12k Original Miles: 1970 De Tomaso Mangusta

I was having a look back over the De Tomaso cars that we’ve featured here on Barn Finds over the years, and I was initially quite surprised to learn that we’ve only featured 5 stories on the Mangusta since we first started operations. This seemed like an extraordinarily low number until I considered the fact that while the car remained in production from 1967 until 1971, the company only produced 401 cars. Of that total, 251 cars were officially imported into the USA. I’d be willing to bet that a few more may have found their way here as private imports, but that number is still very low. This particular car is in generally pretty reasonable condition, but it isn’t perfect. It is located in Laguna Beach, California, and is listed for sale here on eBay. The owner is looking at a BIN price of $288,000 for the Mangusta, but the option is available to make the owner an offer.

The Mangusta is a striking looking car, and it was also a surprisingly cheap car to build. However, those that owned and drove it could tell you exactly why. They are a car that is high on pose value, but not the happiest thing that you can point at a twisting bit of road. We’ll get to that part of the story shortly. This one really looks to be in good condition. While 251 cars made their way to the US, only about 50 of those were built with the pop-up headlights. These were less to do with aesthetics and were installed to allow the Mangusta to comply with the minimum headlight height rule. The other alternative would have been to raise the ride height of the vehicle, and while some overseas manufacturers followed this path De Tomaso chose the “pop-up” route. The other striking body feature of the Mangusta is the engine cover, which opens like the wings of a butterfly. For those who have never seen this before, it certainly can cause some raised eyebrows.

The interior of this particular Mangusta looks to be in reasonable condition, with some major seam separation in the seat leather being the major flaw. It has one of my all-time favorite features, which is a chrome-gated shifter. That’s nearly enough to make me want to own this car. There is a downside to all of this though. Take a bit of a look at the alignment of the seat, the wheel, and the pedals. That was one of the glaring criticisms of the Mangusta because these three items contrived to make the car feel cramped, which isn’t helped by the low roof-line. And for those of us over a certain age (and let’s be honest here a certain weight) there is no elegant way to get out of a Mangusta. You don’t so much climb out, as fall out. Still, if you’re young, fit and flexible, then you’re laughing.

I was so looking forward to seeing a shot of the engine, and this is what we get. The Mangusta is a mid-engined sports car that is powered by a 302ci Ford V8 engine, which produces 230hp. These horses are sent to the rear wheels via a 5-speed ZF transaxle. Stopping is provided by impressive 4-wheel disc brakes. That sort of power combined with a vehicle weight of 2,612lbs should equate to impressive performance, and you’d be pretty right there. The Mangusta can accelerate from 0-60mph in around 6 seconds, cover the ¼ mile in around 14 seconds, and reach a top speed of 155mph. While none of those numbers sound particularly impressive today, they were mighty good back in 1970. Cornering, on the other hand, was a whole different kettle of fish. The weight distribution wasn’t particularly good, and the chassis itself was not particularly stiff. That meant that the Mangusta didn’t handle as well as many people hoped. This one is a low mileage example. It has only covered a claimed 12,700 miles, but the owner doesn’t mention any documentary evidence to back this claim. Nor does he give any hint about how well the car runs or drives. Some of the supplied photos do show the car moving, so that’s a positive.

This is not the cheapest Mangusta that you will find on the market today, but it also isn’t the most expensive. My illustrious colleague, Jamie Palmer, wrote this excellent article back in April of 2017, and the car that he featured there was one of the nicest that I’ve ever seen. These are a car that has seen a steady, but not striking, increase in values, and they seem to make a pretty fair long-term investment. If you are looking for a car that is that kind of investment, and you wouldn’t mind a large helping of “pose value” as part of the deal, then this Mangusta would be the car for you.

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Comments

  1. Rick

    Still one of my halo cars, handling be darned. If someone was brave enough to rebuild one on a modern tube frame with the right suspension, you could sell this car today.

    Like 1
  2. Blyndgesser

    A thing of beauty, fit for display. A rough draft for the less exquisite but more drivable Pantera that followed. A feral mongoose that will turn on you and kill you without a moment’s hesitation.

    I’d love to have the barn it was found in.

    Like 1
  3. wuzjeepnowsaab

    This is the car that was on bat last week. Bid to 200k and didn’t meet reserve

    Like 1
  4. TimM

    Hard to find!!!

    Like 1
  5. Earl Hayes

    Automotive styling perfection!

    Like 1
  6. poseur Member

    still have my Matchbox Mangusta.

    one of the most striking & gorgeous designs that make Italian sportscars the epitome of cool & desirable.

    i’d pose in this thing all day any day.

  7. Bruce

    So beautiful and so flawed. Take a good look at the top of the windshield and where your face will be and it is more than cramped. The interior just is uncomfortable for any length of time. This is a car that could seriously need an addition two to three inches between the front and rear ends of the doors. In addition the steering wheel, pedals and seat are all offset from each other as in the Pantara which results in some serious back pain over time. Also note that the dash is not a thing of beauty by any standard.

    That being said the Mangusta is a breathtaking, heartbreaking beautiful piece of auto art. I have been around two over the years. Both owners were scared of them on anything but a straight line and braking should have been excellent with the equipment but one owner said he constantly had one wheel or another lock up under hard braking.

    I really wish the factory had the funds to work out the details and fix the problems as I think this could have been as good or better seller than the later Pantara. As for the butterfly engine hood it kind of limits your ability to lift the engine out for service, but otherwise was surprisingly effective. Did not help the function of the rear view mirror that much but when you are that low everybody’s headlights shine right into that mirror and this design stopped a lot of that. My Europa and Esprit have exactly the same problems.

    For all those that think that this design has reached the level of Auto Design Porn I agree with you. This is one of the cars that I wish some kit car MFG would take this design on. I think it could be a big success with modern engineering applied to the structure. Speaking of the structure the frame is not much heaver than that of my 80 -120 HP Europa so that it has a flex frame with 230 HP is not surprising.

  8. t-bone Bob

    Supposed to be a Cobra killer.

  9. dylan

    these are super rare. even a broken beaten one would be an amazing find.

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