2001 Qvale Mangusta
8-cyl. 4601cc/320hp FI
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
The Qvale Mangusta had a complicated origin, even by the standards of Italian-American sports cars. The original idea came from Maserati technical director Giordano Casarini, who in 1993 was inspired by a ride in a TVR Griffith in the UK.
Casarini was a friend of Alejandro de Tomaso, who had suffered a heart attack and was debating what to do with his company. Casarini suggested de Tomaso build a V-8 powered Italian TVR, and de Tomaso asked him to spearhead the project. Casarini agreed; de Tomaso obtained his release from Maserati and contacted designer Marcello Gandini to style the new car. The idea was to use a 4.6-liter DOHC Ford V-8 powertrain, and have a retractable hardtop similar to that used by the TVR.
A prototype De Tomaso Bigua was finished in time for the 1996 Geneva Motor Show, but the Italian government balked at financing due to de Tomaso’s ill health. Casarini retraced his steps to Kjell Qvale, the US distributor for Maserati, who agreed to stake the project if the car would be named the De Tomaso Mangusta, after the successful 1967-71 supercar.
In 1997 a factory was set up in Modena with Bruce Qvale in charge. The chassis of the new car was designed by F1 designer Enrique Scalabroni, who had worked for Williams and Ferrari. The body featured a folding top in which the center panel was removable, leaving the remaining two parts folded behind the seats. The car was launched at the 2000 Los Angeles Auto Show with a price of $78,900, and the company announced it would compete in the Trans-Am series.
By this time de Tomaso was feeling better and planning to relaunch his company. Because Qvale had been footing the bill, he angrily pulled out of the project — taking the design and production with him. Now called the Qvale Mangusta, 29 cars were built for crash testing and ultimately 284 would be sold.
The performance was certainly competitive, with 320 brake horsepower, 0-60 in 5.3 seconds and a top speed of 160 mph. Reviewers were unimpressed by the rather unusual styling, but the ingenious folding top did draw some praise. The public was never captivated and slow sales prompted Qvale to slash the 2001 price by $10,000. Subsequent attempts to license production to MG in Europe foundered amid MG Rover’s sale to BMW.
Mangustas seldom come to market, and low-mile examples abound, so it appears to be a buyer’s market for quite a bit longer.