followed several years later by the Guara.
Plans are now set for a new chapter in the almost 40-year history of De Tomaso. On March 3, 1998 an announcement was made that De Tomaso Modena S.p.A. had signed an agreement with British Motor Car Distributers, Ltd. establishing the San Francisco-based importer as the manufacturer of all future products under license for De Tomaso. De Tomaso Automobiles Ltd. has been formed by British Motors to undertake this responsibility.
The pact signified the continuation of a 30-year relationship between Alejandro De Tomaso and British Motors founder Kjell Qvale, an importer and manufacturer of European sports and luxury cars for 51 years. It also sets the stage for a wealth of opportunities for the creation of new vehicles by the two entities.
Based in San Francisco and Modena, Italy (D.A.L. Srl), the newly formed company handles the development, production and eventual distribution of the new De Tomaso Mangusta. Showcased at the 1996 Geneva Auto Show, the then-named Bigua incorporates the designs of Marcello Gandini, designer of the Lamborghini Countach and Diablo.
Production of the Mangusta is planned for March of 1999.
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