Johannesburg - When a friend who owns and runs a classic car magazine called me over the summer break to ask if I was keen to join in on a photo shoot for his next issue, I weighed up my options. Sit by the pool sipping an ice tea through a curly straw, or spend a day tootling around in some vintage automobile… probably without air conditioning. But before I could process my decision he WhatsApped a photo of the subject matter – a 1968 De Tomaso Mangusta. The pool and tea could wait.
This car, the predecessor to the much more famous Pantera, was limited to 401 units between 1967 and '71. And, depending on which website you read, there are only around 150 left in existence. And on top of that, there’s only one (as far as we know) living in Africa. Seeing a Mangusta in the metal is rare. Cruising Johannesburg in one is once in a lifetime stuff. Of course I joined in on the action and documented the occasion on video which you can watch here.
Technically De Tomaso is an Italian brand but its founder, Alejandro de Tomaso was born in Argentina – note the baby blue and white flag in its numerous badges. Power comes from a mid-mounted Ford V8 in either 289 or 302 cubic inches depending on when it was made and where it was sold. This model is the rarer and interestingly more powerful European 289, and its internals show evidence of fettling by famed American tuner Carroll Shelby, a technical associate of Alejandro.
The word Mangusta is Italian for Mongoose, an animal noted for its cobra-killing abilities. And the name’s no coincidence. The Mangusta was originally designed as a race car in an agreement with Carroll Shelby to replace the AC Cobra. That is until the GT40 program put an end to plans. De Tomaso then switched to road-going production and devised the name, probably as a cheeky response to Shelby’s reneged deal.
* For more a detailed history and driving impressions of the only African De Tomaso Mangusta be sure to pick up the February issue of Classic Car Africa magazine on shelves at CNA, Spar, and Exclusive Books from January 30. To subscribe visit www.classiccarafrica.com