Rough Start: No, “Mangusta” Does Not Mean “Italian Mustang”. But It’ll Behave Like One!

Rough Start: No, “Mangusta” Does Not Mean “Italian Mustang”. But It’ll Behave Like One!

Today is one of those days where the Rough Start rulebook is getting launched out of the window and instead we’re going to play loose and fast with our criteria. Normally we’d be looking for cheap 4th-gen Firebirds, or maybe a solid truck, or some disco barge. Today, we’re going for a bit of a hybrid. No, don’t choke…there’s no way I’d recommend a Prius for any situation other than “I live in California, I drive 50 miles each way to work, and I want to be able to afford a pack of ramen for dinner tonight”. No, we’re going to go in a truly American hybrid…the combination of a European body and an American heartbeat.

Since there is a bit of a hangup over the actual name of this car, let’s first take a history lesson. After recovering from his 1993 stroke, Alejandro de Tomaso and Maserati technical director Giordano Casarini had started to work on a car that would be a competitor to the recently-released TVR Griffith. Ford would supply power with the four-valve 4.6L V8 and would also supply other parts to get the car together. Marcello Gandini styled the new car after being driven around in a Griffith, with the only instruction being that the roof needed to have a similar multi-position roof. By 1996, the prototype, then known as the De Tomaso Biguà, was shown off at the Geneva Motor Show, but de Tomaso had a problem: he needed capital to bring the new car to life. Enter Kjell Qvale, a man with a background of importing both De Tomaso and Maserati vehicles to North America. A deal was done, and originally the car debuted as the De Tomaso Mangusta. But shortly after launch, an issue between de Tomaso and Qvale regarding another pet-project (a potential revival of the Pantera) soured their business deal and the remaining cars became Qvale Mangustas.

Confused yet?

Okay, here’s the short version: It’s a turn-of-the-millenium Italian oddity with the guts of a 1999 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra, a solid racing pedigree that includes the 2000 Trans-Am Series championship win, and a wake of very confused auto journos. And, given the “deTomaso” badging and the blue-and-white emblem on the nose, this is an early one. Judging from what we see on the perimeter walk-around, this one has been put through the ringer, badly. It needs a bath in the worst way, the interior shows twenty-odd years of use on soft Italian leather, and the back end looks like a giant kicked it in the ass. But that means that the car that sold for $88K back when it was new is now fifteen grand. Look…it would be easy to pigeonhole this car and call it a rebodied Mustang. It ain’t, even with all of the Ford-cribbed parts inside. It’s rare enough that it needs to be saved. Lord knows where you’ll find a new bumper cover, sure. But with that pedigree, that interior, and the way people will stop and ask you ninety-nine questions about what you’re driving, the rebuild should be worth it.

Facebook Marketplace Link: 2001 DeTomaso/Qvale Mangusta

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3 thoughts on “Rough Start: No, “Mangusta” Does Not Mean “Italian Mustang”. But It’ll Behave Like One!

  1. Jay

    That’s a hard pass. All the exotic prices and rarity, with a face only a mother could love.

  2. OKSNAKE08

    Yep needs to be saved but the price is nuts! One sold 10/2020 on BaT for 26.5 w 15 k on it. The miles and lack of parts availability mean this is worth far less than the asking price. Since the seller bought it at an insurance auction I’d be surprised if he has over 5k in it

  3. bkbridges

    Not sure what to say about this car. Qvale was instrumental in getting my favorite marque to the states. The Mangusta name is associated with beauty over function, while this car seems to lack at least one of those attributes. I remember (1975? ) dangerously racing a Mangusta on the 5 in my 69 Charger R/T. The Mangusta wallowed during lane changes while looking absolutely gorgeous doing it. It never came close, but it tried.

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