In its early days, De Tomaso was turning out fairly tame cars, when compared to the screaming 1971 - 1991 De Tomaso Pantara that would come along later and forever secure the legacy of the De Tomaso name. The company’s first production car was the Vallelunga, first conceived as a design to be sold to another company. When none ponied up the cash, De Tomaso built it with the help of Ghia. Since no plans had been made for an engine, a 4-cylinder Ford Cortina engine was used. The result was disappointing, and the power was seriously lacking when compared to the similarly exotic-looking Italian sports cars of the time.

De Tomaso wanted to make something more powerful to give the company’s sporting image a boost, and so Carroll Shelby was called upon to secure a more serious engine for a racing prototype. The result was the Prova P70 that you see here, photographed at the recent 2015 Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance during day 5 of Monterey Car Week 2015. The word “prova” is Italian for “test” and here essentially denotes a prototype. The “P” stands for “posterior”, as that was where the engine was found, and the 70 denotes the 7.0-liter Ford V8 that Shelby got for the car.
Continue reading for my full review of this special De Tomaso.


1965 De Tomaso Prova P70
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1965 De Tomaso Prova P70
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1965 De Tomaso Prova P70
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Just looking at the P70, it’s obvious that aerodynamics were of the utmost importance, which makes sense given that this was a purely racing model. Still, this was 1965 and there is a gracefulness to the lines of the bodywork that is unique to this decade. The lines aren’t especially unique though, as it was designed in a terrible hurry. Shelby had enlisted the help of Peter Brock to design the body, but had only given him a week to complete the project. So Brock based the design on the 1964 Lang Cooper racer, another of Shelby’s projects, and the P70 is really just a tweaked version of that design. But one important difference between the two cars is the rear wing on the P70. This was adjustable to allow for either more or less downforce. Seems like a simple enough concept, but it was pretty groundbreaking in 1965. Weight came in at a fantastically low 1,450 lbs.


1965 De Tomaso Prova P70
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There isn’t any sort of an interior to speak of. This is a racer, and a prototype racer at that, so De Tomaso wouldn’t have bothered with that. But of note is the steering wheel, which is of the big, round wooden variety. A hallmark of expensive Sixties cars, collectors absolutely love those things.


2015 Shelby 50th Anniversary Cobra 427 Drivetrain
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Note: 427 V-8 from 2015 Shelby 50th Anniversary 427 Cobra shown here.

The 7.0-liter engine used in the car was Ford’s infamous 427 racing engine, also used in a small number of Cobras by Shelby. Ford never released any official power numbers for the engine, and neither did De Tomaso, so we can only guess. The engine is one of the main things that sets the P70 apart from the Sport 5000, another De Tomaso racing prototype using a different Ford V8. This was the 289, an engine found in just about every Ford that offered a V8 at the time. It’s displacement was getting up around 5 liters, and this was the source for the 5000 name, although that is a bit of stretch. The power produced by the 289-powered version of the car came to 475 horsepower, so we could conservatively estimate that the 427 was making in excess of 500 horsepower.


1965 De Tomaso Prova P70
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The plan was originally to build 50 units of the P70, but in the end a total of one was built. Carroll Shelby ended up devoting so much attention to the GT40 project at Ford that the P70 never really took off, and in the end it was disassembled and stuck on some shelves at De Tomaso’s factory. It wasn’t until after Alejandro de Tomaso’s death in 2003 that the car was reassembled and restored. Being a completely restored one-off, the car is incredibly valuable, although it’s very difficult to pin down how much it’s actually worth when there’s only one. Similar sorts of prototypes have gone for somewhere in the $3 million neighborhood, and that’s probably what you should expect if you ever somehow find yourself in a position to make an offer on this car.


Lola T70

1965 De Tomaso Prova P70
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Chosen for more than just the similar name, the Lola T70 was very much the same kind of idea as the P70. In addition to have a similar design and layout, the Lola also had a 7.0-liter V8, but in this case made by Chevrolet. The Lola raced extensively in the Sixties, and the makings were all there for a fantastic rivalry with De Tomaso, it’s a real shame that the P70 was never produced.

Ford GT40

1964 - 1969 Ford GT40 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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1964-1965 Ford GT40 Mk. I

This rival for Carroll Shelby’s attention would have also been a formidable rival on the track had the P70 had the chance to compete. We all know that the GT40 was an amazing car, but the P70 used one of the same engines as the Ford while weighing a full 600 lbs less. That could have made for another great rivalry.

Read our full review of the 1964 - 1969 Ford GT40 here.


1965 De Tomaso Prova P70
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The fact that the P70 was never produced is certainly a loss, but it’s debatable how much of a loss it really was. It was so similar to so many other racers at the time that one more probably wouldn’t have changed the face of motorsports at the time. Moreover, pulling out of the P70 project was what allowed Shelby to work with Ford to develop the GT40, and a world without that car would certainly have been a huge loss. On the other hand, had this been a fully realized program, it could have led to a 427-powered road car from De Tomaso, and that would have been amazing. The biggest engine ever put in the Pantera was the 351, and the 1967 - 1971 De Tomaso Mangusta only had the 289. An Italian body with a 427 is an awesome thing to consider, but this is the only example we’ll ever see.

  • Leave it
    • doesn’t have the recognition of the GT40
    • one-offs are difficult to price, and sometimes don’t hold their value
    • you would need serious metalworking skills to ever do any repairs
Jacob Joseph
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