A Vortex of Conflicting Emotions. The De Tomaso Deauville.

20140510_134938 The De Tomaso Mangusta was definitely cool, largely thanks to the Cobra-devouring name. The De Tomaso Pantera was also cool, mainly thanks to its association with drug-addled rock stars; it was very definitely a car for wealthy hedonists. It was a bit of a blue-collar supercar, too, with oily bits from the Ford parts bin, involving a nicely tuned Cleveland 351 providing movement and sound effects. So, what if you rearrange the components and put them under a Jaguar XJ-aping bodyshell? Well, you get a metaphysical quandary that confuses me to a cellular level. Let’s start with the positives. De Tomaso (after a literally shaky start with the Vallelunga) new a thing of two about sporting car chassis design, so anything with their name on it ought to be able to look after itself on a challenging road. In fact, the underpinnings of the Deauville were shared by the third generation Maserati Quattroporte. So that bit gets the thumbs up. The engine, too, gets a big nod of approval. Given the right application this engine can do wondrous things, and it always sounds great. A big, bellowy engine like that might not be the obvious choice for a black-tie sedan but it’s at least guaranteed to be fun. 20140510_134912 Let’s also extend our approval in the direction of stylistic intent. If Tom Tjaarda (of Ghia who had ultimate responsibility for the Deauville) had intended to create something along the lines of a Jaguar XJ6, but with a more dynamic, muscular appeal, then that was a very worthy, very understandable intention. I think the problem lies with the fact that, somehow, they managed to make an absolute pigs ear of it. The Deauville is an aesthetic fiasco from the graceless, individually bezeled headlamps right to the crudely hung tailpipes. It’s obvious that the basic shape has been brazenly stolen from the XJ, there’s no realism in saying that it was merely an influence. But somehow the grace and majesty of the British car has been replaced by atypically Italian vulgarity. It’s the details that do it. Or, rather, fail to. This blue example is one of the last ones assembled, and as such the chrome is all replaced with blackwork. But whatever the colour, the components themselves are pretty damn nasty. The headlamp bezels look as if they should be from a commercial vehicle or a kit-car, the bizarre trapezoidal radiator grille looks absurd, and just what on Earth is going on with the angle of the front bumper? They’re all fitted like that, by the way. 20140510_134924 The XJ works so well because of the artful integration of its various features. The rear lights, for example, fit crisply into the little nacelles that they belong to. By contrast the Deauville uses the same parts-bin light clusters that so many of their other cars have employed, and they sit, plonked randomly onto the sheetmetal like a giant, foul tasting berry upon an otherwise pleasing pie. So, the Deauville looks terrible, and didn’t even really evolve to move with the times during its looooong production run of 14 years. 20140510_134902 And yeah, you guessed it: I like it a whole lot. As a kind of evil bastard half-brother to the XJ, there’s something defiantly anti-establishment about it. The buyer of a new Deauville would have made a deliberately leftfield, contrary decision which couldn’t possibly be considered to make even a hint of sense. Absolute lunacy, without which the world would be rather more boring. (Please, please, if you read this and are the owner of an ’85 Deauville whose registration ends with EUW, contact me. I desperately need to drive your car and can offer you in exchange a drive in a 1998 Audi A4 or a 1997 Rover 825. Seriously!!!) [Images: copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Chris Haining]

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