To become a legend, a car needs striking looks, matching power, and a cool name to wrap it all up, so it’s no wonder the De Tomaso Pantera is such an iconic piece of automotive history. Beyond its predatory feline name and impossibly cool Italian panache, what made the Pantera iconic was the fact that it was a fabulous sports car born and raised in the most unfavorable times for performance.

Just as the car itself, the De Tomaso Pantera story is complex, wild, and laced with questionable decisions and a dash of controversy. Still, cars with a strong backstory always have memorable characters, giving us even more reasons to adore them. So, without further ado, let’s see how the supercar was born and why it’s one of the highest cherished classic cars today.

1972 De Tomaso Pantera Gr4 Ex- Works Racecar at at Spa-Francorchamps. Source: HistoricRacingHD


Decades before Horacio Pagani departed from Lamborghini and established his own brand in northern Italy, another Argentinian maverick based his automotive business in the region known for passionate cars. His name was Alejandro De Tomaso; a racing driver turned car constructor. He established his own firm in Modena in 1959 after fleeing Argentina and Juan Perón’s regime.

In Italy, De Tomaso met Isabelle Haskell, a New Jersey native and fellow racer with which he soon married and founded a company.

1966 De Tomaso Vallelunga

At first, De Tomaso Automobili made their name as a race car builder, venturing into the road car business in 1963 with the Vallelunga, a mid-engined sports coupé powered by a modest 1.5-liter Ford inline-four. The Vallelunga was built on a backbone tube chassis with bodywork designed by Carrozzeria Fissore, and the majority of production completed by Ghia, a coachbuilder De Tomaso acquired in 1967.

The next De Tomaso road car was more ambitious, race-bred, and it even had a connection to Carroll Shelby himself. This car’s roost was from the De Tomaso P70 Can-Am project The car never raced due to Shelby American’s involvement in the GT40, resulting in a falling out between Alejandro De Tomaso and Shelby.

1969 De Tomaso Mangusta by Ghia
 Tom Gidden ©2015 Courtesy of RM Auctions

Left with a chassis capable of bearing Ford V8 power, De Tomaso employed Ghia to create a dramatic wedge-shaped body, introducing the Mangusta. Fittingly, the car was named after a mongoose, an animal known for hunting cobras.

Development and Production

With the Mangusta,

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By: Djordje Sugaris
Title: De Tomaso Pantera: The Perfect Italian Underdog
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Published Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2021 02:10:53 +0000

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