Ten interesting facts about the De Tomaso

1 January, 2015

We’ve had a dig around and found our favourite top ten facts about the De Tomaso. Got one we should know about? Leave us a comment below.

  1. The De Tomaso Mangusta was designed to take Shelby’s Cobra head-on, hence the name, which is Italian for mongoose — the cobra’s only known enemy.
  2. The Pantera was styled by Tom Tjaarda, his design being translated into metal by Vignale.
  3. The Pantera made its US debut at the 1970 New York Motor Show.
  4. In the US, Ford sold the Pantera through its Lincoln-Mercury dealership organization.
  5. On inspecting the first Panteras to arrive in the US, Ford technicians discovered many design inadequacies and drew up a list of modifications — these included a complete front and rear suspension rebuild, the installation of around 60 strengthening gussets, air-conditioning alterations, reinforcement of the car’s steering-rack mountings, and further welding of the front and rear frame structures.
  6. The Pantera went through many model changes during its long life — these include the GTS, GR3, GT4, GT5S, GR4, and GR5S. A Countach-like rear wing first appeared on the GT5 and subsequently became a popular retro-fit on earlier cars.
  7. When Ford US finally pulled the plug on the Pantera, De Tomaso had to buy back 200 unsold and unfinished cars, all of which were subsequently sold on the European market.
  8. The Pantera became a film star when a bright yellow example appeared in the 1976 movie Cannonball. Driven by a haughty and aristocratic German race driver (played by James Keach), the Pantera was easily the quickest car in the movie. Of course, both car and driver came to a sticky end. 
  9. Elvis Presley shot his Pantera on more than one occasion when it wouldn’t start. The King’s yellow car — a 1974 example — was purchased by him for US$2400 as a gift for his then girlfriend, Linda Thompson. This car is now on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
  10. Two years into its life, the Pantera was almost replaced with a Series II model. Designed by Ghia, the prototype was unveiled in 1974 but remained a one-off. Renamed the ‘Monttella’, the car remained on display at Ford’s Michigan headquarters until 1981 before being sold. The Monttella was auctioned in 2006, fetching US$99,000.

Travelling companion

It’s easy to see why the Morris Minor Traveller was one of the best-loved variants of the Morris Minor. Introduced in 1953, it was equipped with the same independent torsion bar front suspension, drum brakes, and rack and pinion steering as its saloon sibling but, with their foldable rear seat increasing versatility, many Travellers were used as trade vehicles, says Derek Goddard. Derek and Gail Goddard, the owners of this superbly restored example, have run Morris Minors since before they were married in 1974.
“Our honeymoon vehicle was a blue Morris Minor van — it was a rust bucket,” says Derek.

Super Leicht Gullwing

It’s fair to say that nothing much in the classic Mercedes world gets past Mercedes-Benz Club stalwart Garry Boyce so it wasn’t surprising to learn that around 15 years ago he had sniffed out an extremely rare 300SL lightweight Gullwing as well as a 1958 300SL Roadster hiding away in the Waikato. The cars were not for sale but Garry eventually managed to persuade the owner to allow him and his restoration team to take a look at the Roadster. They discovered a very distressed but largely unmolested car. The car was so original that the body had never been off the chassis, meaning most of the parts and fittings were still present and correct, as they had been fitted by the factory.