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by Jay Traugott
The man behind the De Tomaso Pantera came back to build another sports car that was once again powered by a Ford V8.
It takes a lot for a sports car to succeed in the marketplace today. Perhaps too much, but these exceedingly high expectations benefit buyers because automakers, big and small, have no choice but to focus on build quality, reliability as well as solid performance. It's not easy to succeed. Just ask TVR.
Sure, there are plenty of small boutique sports car companies out there who make great cars but more often than not these cars end up being pricey, both on the showroom floor as well as regular maintenance.
The solution, as many have found, is to utilize a reliable engine and other necessary mechanical and technical bits from a major automaker. By having the so-called "guts" of the sports car proven reliable, that boutique carmaker can then go to town with the exterior design. One car that followed this formula was the Qvale Mangusta. Built by independent automaker Qvale beginning in 2000, it was actually tasked by Alejandro de Tomaso to help bring his cars back on the road. de Tomaso suffered a stroke back in 1993 and while recovering, he asked close friend and Maserati technical director Giordano Casarini what could be done about his struggling company.
As it would happen, Casarini had recently returned from a business trip to the UK where the TVR Griffith caught his attention and admiration. Casarini suggested for de Tomaso to build an "Italian TVR". Casarini soon left Maserati to join de Tomaso in his quest to build a modern Italian sports car that would have good performance and a reasonable price tag. In an effort to keep costs down, Casarini opted for Ford's 4.6-liter V8, the same engine used for the Mustang SVT Cobra. On top of this, Casarini was able to secure a deal with the Blue Oval to provide other essentials such as the transmission and other electrics.
With that part of the project moving along nicely, de Tomaso reached out to Marcello Gandini, whose previous design work included the iconic Lamborghini Miura and Countach. One of Gandini's styling tasks was to make sure that final look of the folding roof mechanism would look similar to that of the TVR Griffith. The Mangusta concept prototype debuted at the 1996 Geneva Motor Show and was called the De Tomaso Bigua. The reception was positive but the program still needed further development and, perhaps most importantly, funding. This wass when Qvale came into the picture.
Because the Italian government denied additional capital due to de Tomaso's failing health, the struggling company approached Kjell Qvale, owner and founder of San Francisco-based firm British Motor Car Distributors. Qvale decided to provide funding for the car but only if the final product would be called the De Tomaso Mangusta. Things were looking good at this time until Qvale discovered that de Tomaso was secretly working on another project to revive the old Pantera. Qvale obviously didn't like this secrecy and mistrust so the two soon parted ways, with the car being rebranded the Qvale Mangusta.
The production version debuted in 2000 to mostly good reviews. Noted for its good handling, performance and the three position "roto top", some found fault with various quality issues but these were soon fixed. Unfortunately, it didn't sell very well and just 284 units were made before production ceased in 2001. Qvale later sold the car's production assets to the now defunct MG Rover Group who used the car's platform to develop the MG XPower SV.
One of these rare Italian gems is now up for sale for what we consider to be a reasonable asking price of $37,500. Going by the description and pictures, it appears to be in excellent condition.
Its performance is also solid, with a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.3 seconds and a top speed of 158.5 mph. This automatic gearbox-equipped example (a manual transmission was also offered), comes complete with a leather interior, optional 18 inch wheels and several other nice features. The Qvale Mangusta may not be a true Italian supercar, but it has American Mustang Cobra power, eye-catching looks and rarity. Definitely not a bad combination to have in a sports car.