The Carchive: The DeTomaso / Qvale Mangusta

20140828_143249 Welcome to the second of this week’s visits to The Carchive, where we dissect and discuss whatever forgotten artefacts of motoring history happen to flutter past among the fallen leaves and discarded Subway wrappings. We’re looking at the Post-Pantera era of DeTomaso’s existence, and started off by unearthing the ultra-low volume Guara of the mid-90’s. Today we’re going to look at the last vehicle to be developed under DeTomaso’s wings , and which recycles a name from the past. It’s the Mangusta. The story of this intriguing contraption is a strange one. If The Internet is to believed, the Mangusta was concieved after Maserati technical director Giordano Casarini saw a TVR Griffith during a business trip in the UK. Several years later, Casarini suggested that the struggling De Tomaso should begin to produce “an Italian TVR”. Now, on the face of it this sounds absolutely mental. The Italians taking lessons in Sportscar Best Practice from a small firm based in a shed in Blackpool would be akin to Robert DiNiro seeking acting pointers from Steven Seagal, except for the fact that TVR’s were always pretty passionate machines, from a pretty empassioned company. Perhaps, if the Italians could draw inspiration from the simpicity, honesty and rawness of those wheeled Lancashire Hotpots, DeTomaso could be on to a winner. 20140828_143422 “Mangusta; the result of pooling the talents of designers and manufacturers from the old and new worlds” The designer, from the Old World, was a feller named Gandini, famed for his Diablo and my beloved Quattroporte Evo. To make doubly sure he “got” what the company were aiming for, he was taken out for a drive in a TVR Griffith before embarking on the project. From the New World there came the powerplant, which we saw on Tuesday being used in DeTomaso’s Other model, the Guara. It’s the Ford “Modular” V8, 4.6 litres big and 320 horses strong. Interestingly, on the back of the brochure it reads “Powertrain technical data supplied by Ford Motor Company”. 20140828_143438 Development and production of the new car was financially underwritten by Bruce Qvale and family, to be marketed as the DeTomaso Mangusta, but before long and for reasons of internal politics, the DeTomaso identity was dropped. The Qvale Mangusta, then, went on to be marketed for less than two years, with a few under three hundred machines being sold in total, receiving generally positive reviews from those who drove or bought them. Personally I think it’s a fascinating looking machine, far from prettiness and with a bit too much Fiat Coupe at the nose. But I dig the way those rear lights are fitted behind black mesh covers for no obvious reason. I even dig the painfully contrived way the traditional Gandini cranked-wheelarch treatment is incorporated. It’s a real stylistic mishmash. If it were an ice cream flavour it would be mint, lemon, toffee, chocolate, coffee, rum and raison, served with strawberry syrup and sugar frosting. 20140828_143457 ”This breathtaking machine is a sublime blend- a mosaic- of exquisite build quality, exhilarating power and carefully tuned chassis dynamics” The exquisite build quality must have been subjective. Everything was probably beautifully screwed together, but the components themselves weren’t always from the very top drawer. A look in the cockpit would reveal that the lovely, delicately stitched leather served as a counterpoint to the obviously Ford-sourced switchgear scattered throughout the cabin. It was a bit like the world’s highest quality bun with the same old McDonalds patty in the middle. But the car, as a whole, had potential, a fact not lost on those who instigated the next phase of the story. It was this car, with the Gandini bodywork scraped off and a new, Peter Stevens-penned shape in its place, which would form MG Rover’s last hurrah as the Xpower SV. As opposed to the CityRover, which was to be their final tragedy. And, have no doubt, The Carchive will cover both of those another day. (Disclaimer, all images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright probably belongs to Walt Disney or Bill Gates or somebody. Or is in the back of the desk drawer of one of those Phoenix Consortium guys who killed Rover)

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