De Tomaso Will Be Back With A Bang At The 2019 Goodwood Festival Of Speed
Apollo Automobil has been working to bring the name back from the dead for years and it’s finally happening, on July 4thby Michael Fira, on
Nowadays, when you think of the other supercar maker based in Modena, Italy, your nether regions go mushy at the thought of a Zonda or a Huayra but, decades ago, it was De Tomaso that called home a place in the heart of Ferrari land. Alejandro De Tomaso, an Argentinan ex-pat, was the founder of the company that’s behind the Pantera and the Mangusta, cars that have transcended time and become legends in their own right. Now, the team behind the ludicrous Apollo I.E., will bring the De Tomaso name back on the nose and tail of a brand-new car they plan to unveil on Lord March’s lawn at this year’s Festival of Speed. Call us all intrigued!
Five years ago, Ideal Team Ventures, the Hong Kong investment fund owned by none other than Norman Choi, the man who bought Roland Gumpert’s company in 2016 and promptly renamed it Apollo Automobil, became the owner of the rights to the De Tomaso name and all related assets for just over $1.1 million. Now, we’re told a new De Tomaso is on the way just in time to celebrate the 60th anniversary of De Tomaso. Choi said that the car, codenamed ’Project P,’ is under development by the "same core team behind Apollo" and this means we might end up with an AMG-powered De Tomaso. Ford Cleveland V-8 fans are free to exit stage left if they feel displeased at the lack of idling burble. The rest of us are already dreaming of a modern-day Mangusta, complete with butterfly engine covers.
The revival comes with an updated badge too
"Since the acquisition of De Tomaso, we have been secretively working behind the scenes on a world-class revival strategy with the intention to go public with our efforts for the 60th anniversary," said Ryan Berris, De Tomaso’s current CMO and General Manager in a press release. Berris adds that launching a new car is also an opportunity to tell the story of De Tomaso, a story considered as "unknown" by the bulk of car fanatics the world over. So far, what we’ve got is the codename of the car - Project P - a hashtag to go with it (#DTProjectP) and the updated logo of De Tomaso.
The changes to the logo are minute with the white-and-blue stripes, a dead ringer to the colors on the Argentinian flag, staying put.
What has changed, though, is the T placed in the middle of the vertically-positioned rectangle. The T is a bit more stylized and minimalistic than before (and also thinner). On top of that, the font used to spell out ’De Tomaso’ below the logo is now different, much simpler, and sans-serif. Before, De Tomaso used a Pirelli-esque font with the T extending all the way to the end of the ’Tomaso’ word.
In that same press release, it’s announced that the logo was designed for the "next generation of De Tomaso Automobili." This leads me to think that, maybe, the Project P won’t be the only car to proudly display the De Tomaso badge in the future. After all, back in the day, De Tomaso used to produce a whole fleet of cars: there were the mid-engine sports cars like the Mangusta and the Pantera but, then, Alejandro’s men also assembled cars like the Longchamp, a laid-back two-door coupe, the Deauville, a sporty four-door related to the Quattroporte, and, more recently, the company almost came back as an SUV maker.
While we’ll still have to wait a bit to get more official information on the Project P, let’s just take a brief look at Apollo’s only creation thus far, the ludicrous Intensa Emozione (or, for those who like to keep it short, I.E.). For starters, it looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before. That’s because it’s a cavalcade of creases, vents, violent angles, and pointy edges, all there to make you wonder who in his or her right mind would deem this thing road worthy. But we’re very glad it is.
With that huge wing hanging out in the back and that spine linking it to the cockpit, you can almost see it racing at Le Mans in the near future as part of the new fleet of hypercars that are set to roam at Circuit de la Sarthe come 2020. Indeed, under the carbon fiber body, there are wooden (jabroc wood to be precise) skid plates like on most race cars (they are used to make sure the teams don’t run the cars lower than the minimum ride height inscribed in the rules). Also, its jet fighter-inspired body generates 2,976 pounds of downforce when traveling at 186 mph, enough to see it drive upside down if it ever needed to.
The power needed to have this 2,755-pound beast reach and exceed 186 mph doesn’t come from some hybrid powertrain. Choi is a fan of late-’90s GT1 cars and, as such, the, I.E. doesn’t ride on a skateboard that’s incorporating enth batteries. Instead, all the oomph is produced by a naturally aspirated 6.3-liter V-12. How much oomph there is? Well, officially, the I.E. puts out 780 horsepower at 8,500 rpm and 561 pound-feet) of torque. The V-12, which has been co-developed with HWA, the renown Mercedes-Benz tuner and motorsport entrant, redlines at an ear-splitting 9,000 rpm.
Autotecnica Motori laid the groundwork for this unit that’ll send the car from naught to 60 mph in 2.7 seconds en route to a top speed of 208 mph. The gearbox is a Hewland six-speed sequential with paddles behind the wheel, one that’s equipped with a multitude of buttons and knobbs: some to control the engine maps (threre three: Wet, Sport, and Track) and others to toggle through the 12 traction control modes. With this being said, the power steering itself is hydraulic and not electric, again because Apollo wants the I.E. to give you... intense emotions. Indeed, the first intense emotion will probably be felt when you sign off the departure of $2.7 million from your bank account as that’s how much one of the 10 I.E. that re supposed to be built cost.
We don't know if the De Tomaso Project P will be as track-focused as the I.E., but I'd assume it'll be a bit more tame while still keeping that edge that has characterized all of De Tomaso's mid-engined cars.
Expects loads of power, a similarly non-turbocharged mill behind the seats, and quite a bit of old-fashioned goodness mixed in with a fair amount of 2019-level tech. Let’s just hope it’ll share none of the design cues of this God forsaken prototype though.
The History of De Tomaso
So, the news is that De Tomaso will be back. We don’t know exactly what’s cooking, but it’s supposed to be something that will help our jaws to reach the floor in no time. We also don’t know what are the company’s plans for the future but what we do know is that the whole process of slowly revealing that car, Project P, and the company’s plans will be intertwined with moments that will help everybody to realize the greatness of De Tomaso and the depths of its history and heritage.
If you’re still scratching your head (or if you’re one of those that used to write ’’De Tomaso’ in one word or if you still wite ’Le Mans’ in one word), here’s a short run down of the key moments in De Tomaso’s soon-to-be 60-year-long history. Don’t expect me to shock you with some astounding facts, no matter what the (new) De Tomaso company will try to convince you. No, a De Tomaso never won an F1 race, nor did it ever conquer Le Mans although the Pantera was a rather successful race car in Group 4 specification. And no, Ford didn’t hit it big with the same Pantera in the U.S. but it was a cooler option than Chevrolet’s Corvette, that goes without saying. And yes, De Tomaso did own Maserati for about two decades (as well as Innocenti and others). So, in short, it’s got an interesting history, but you can’t compare it with either Lamborghini or Ferrari.
Born in 1928, Alejandro De Tomaso fled Argentina for Italy after his high-ranked family was involved in a plot to overthrow President Juan Peron in 1955. By that time, De Tomaso was already keen to become a driver for one of Italy’s top sports car makers.
He'd driven a Maserati A6GCS in the 1955 edition of the 1,000-kilometer race in Buenos Aires, but his eyes were so on open-wheel racing.
In spite of that, he returned to native Argentina in 1956 to compete in the same endurance race (that was part of the World Championship for Sports Cars at the time) where he finished fourth overall and first in the 1.5-liter class aboard a Maserati 150S that he owned.
He entered the same car in the 12 Hours of Sebring that year, but the gearshift linkage broke, and he had to retire the car. The Argentinian kept trying his luck, but the 150S refused to stay together over a full race length, breaking down at the Nurburgring, the Mille Miglia, at Linas-Monthlery near Paris, and even during the Venezuelan Grand Prix for Sports Cars.
In 1957, De Tomaso made his F1 debut in native Argentina and, after putting the 12th fastest time in qualifying, came home ninth - insufficient to score points they were only offered to the first six drivers at the end of the race.
De Tomaso drove a Ferrari on that occasion but, for the 1,000-kilometer sports car race he slotted to an O.S.C.A. 1500S and, just like in ’56, came first in his class. Later that same year, his ties with O.S.C.A. (Officine Specializzate Costruzione Automobili—Fratelli Maserati S.p.A.) grew deeper. In fact, this was the company for which he’d make his second and last F1 start in 1959. As a footnote, O.S.C.A. was established by three of the Maserati brothers, Ernesto, Ettore, and Bindo, after they were ousted from Maserati in 1947 by Adolfo Orsi whou’d bought the company in 1937.
De Tomaso kept racing O.S.C.A. machinery for the entirety of 1957 and 1958, but results were few and far between. He did with a sports car race for 1.1-liter models in Rouen, France, and then, in March of 1958, was first in the 0.75-liter class aboard an O.S.C.A. S750 he shared with Isabelle Haskell (his soon-to-be wife) and Robert Ferguson. Then, at Le Mans, De Tomaso won again (in the same engine displacement category), this time teamed up with future Porsche works driver Colin Davis of Great Britain.
By 1959, however, De Tomaso's career as a driver started to wind down and, fascinated by the breakthrough designs of John Cooper's F1 outfit (the championship-winning T51 with the engine aft of the cockpit), he decided a mid-engined sports car was very much an interesting proposition.
Before it, though, some light single-seaters took precedence. The first one, a Formula Junior design, was built in 1959, merely months after Automobili De Tomaso was established. In some ways, the De Tomaso FJ was a Cooper lookalike, but it helped Alejandro learn a lot about automotive engineering and design. So much, in fact, that in 1960 he rolled out a Formula 2 single-seater with double-wishbone suspension all around linked to a tubular spaceframe chassis. The chassis was design to take in O.S.C.A.’s twin-camshaft, four-pot, 1.5-liter engine.
While the F2 car was never raced in F2, the fact that it was designed to welcome a 1.5-liter unit helped De Tomaso in 1961 when the rules opened up in F1 to allow 1.5-liter cars. As such, in less than two years, De Tomaso had in his garage an F1 car and, soon enough, there were customers for it. One of the first was the Scuderia Serenissima, the team of Count Giovanni Volpi. The well-known Italian outfit entered an O.S.C.A.-powered De Tomaso in the 1961 French Grand Prix held at Reims, but this proved to be a mistake. You see, Reims was held on a bunch of very fast French B-roads, and the O.S.C.A. engine was simply breathless after one lap of the circuit, let alone 52. As such, driver Giorgio Scarlatti finished 26th and last after running some seven seconds off the pace of the leaders the whole race. To improve things in the power department, De Tomaso sourced an Alfa Romeo Giulietta engine but, even in the hands of Targa Florio master Nino Vaccarella, the car was bog slow. What is more, the Alfa engine proved to be unreliable too, and Vaccarella stood by the wayside after just 13 laps of the 1961 Italian Grand Prix. That was the last F1 race for De Tomaso’s first proper single-seater, but there was more to come in this department.
Fast forward two years and, finally, in 1963, the first street-going De Tomaso was ready.
Built in Modena, where the De Tomaso family established its headquarters after leaving Argentina, this first car was called 'Vallelunga,' an ode to the Italian racing track, and was designed by Carrozzeria Fissore.
It sported a 1.5-liter version of the Ford Cortina GT’s engine placed in the middle and was built by Ghia. Originally, Alejandro intended to sell the design to another manufacturer but he didn’t find an interested party so, rather than ditching the project, he decided to have it built under the banner of his own car company. The Vallelunga’s chassis would prove to be rather weary and, as a direct result, the Cortina engine was the biggest ever fitted to it. What it lacked in power, the Vallelunga made up in glitz as Ricci Martin, son of entertainer Dean Martin, owned two Vallelunga in the ’60s which helped De Tomaso sell some 50 examples of the car.
Then, in 1965, De Tomaso was contacted by Carroll Shelby who was looking to build a replacement for the Shelby King Cobra, a Cooper-based sports car that raced in USRRC competition throughout 1965 with some success. Pete Brock (who cooperated with Bill Mitchell on the Corvette Sting Ray Racer of 1959) was tasked with the design of the new P70 sports car (after doing such a good job on the Cobra Daytona Coupe that became World Champion in 1965) but Shelby American as a constructor could fit nothing more on its plate. Carroll knew the Ford GT program was about to explode come 1966 and that’s why he reached out to De Tomaso. He already had the backbone chassis used in the Vallelunga and a transaxle, but they both had to be modified to not crumple under the loads of the 4.7-liter Ford V-8 small block.
Sadly, the time De Tomaso needed to harmonize the chassis and transaxle with the engine, made Shelby to cancel the whole gig but not before Pete Brock was flown to Italy to see what was going on in Modena. When he arrived there, Brock realized that De Tomaso took it as an insult that Shelby sent someone over to check on the things were progressing. The designer decided to evade further worsening the conflict by spending his days at Carrozzeria Fantuzzi, who built the bodies of the P70.
After Brock left and the cooperation ended, De Tomaso decided to soldier on, and Ghia was called in to help finish the car. Sure enough, one chassis was readied up for the 1965 Turin Auto Show held in November where the mid-engined sports car was unveiled as the ’Ghia De Tomaso.’ It looked great with the wheels partially hiddedn by the bodywork, but it had no place in Europe as it’d been designed for the Group 7 races in the States. De Tomaso hurredly modified a second chassis for racing in the top category in European sports car racing and brought it to Mugello in 1966. The car retired after completing less than a lap, and that was that. The ACO, the organizer of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, rejected De Tomaso’s entry and the P70 (renamed ’Sport 5000’) was never seen again at a race meeting.
However, its backbone chassis lived on in the Vallelunga’s genuine replacement, a car with a body penned by Ghia’s Giorgetto Giugiaro that should’ve ended up with the Iso-Rivolta badge on the hood but didn’t. The name of this car? The Mangusta, named that way because mongooses kill cobras. You could say Alejandro was yet to mend his relationship with Carroll Shelby in 1967 when the Mangusta was unveiled.
This new mid-engined sports car was powered by the same 4.7-liter V-8 from Ford (in a different state of tune, of course), although it later received the 5.0-liter version, still mated to a ZF five-speed manual.
The bigger unit was fitted to the cars destined for the North-American market. In American guise, the Mangusta put out 221 horsepower, an 85 horsepower drop compared to the European version. The Mangusta’s standout feature was its gullwing engine cover with twin rear windows and air vents below the windows. Just 401 Mangustas were made, due to the high costs of construction and the fact that the car was a bit of handful (the 32/68 weight distribution surely didn’t help). While it wasn’t particularly expensive in its day (compared to a Miura, for instance), now you’ll need to fork out as much as $300,000 for a low-mileage model made towards the end of the production run.
De Tomaso proved to be a shrewed businessman, and he managed to repair his relationship with Ford to the extent that he became close with Lee Iaccoca. The two pieced together a bold plan to dethrone the Corvette: De Tomaso would design a new sports car with the engine behind the cabin and in front of the back axle that would combine European design with American rawness, performance, and reliability. That’s how the De Tomaso Pantera was born in 1970 (shown Stateside at the 1970 New York Auto Show).
The body was the brainchild of Ghia's Tom Tjaarda and was similar with other wedge-shaped cars of the '70s although prettier than others in that price rage (read Lamborghini Urraco or Dino Ferrari 308 GT4).
The deal between De Tomaso and Ford was quite intricate. For starters, Ford acquired an 84% stake in the company from Amory Haskell Jr., Alejandro’s brother-in-law and the owner of Rowan industries who was the company’s main backer almost since day 1. Ford also agreed to sell the Pantera Statside through tis Lincoln-Mercury dealership network and deliver to De Tomaso crates upon crates of Ford Cleveland V-8 engines.
The deal ran only until 1974 when, in the midst of the OPEC oil crisis, Ford pulled out, and Alejandro regained full control of the company. Why did it happen? Well, for starters, it has to be said that De Tomaso did make over 6,000 Panteras between 1971 and 1973 while the Ford deal was on, but Ford was displeased at De Tomaso’s apparent inability to fix the Pantera’s problems which were plenty: the ergonomics were all over the place (offset pedals due to the front suspension layout, cramped cabin could not fit people over six feet tall unless you went for bespoke seats, poorly thought out gauge cluster and button arrangement on the console, and many othe niggly little things without mentioning the typically Italian disinterest in quality control).
After Ford was no longer involved, De Tomaso still equipped the Pantera with Ford engines and sold it in Europe and everywhere else but for the States.
However, the number of cars made every year decreased and, by the ’80s, the heavily face-lifted Pantera barely sold 100 units over a period of 12 months. Then, in 1990, Marcello Gandini, who’d been avoiding to work with De Tomaso for years (because of his longstanding cooperation with Bertone/Lamborghini but also due other reasons), finally agreed to comprehensively update the design of the Pantera.
Known as the Pantera 90 SI, it was built between 1990 and 1993 in very limited numbers. It came with a 5.0-liter engine that, with a catalytic converter in place, put out 244 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque.
The redesigned Pantera brough the De Tomaso name back into racing. Previously a Group 5-spec Pantera had showed up at Le Mans in 1979 with an outrageous body in long tail specification.
The new 90 SI raced at Le Mans in 1994 in the hands of British team ADA Engineering in the GT1 class. Two years later, Jota Sport tried to qualify a different Pantera but failed to do so at a time when Porsche was racing the prototype-esque 911 GT1 in the exact same category...
While De Tomaso was busy cranking out the Pantera, Alejandro took on other challenges. For instance, in 1976, De Tomaso took over Maserati from Citroen with some help from the Italian government (at the same time Alejandro also purchased Innocenti, but that’s a story for another day). The first Maserati built during the ’De Tomaso era,’ the Kyalami, was a De Tomaso Longchamp redesigned by Frua, with the Ford engine replaced by Maserati’s own 4.2-liter V-8. What was the Longchamp? Well, De Tomaso didn’t shy away from building other types of cars in the ’70s and ’80s. The first oddball was the Deauville that debuted in 1971. It was a four-door sedan with sporty aspirations that was meant to take on Jaguar’s XJ.
Again, build quality hampered the Deauville's success and only 244 units were built 1985, one of which was a station wagon for De Tomaso's wife.
The Longchamp, meanwhile, was introduced in 1972 and was based on a shortened Deauville chassis. It offered seating for four and, to keep costs down, the same Pantera engine was utilized. Both of these more luxurious De Tomasos were designed by Tjaarda during his tenure at Ghia, and both received a number of stylistic updates during their rather long (but fruitless) production cycles.
Around the time De Tomaso was preparing to phase out the Pantera, Maserati was trying to change its aatrociously bad public image, one that was set in stone at the time by such dismal models as the Biturbo. With De Tomaso still its owner, Maserati thought about organizing a single-make series called the ’Grantrofeo Barchetta’ for the Maserati Barchetta.
Designed by Carlo Gaino of Synthesis Design, the Barchetta was, as its name suggests, an open-top sports car that wasn't street legal although only one chassis was adapted for street use.
All 16 cars built at De Tomaso’s factory in Modena were equipped with Maserati’s 2.0-liter V-6 engine that was already powering both the Biturbo and the Ghibli. The engine cranked out 315 horsepower at 7,250 rpm sent to the back wheels through a six-speed ZF transmission with straight-cut gears. The Barchetta Trophy went on for just two years as, in May of 1993, Alejandro De Tomaso sold his 51% stake in Maserati to Fiat, transforming Fiat in the sole owner of Maserati.
In spite of this, De Tomaso was able to start making a street-legal version of the Barchetta with a fixed roof called the Guara.
Originally, De Tomaso wanted the Barchetta to spawn a Maserati-badged road-legal version, but that didn’t materialize, apart from that one Barchetta street-legal example. The Guara is almost identical in design to the Barchetta, but it features a fiberglass and Kevlar body with with independent upper and lower wishbone with pushrod front and rear suspension hanging from the backbone chassis.
Just 50 Guaras were made, some with BMW power and others with Ford supercharged engines. The 3.9-liter V-8 BMW engine was, actually, the same one that powered the BMW 8 Series at the time - it put out 279 horsepower transmitted to the wheels through a Getrag six-speed box. The Guara only weighed 2,646 pounds dry, tempted its buyers with a top speed of 170 mph and, by 1997, was available in convertible guise too. The last Guara was assembled in the mid-’00s, not long after Alejandro De Tomaso passed on.
The Guara, though, wasn’t supposed to be De Tomaso’s only offering at the turn of the millenium.
In fact, the company cooperated with Qvale to unveil the 1996 concept Bigua, a convertible styled by Gandini.
To boost sales, the Bigua was renamed ’Mangusta’ but, just as the production was commencing, there was a fallout between Qvale and De Tomaso and the project stalled. Qvale then pushed on regardless and released the car under its own name as the Qvale Mangusta. Also, in 2002, there were rumors that a deal was in place between De Tomaso and Russian car and truck maker UAZ for the building of a rugged SUV, but this never transpired.
Seven years later, the De Tomaso trademark was bought by Gian Mario Rossignolo who started a new company. The plan was ambitious, to say the least, Rossignolo envisioning a lineup comprising three models: a sports car, a luxury sedan, and a crossover. Only the crossover materialized in 2011 when pundits called it ’tame.’ Looking back, its raised sedan appearance with a stubby tail makes us draw some comparisons with Tesla’s Model Y or the Model X, for instance. There’s clearly some resemblence between the two, although not as far as the drivetrain is concerned. That’s because De Tomaso announced that the crossover, aptly named ’Longchamp,’ was to be powered by a choice of three engines: two gas units, a 550 horsepower V-8 and a 300 horsepower V-6, and a 250 horsepower V-6 diesel for the European markets.
Rossignolo, a former Fiat Marketing Manager, wanted to build 3,000 units of the crossover on top of about 5,000 units (combined) of the sedan and the sports car. At the time, it was also said that the cars would be built at the The cars will be built at the former Pininfarina factory in Grugliasco, near Turin. With Rossignolo’s arrest in 2012, the name went dormant again. Let’s hope Choi & Co. enjoy a better fate!
Read our full review on the 1971 - 1991 De Tomaso Pantera.
Read our full review on the 1967 - 1971 De Tomaso Mangusta.
Read our full review on the 1965 De Tomaso Prova P70.
Source: Road & Track