1967 DeTomaso Vallelunga
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Alejandro De Tomaso was born into cattle money in the Rio de la Plata region of Argentina, but he turned his attentions to racing and became a giant in Italy’s automotive industry, eventually taking control of Maserati and Innocenti as well as the company that bore his name. De Tomaso got his start making Formula One cars in the late 1950s, and likely had some of his heiress wife Isabelle’s capital behind him. The first road-going vehicle he produced was the Vallelunga, which started production with open-top and coupe prototypes in 1963. The Vallelunga was named after one of De Tomaso’s favorite race courses in Italy, and approximately 50 production examples – all coupes – were made in 1964-1965 and sold until 1968. A few additional racing examples were also produced.
The Vallelunga body was a graceful design in keeping with its era, penned by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro. Visually, the Vallelunga resemble some other Italian performance icons like the Ferrari 250LM and Dino 206 as well as the Alfa-Romeo TZ and Giulietta SZ. Bodywork was made of fiberglass by Carrozzeria Fissore, although some racing are believed to have been made of hand-formed aluminum.
The Vallelunga used a backbone chassis similar to the Lotus cars of the era, and power came courtesy of a British Ford 1.5-liter Kent pushrod engine used in the popular Cortina sedans. That engine delivered 105 horsepower in stock form, but an upgraded 135 horsepower version was available. The engine was mid-mounted behind the seats as a stressed frame member, and delivered power to the rear wheels through a Hewland-modified Volkswagen 4-speed gearbox. Suspension was typical sports car – dual wishbone with anti-sway bars sourced through Triumph, and four-wheel disc brakes were included. Some racing examples are known to have been made with the Lotus-Ford 1.6-liter twin overhead cam engine and a Colotti 5-speed transmission.
With so few examples in the world and because it was soon overshadowed by the bigger and more potent Mangusta and Pantera, the Vallelunga remains a relatively obscure car. It did establish a link between DeTomaso and Ford, though, and was one of the earlier mid-engined production sports cars in the world. These facts combined with their wonderful styling make them auction highlights (but not quite stars) on the rare occasion that one does come up for sale.