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One key design feature that is embodied in the Mangusta is only found after you finally get past it’s emotional aesthetic beauty, that is the subtle evidence everywhere that it was built by real people, actually Italian artisans. This human aesthetic content is in strong contrast to todays cars that exhibit an almost surreal quality of mechanical and physical perfection. Over 2000 years of pervasive Italian aesthetic culture is very evident in the Mangusta, everywhere you look. Everything is done with artistic content, whether the beautiful and simple front hood surfaces or the smoothly crafted cast aluminum rear hub carriers. It can be seen in the spacing of the hand done welds, the location of pop-rivets and the arched cathedral like shapes of the front tie rod end castings. You will find hand stamped part numbers and even some put on parts with common white chalk. On close examination the joint line of the beautifully matched wood grain on the steering wheel is almost visible.—Dick Ruzzin


My Mangusta Adventure—It Is Worth It

By Dick Ruzzin, April 29, 2003

The Mangusta by DeTomaso Automobili

401 Mangustas were built in Modena, Italy by DeTomaso Automobili. Bodies were supplied by Ghia and both the exterior and interior were designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro.

All were built with Ford engines except chassis number 8MA-670. It was built in the early winter of 1969 under special order for William (Bill) Mitchell who was the Vice President of Design for General Motors. He had seen the Mangusta prototype at the Turin Show in the fall of 1968, and he asked Alesandro DeTomaso to build one for him, but not with a Ford engine. His reply was that Mitchell should send him whatever engine that he wanted and that he would have it installed in a Mangusta at the factory in Modena.

Bill came back to Detroit and called Zora Arkus Duntov. He told him that he needed an engine for a car that he had bought in Italy. Zora asked him what engine that he wanted and Bill told him that someone would get back to him. He then called Doug Patterson, who was the engineer in charge of all of the Specialty Vehicles at Design Staff, including Bill’s personal cars, of which there were many. Doug, a racing and aerodynamic expert, had been in charge of the Chrysler NASCAR racing programs and had recently been hired at Design Staff after they quit racing. He was hired to be responsible for all special vehicles, and also to manage the newly developing aerodynamic programs at Design Staff.

Doug did some research and found out that the Chevrolet 350 CID small block engine with 350 HP was going to be introduced in the Corvette in the 1969 model year. Although the horsepower was much higher that the Mangusta’s Ford engine, Doug felt that the lightweight small block would work well in the car. Production engines were not yet available but many of the parts were.

After speaking to engineers at Chevrolet, Doug defined an engine that would work well with the light weight (2957 pounds) and high traction that were available in the Mangusta. He asked for the 350 CID block with four bolt main bearing caps, the 350 high compression heads, but 327 rods and crankshaft. This combination would diminish the torque but would tend to rev more quickly. The appropriate heads and a hydraulic cam and lifters were available. It was topped off with a four barrel Quadrajet carburetor. The engine was run on a dynamometer to be checked out and then sent to DeTomaso in Modena.

The car was built at the DeTomaso factory. Cooling components were left the same as the Ford powered cars, two small electric fans behind the radiator. A simple three-quarter inch thick aluminum plate was all that was required to mate the ZF gearbox with the DeTomaso bell housing and the Chevrolet engine.

A short time later the car was flown to the United States and delivered to Design Staff at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. The carburetor had been stolen shortly after the engine arrived from Italy but after the engine installation as a custom air cleaner had to be fabricated. The car had never been run by the factory. Doug and his people got a carburetor from Chevrolet and the car running in short order, Bill Mitchell looked at it and expressed his desire to drive it “soon.” That meant ASAP. The car came with 225/70X15 radial tires in the back and 185/70X15s in the front. A set of 60 Series glass belted tires were installed after a rear tire was torn when the car was being moved in Oldsmobile Studio where Bill had sent it. They were currently designing the Cutlass Coupe, and Bill thought that the Mangusta quarter window might be useful to the Oldsmobile designers.

Much to the chagrin of the in house accountants at Design Staff, Mitchell had bought three cars on his trip to the Turin show, and promised builders to buy another when it was ready.

Two were designed by Giugiaro, the Mangusta, in bright orange, and the complementary yellow Maserati Ghibli. Bill also bought a silver Lamborghini Espada, a sensational four place coupe designed at Stile Bertone. About the same time, Chevrolet Division bought a silver Mangusta and a red Lamborghini Muira, also designed at Bertone. Later it was discovered that Mitchell had also promised two ex-Ferrari engine engineers that had started their own company to build a mid-engine sports car, that he would buy one of their first cars. This promise was made at a late night dinner with Carlo Renzi, the brother in law of Sergio Pininfarina at Le Gato Nero, a popular restaurant in Turin frequented by the upper echelons of the Italian motor industry. It was a very conventional Ferrariesque looking car called the ATS. That car would eventually appear in the executive garage as the Mangusta left Mitchell’s fleet of toys.

Bill Mitchells favorite cars, the ones that he drove personally, were always parked on the west end of the executive garage. All of the newly acquired vehicles appeared as soon as they were available. The three cars caused a sensation, even though they were in the presence of many of Mitchell’s outstanding special vehicles and show cars. Practically every designer in the building made at least one pass a day through the garage to see the latest Italian design stars. The three cars were all leading edge from a design standpoint and that is why he bought them. All had dramatic proportion and a new shear form language first expressed by Giugiaro that would have a profound influence on every designer at GM, as well as the rest of the world. The flat surfaces complemented by gentle curves and sharp edges was very much in contrast to the current design culture of the day that prevailed on the global automotive design scene.

 


Bill Mitchell Drives His Mangusta

Finally, Doug had the car ready for Bill to drive, he passed the message on to Sybil, Bill’s secretary, and had the car parked in the garage. The preparation had been done quickly and some things that were to be discovered later were not corrected. That night Bill came down about six thirty. It was a beautiful sunny Michigan evening. He drove the car around the man made lake at the Tech Center, back into the garage and never got into it again.

He was very upset to say the least. He thought that DeTomaso, who had a notorious reputation for being underhanded, had played some kind of trick on him. He could hardly get into the car it was so low at only forty three inches high. As he sat in the seat, the rearview mirror was behind his head. It was the hardest riding car that he had ever driven, and the 60 series tires did not help. One of Bills design assistants, Clare Machichan, would drive the car most of the time until it was decided to sell it and buy the ATS.

Several reasons existed that prevented Bill from driving the car in the enjoyable manner that he expected. Dick Ruzzin discovered after purchasing the car that all of the front and rear suspension bolts had been tightened down and not released in preparation for Bill’s first drive. Doug surmised, after it was discovered, that it may have been done for the air shipment to prevent the car from jouncing in transit. The new tires made the ride worse. Also, the seat cushions, like those in all exotics of the times, were on the floor of the car, and the seat backs, although they were adjustable by concealed screws, were set to be almost vertical, causing Mitchell to sit with his forehead almost contacting the top of the windshield.

Mitchell’s unhappiness with the car was not the only reason to get rid of it. Chevrolet and Design were both studying mid-engine cars and would eventually show several to the public as Corvette concepts or studies. Remember that Chevrolet also bought a Mangusta and a Muira. Some of us had heard that Ford had made an alliance with DeTomaso to build a Ford powered sports car that would be imported into the United States. Henry Haga’s Chevrolet Three Studio was working on a mid-engine Corvette proposal, and John Delorean, the Chevrolet General Manager and GM Vice President, kept asking Hank to bring the Mangusta every time that the mid-engine Corvette was taken outside for his review.

That was a problem. Hank did not mind the comparison because the Mangusta was without question a beautiful car and already considered a design icon even though it was brand new. Its presence would encourage the studio and the supporting Chevrolet engineers to push harder for an aesthetic solution that would exceed that of the Mangusta. The problem was that there were a number of key elements in the aesthetic and physical makeup of the Mangusta that could not be entertained by Chevrolet, thereby creating a very unfair comparison. That is the last thing that you need when you are designing a car.

The Mangusta was small. It was only forty three inches high and it looked light and fast. The interior package was much tighter than one that would be acceptable for the average Corvette customer The headlights were too low to be legal, and the car did not have even a pretense of usable bumpers, but they were exempted along with other safety items for importation. Also, the body was part unibody and part frame which would be costly and difficult for Chevrolet to build.

The low weight was also enhanced by the generous use of aluminum for major body panels. The Mangusta also had a sixty-seven degree windshield angle, far too speedy for a production car of the time. It was the steepest angle of any car produced. GM designers had been told for years that a windshield steeper than sixty degrees was not achievable or practical.


An Opportunity of a Lifetime

Hank complained to Bill about Delorean’s requests for the Mangusta, and it was immediately sent to the Design warehouse for storage, out of sight of Delorean, to await disposition. At that time GM sold evaluation vehicles that it was finished with by first having three dealers submit sealed bids, establishing a high bid, then offering the car to interested employees as first choice for that price. If no one wanted it, it was then sold to the high bidding dealer.

One of the engineers that I was working with saw a sale notice on a bulletin board and suggested to me that I should buy it. At that time I had an XKE coupe that I had spent a considerable amount of time improving and was very happy with it. Besides, I did not know what it would cost and really did not have any money to spend. However, I heard that several designers were interested in the purchase and decided that I should put my name in to buy it, assuming that I would not ever really have the opportunity. At least I could say that I had tried.

It turned out that three of us, all designers, in a building of twelve hundred people, wanted to buy the car. The other two designers lived in the same apartment building and only one of them secretly wanted it. Accounting decided to have a drawing to see which of the three of us would get the car. I was invited to attend by phone, but was too busy to go as I was getting a show together for Ed Cole (a two passenger Vega based sports car, oddly enough, in ignorance of the Ford mid-engine program, I called it the Pantera.)

The call had interrupted the work I was doing and I completely forgot that things were getting very serious regarding the Mangusta. Later I received another call and was told that I had won the raffle. I asked, “What raffle?”  I was getting in deeper and deeper.


 


I had won the opportunity to buy the car and could take until the following Tuesday after the Labor Day weekend to give notice, one way or the other. That night there was a retirement party for one of our sculptors that was quite widely attended. Everyone had heard that I had the chance to buy the car. I had pretty much decided that I could not do it based on cost, but by the time the party was over I had been convinced many times over that I had the chance of a lifetime. I left for home thinking that somehow I had to find a way.

I had not had a single thought about how the car would run. I was told by someone that it had a Chevrolet engine and I could only focus at that time on the way that it looked. In retrospect, that was not surprising since most of my life had been concerned with aesthetics. I later called Doug and discussed the car with him. I had worked with him on the first aero projects and respected his opinion, he said that it was a good car and that I should buy it.

My wife was not pleased to say the least when I finally brought myself to explain the “opportunity” to her the next morning. I had until the day after Labor Day to decide and when she asked me what color the interior was I had to admit that I did not know, I had not really looked at the car closely. On Saturday morning I took my youngest son Greg, who was six, in to look at the car. Security opened the door to enter the room in the warehouse across 12 Mile Rd. where it was stored, and I stopped as Greg walked up to it. “Wow,” he said, “I never saw a car that I could see over the top of!”

We got inside. The red leather interior smelled new and it had twelve hundred and forty-two miles on the odometer. The familiar looking Chevrolet V8 was behind the passenger compartment, buried low in the engine bay.

It took me about a week to sell the Jaguar to my neighbor and get financing and insurance. I then owned a Mangusta, at that time the most admired car design in the free world. Thanks to its Chevrolet engine, It was also very fast.

Two years ago, after fifty thousand miles and a lot of sitting due to my career moves around the world, I decided to redo the engine for today’s low-octane fuels at Wheel To Wheel in Troy, Michigan. For years I had thought the engine was a 350/350—time somehow muddles your brain. When the engine was opened up it was discovered to be a 350 CID block with four bolt mains, but with a 327 crankshaft and connecting rods. There had been a lot of overheating through the years, but the bearings looked like they were brand new. Because 350 rods had been ordered, we changed the crankshaft and made it a 350. We also lowered the compression slightly. Now I can use premium pump gas and it can be timed for very nice starting and cruising.


Dick Ruzzin on His Mangusta

WHEN DID YOU PURCHASE THE CAR AND FOR HOW MUCH?
I bought the car the first week of September, 1969.

WHAT WAS THE CONDITION AND MILEAGE?
The car was literally brand new, six months old and it had 1242 miles on it when I bought it.

WHAT ENGINE IS IN THE CAR?
The engine was a variation of the Chevrolet LT1 350CI/350HP which was to come out in the Corvette in the fall of 1969. It was really a 327 CI variation of the LT1. The engine has now had the compression reduced to 11.25:1 to work with currently available fuel and 350 CID rods and crank have been installed. It is now a 350CI/340HP (verified by dyno testing).

WHO INSTALLED THE ENGINE? WHAT MODIFICATIONS WERE MADE?
An engine was hand built at Chevrolet Engineering for Bill Mitchell under Zora Arkus Duntov’s direction, tested and then sent to the DeTomaso Factory in Modena, Italy where it was installed in the Mangusta body that was manufactured by Ghia. A set of tubular headers were fabricated in Italy for the engine and a three quarter inch thick aluminum plate was created to be used as an adapter between the Chevrolet engine and the ZF transmission. Everything else that I have been able to see is the same as the Ford powered Mangusta.

HOW MANY MILES HAVE YOU PUT ON THE CAR?
There are 60,000 miles on the car, accumulated since 1969. I have always driven it year round, including at least every four or five weeks in the winter. It was not driven for three years while I once painted it, another five years while I was working in Europe, and three more years while it was being refurbished. That is eleven years without driving it.

WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL OPINION OF THE DESIGN?
When the first mockup of the car was first shown in Turin at the Motor Show in 1966, it was seen as an exceptionally beautiful car. That opinion by everyone who has ever seen one has remained the same, time has only verified and justified the opinion of many. The car is small, very low, beautiful, and delightful to look at as well as great fun to drive and ride in. It feels very much like a gocart in the curves because you are so low to the ground.

ARCHITECTURE
The mid-engine architecture is very exciting to design around and the Mangusta design is enhanced greatly by the architecture. The proportions are very dramatic and the idea that there is an inherent special high performance functionality included in the vehicle concept only enhances the design solution. The chassis is a race car chassis from DeTomasos P70 race program that was killed by the introduction of Chevrolets Big Block.

THEME SELECTION
The reason that the design has lived so well is the fact that the design choice was a timeless, simple theme that is beautifully executed with a great deal of sophistication and skill by the designer.

The design is not stylistic or overstated in any way with very flattering proportions of the basic architecture. The restraint that Giorgetto Giugiaro used in choosing the interior and the exterior theme has resulted in shapes that seem very natural as they encompass and enclose the wheels, passenger compartment and interior. The surfaces are very well done and consistent, but are also emotional and sensual in their execution.

There is also great harmony between the design of the interior and exterior. The design of the Mangusta also beautifully states the mission of the vehicle, that is, the appearance promises the excitement of high performance, and clearly displays the mid-engine concept.

The Mangusta design theme does not try very hard to look dramatic. It is a visual statement that is very easy to look at and easy to understand and remember. It is also very enjoyable to look at.

GRAPHICS
The architecture and design theme are enhanced by front, side and rear graphics that consistently support the major theme selection that visually promises excitement and high performance.

The front is very graphic and simple in its shape The DeTomaso emblem is an accent that is both simple and direct. The grille and headlamps are set back in a shape that seems to be the result of the hood and side surfaces as they extend forward in an easy and natural way.

The body side theme has a very sharp and low accent line that visually brings the car closer to the ground than expected, even though it is already low. The sidewindow shapes show a passenger compartment far forward of the rearwheels, and ahead of the engine. The air intakes behind the windows also hint at performance.

In the rear of the car the mid-engine architecture also is visible. The black air exhaust screens and tailpipes again reinforce the vehicle mission of high performance. The vents below the twin rear windows also imply something special that happens in the rear of the car.

FUNCTIONALITY
The Mangusta has a very tight interior package that adjusts the driver to fit its layout. Size, weight, and performance have driven the basic design and engineering choices and the driver has a slightly wider space than the passenger. Both sit at a slight angle to the centerline because of the large wheel tubs. The large structural tunnel that runs from the front to back of the passenger compartment carries wiring, the shift linkage and water pipes to the radiator mounted in the front.

There is some storage space behind the seats, and a very large luggage compartment directly behind the driver and on the left side of the engine bay. The right side of the engine bay is occupied by the hand-welded aluminum fuel tank. There is also a large carpeted compartment under the front hood.

Mid-engine accessibility is always a significant decision in the design of this type of vehicle. The twin engine hoods, hinged on a horizontal spine is a good solution as it makes the engine accessible for normal service and is easily removable. There is also a foldable hinged panel directly behind the passenger compartment and above the engine. The body from the rear firewall forward is a unibody structure bolted to a steel frame that mounts the engine and rear suspension.

The Mangusta is an extreme vehicle that does have good space utilization and storage. Compromises for design have been well utilized to result in dramatic results.

IMPROVEMENTS
The Mangusta was built in limited numbers, it appears that some very simple corrections could have been made to make the car a better product. What follows is a list of actions that I took, some based on information based on consultations with engineering experts that I worked with at General Motors.

RIDE AND HANDLING
I put the biggest tires that I could find on the rear of the car, the rear bias was larger than the original setup. I also installed Koni coil-over adjustable shocks.

The spring length was adjustable also, therefore I was able to adjust front and rear spring height to get the desired ride/handling quality. I was also able, at the same time, to adjust the impact harshness of the front and rear wheels to match each other.

After arriving at the point where the car rode and handled well, I did not like the way the car sat. The front was fine but the rear was too low. I then lengthened the rear shock mounts and raised the rear of the car one inch. It then rode and handled great with thirty pounds of air in the front tires and thirty two pounds in the rear. I used this setup for several years very satisfactorily. I did discover that the front ball joints did not have grease fittings and added them.

The shift rod, after being well lubricated, had to have a leather boot added to the large balljoint alongside the engine to prevent it from drying out and becoming difficult to move. On the inside of the car, I installed a leather boot under the shift plate to block heat coming from the engine compartment. It has a very small hole in it so that I can spray silicone through a fine tube onto the block that holds the shift rod directly behind the shift lever. The shifter works great.

I have just added new structure to the rear sub frame that links to the suspension at the point where the lower wishbones are attached by big balljoints, with a large bolt to the rear structure. The balljoint in stock form was not supported at the back, and I have had problems breaking that structure under extreme acceleration. It is possible that the balls were not aligned properly, but they just looked weak hanging out in space as they were. They look very solid and secure now.

COOLING AND AIR CONDITIONING
With a much larger displacement engine than originally planned, I had cooling problems. I first put a coolant recovery system on the car, that completely fills the cooling system from front to rear. That made a big difference. Then I made two thin sheet metal rings to encircle the two small fans on the back of the radiator. I put a U-shaped rubber piece on the edge of the rings and then attached them directly to the radiator core with thin wire. That also helped but did not eliminate the problems. I then lowered the pressure in the cooling system from the typical thirteen pounds of pressure to seven. An engineer explained to me that the lower pressure would allow the coolant to flow from front to rear more freely. The boiling point would go down but the cooling did improve again. I also lowered the thermostat from one-hundred and eighty degrees to one-hundred and sixty.

The next step was to block the little round holes that are cut into the sheetmetal under the front end, and to install a three inch spoiler just below the radiator. This created a low pressure behind the radiator and improves the air flow. That also helped, but I still did not completely solve the problem.

I have now installed a racing water pump with a much greater capacity than the original stock pump and two very large electric fans. That should do it. The car is normally driven without the fan until you can see that you will need some cooling help. Then it can be switched on in advance.

I gave up a long time ago trying to maintain an air conditioning system that is only used in the summer. My car has also sat for several years at a time while I was out of the country. All of these cooling tricks were learned while wind tunnel testing clay models in various wind tunnels on design programs that I was involved in, thanks to the aero engineers that I worked with.

BRAKING
My brakes have been great. The pads are apparently very hard and have not worn much at all in fifty thousand miles. I always keep the wheel bearings well adjusted. I do not know how a power brake unit can function for over thirty years without problems, but it has. The right rear brake caliper misted a little fluid for several years, but it is now fixed.

CLUTCH
The hydraulic clutch master cylinder diameter had to be made smaller when the engine was redone because the pressure plate now being used is much stiffer. I am sure that the original was for the Ford engine.

ENGINE
The engine has recently been redone. After the years of some severe overheating I was amazed at the condition of the bearings—they were hardly worn. I could not find fuel for the 13:1 heads any longer so it is now a 350/350 with 11.25:1 compression. A new set of large diameter headers was made that come out of the engine and go up, then straight back, over the structure that holds the rear shocks and then angles down curving to the mufflers. This is all done in a straight line in plan view and looks just great. It was impossible to put a large diameter header pipe through the rear suspension like the stock Ford setup. I have Pantera mufflers—they replaced my original Mangusta mufflers. I think they are a good choice based on the fact that the 350 CID Chevrolet displacement matches more closely the 351 Cleveland in the Pantera. They are a little loud.

The engine was run on a dyno when completed and was very impressive for a Holley 650 four barrel with points. It has 343 horsepower and 370 pounds of torque from 2100 to 4800 RPM, and performs pretty well in the car. That is about the same horsepower as a C-5 Corvette, but with more torque in a car that is about four hundred pounds lighter. I could have done more with the engine, but wanted to keep it fairly close to what it was in the beginning. I have installed an electronic ignition conversion and a high torque starter. It runs great.

The car was hard to start from the beginning, especially when hot. I tried everything through the years. I always thought that the extra wire on the coil went to the starter and somehow the Italian tachometer was hooked to that. That was wrong. Kurt Urban from Wheel To Wheel immediately diagnosed the problem based on my description of all of the symptoms while setting in his office. For over thirty six years I did not have 12 volts to the coil, that is why the car was always hard to start. Somewhere between Turin and Detroit that detail was missed.

DRIVING THE CAR
It is a real thrill that I have never gotten used to. It is very fast and at the same time is easy and smooth. The Chevrolet engine is wonderful, it revs like a whip to 6000 RPM easily and also gets decent fuel economy. The steering is a little slow by todays standards, but handles the car very well.

As a designer I have learned a lot from owning the Mangusta about how far that you have to go with a car design to get a response from people. Once I exited the freeway and stopped at a light. I sat there for a few seconds and then heard a car come up on my left. Eventually I looked over, it was a limousine and a little old lady wearing a hat had her nose pressed up against the sideglass and was looking at my car with a big smile on her face.

HAVE YOU DRIVEN A FORD POWERED MANGUSTA?
I did drive one years ago. Obviously, it was not as fast as my car. I would recommend to anyone that has one that they should make some minimal modifications to the engine that will easily increase the horsepower and make the car more fun to drive. There are many parts made for the Ford V8 that are economically available.

DID YOU DRIVE THE MANGUSTA TO WORK AT GM, IF SO WHAT WAS THE REACTION?
I used to drive the car to work all the time unless it was snowing. As the years have gone by I have tended to think of the car as something more special and to be used more for enjoyment. It has not been driven in the rain since about 1985.

DID YOU EVER COMMUNICATE WITH THE DETOMASO FAMILY OR FACTORY?
I once had the opportunity to visit the Ferrari Factory and also visited the DeTomaso factory the same day where I bought some vinyl DeTomaso emblems. I talked to a young woman named Sandra who was in the office. I told her that I had a Mangusta built there with a Chevrolet engine and she laughed and said that she had never heard of such a car. She was sure that I was mistaken, that it must be a Ford and suggested that I examine it carefully when I returned home. Since then they have acknowledged the car on the factory website.

ANY ADVICE TO GIVE TO POTENTIAL MANGUSTA BUYERS?
The experience of owning the car will far exceed your expectation. If you want one and can afford it, get it.

HAVE YOU MET GIUGIARO?
I first met Giorgetto Giugiaro in about 1975 when he came to GM Design to look for business for ITALDESIGN. He also wanted to consult with some of our management about a potential work relationship with John Delorean. At that time I had a parking spot right outside the executive garage and my boss showed the car to him. He now has a red Mangusta in the museum lobby of ITALDESIGN. I have met him many times while I worked in Germany and since then regarding some consulting that I am doing with Michelin. I met him again last November as he was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan.

He does not speak English, but seems to understand quite a bit. He is obviously the most prolific designer in the world today and is a terrific artist, very enthusiastic about design, a very nice and unpretentious person. One of the most beautiful car design sketches that I have ever seen is one that he did that was shown when the Alpha Sud was launched to the press at the Turin Show in 1971. I was working in Germany on a short six months assignment at that time.

The whole ITALDESIGN organization, the press people, designers, engineers etc., are all great to work with. His son Fabrizzio is taking over the transportation business and his daughter Laura handles the industrial design business that has operated under the name GIUGIARO DESIGN for over twenty years. The companies are located next to each other outside of Turin, Italy.

ARE YOU SURPRISED AT THE CURRENT MARKET VALUE OF THE MANGUSTA? DO YOU HAVE AN OPINION AS TO WHY THE PRICES ARE LOW?
This is a very interesting question and I will ramble on about it.

I am not really surprised at the low market value of the Mangusta or the Pantera. I think that the reason for this is that as a brand DeTomaso has very little power or recognition in the market place. In other words, very few people know what the name means or that the cars exist. There are also very few examples on the road, the fact that they are rare makes them special and at the same time unknown, resulting in low value.

To my knowledge the cars are not owned by high profile people who are imitated. I think that in most cases the cars are owned by confident independent people who are at ease with mechanical devices and are not afraid to own something exotic or unusual.

Chances of seeing a Mangusta or Pantera that is really stock also is becoming smaller as the cars age and get into the hands of people who are not afraid to change them, but who often do not follow the design intent of the original cars. The vehicles that have diminished the original design character of the cars make a negative impact on the financial value of those cars that are original.

They were also not that expensive when they were new and I think that the cars are just too rare and unusual to be of great value. If you want one or own one, you should own it for your own satisfaction and enjoy it, but do not expect to make a killing when you sell it. It is a mistake to think that you can put $100,000. into one of the cars and expect to get it back. The cars do not have the included brand equity to command a price much greater than other more notable cars, for whatever reason.

A $10,000 watch on a desert island only tells the time. Unless it has some socially implied ulterior value in a much larger market it can only be valued for the fact that it does tell time. If someone sold Barbara Streisand a Mangusta for $100,000, they all would go up in value. This has happened; a car recently sold for $330,000 in England. People speculate that the appearance of a Mangusta in a recent Hollywood film has jumped the price but I do not believe that.

I think that stock or slightly tweaked appearance is OK, but if you want to put money into a Mangusta or Pantera for your own satisfaction, do it in the engine compartment, increase the performance potential and the quality and fit and finish but do not make it look extreme since the original cars were fairly sophisticated and refined. You will lose the connection to the original attraction of the brand if you do.

I do expect that the value of the cars will continue to rise slowly in the future as it has in the past, unless something positive and notable happens to DeTomaso the company or the brand. The internet will increase awareness of DeTomasos cars, it will find them all and then the market will be more predictable.

Thanks to Dick Ruzzin for providing this great account.

10 Comments
  1. John M. Mellberg

    Dick,
    Thanks for sharing your remarkable Mangusta story. What a treasure to own! It was an emotional moment when I’d see you driving your Mangusta into work, as its sheer beauty stirred a designer’s emotions, setting the creative tone for the day ahead at GM Styling.

    Best regards,

    John M. Mellberg
    Automotive Designers Guild

  2. Ron Will


    Photo of Ron Will’s and Dick Ruzzin’s Mangustas taken in front of the apartments that myself, Tom Covert, Ron Will, and Bill Michalak all lived in 1973-74. Photo provided by Ron Will.

    I was one of the other GM designers that missed out on the Mangusta lottery sale. Dick knew that I also loved the car and he was kind enough to let me drive his car. I was hooked. I had to have a Mangusta of my own. I found one in for repairs at a Woodward Ave Sports car dealer. The car had swapped ends and went off the road cracking the ZF transaxle. It was tied up in litigation between the owner, the shop and the Mangusta dealer, plus the car was not even for sale. A normal person would walk away from a mess like this. But I hired a lawyer of my own to sort out the turmoil and ended up hauling my crippled bright Red 1969 Mangusta away for only $8,700. After another $500 of repairs by a GM mechanic, I finally had my dream car. With my slight 5′ 9″ stature, the Mangusta fit me like a glove. It had several of the same issues as Dick Ruzzin’s car but his solutions worked for me too. The car was so gorgeous that I would put up with all of it’s idiosyncrasies.

    I used the car as a daily driver, even in the winter (a big mistake). Eventually 3 of us at GM design owned one, as did some of our designer friends over at Ford. We had several wonderful gatherings of this rather exclusive car. I sold the car for $9,500 to start my own car company in California, but that’s another story. The Mangusta registry keeps track of where the cars are. My Mangusta was recently sold in Atlanta and shipped to France for a customer in Paris. It was definitely a designers car and still is today. It’s nice to know that it is still being appreciated wherever it is.

  3. I got to ride in one, once. Someone was doing a review/photo shoot, and they liked some of the twisties on our ranch in SoCal.
    The ride was brief, and I didn’t have the courage to ask to drive it.
    Certainly a gorgeous car.

  4. David

    Thanks for sharing your story. That’s a wonderfull car and a favorite of mine too. It’s pretty rare to see any on the road, much less a one off from the factory such as this.

    When I worked in Oldsmobile 1 studio, the Chief Sculptor, Nello Tacconelli had a Mangusta. I think it was Silver and know that it had a Nitros kit. It was very apparent that he was proud of that car and loved blasting it down the road. One morning at the studio he told me a few stories about the occasions he took it out. Much satisfaction was to be had with that car, it looked amazing, undoubtly turned heads around town, and a twist of nozzle with a healthy nudge on the accelerator left any unsuspecting challenger in the dust.

  5. Ken Pickering

    I still have fond memories of seeing the Mangusta and sister vehicle Ghibli at the Turin Automobile Show in 1968. I was stunned by the beauty of the Mangusta in 1968 and still consider the design as one of Giugario’s most beautiful automobiles. All of those folks mentioned in this great story who owned a Mangusta were very fortunate people. Thank you Dick Ruzzin for sharing the incredible history of your Mangusta. I remember it well at GM Design and it was and still is a beauty.

  6. Compression ratio DOWN to 11.25 ?!?!? I’d like to know where he finds gasoline to get a non computer controlled SBC to run with that much squeeze!
    Not to be pedantic, but the 350/350 isnt an LT1 ; the LT1 was rated at 370, wasnt available until 70, had solid lifters, 11:1 pistons, aluminum intake and a Holley. The 350/350 was available in 69, 11:1 compression, hydraulic cam and iron intake w/Qjet. RPO L46.
    Learn something new every day – never knew there was a Chevrolet powered Mangusta. One of the best looking cars ever, I have long said that if it just had a Chevrolet in it and a bit of development, the ‘Goose woulda been a real contender!
    Thanx for furthering my education.

  7. DICK RUZZIN

     John,
    You have just contributed to the story by jogging my memory. Doug told me that the engine that he wanted would not come out until the next model year, but they had some blocks at Chevrolet. In the winter of 1968 they put an engine together with some special heads that were in the R&D shop at Chevrolet. The ultra high compression eventually became a problem for me as the high octane fuels went away. I had forgotten that it was a 327 and told the engine guys at Wheel To Wheel that it was a 350 when I decided to lower the compression. It was a 327 when they opened it up, they had already ordered rods and pistons so it was an easy decision to put in an available 350 crank. That compensated for the new lower compression.

    Along with that went new rocker arms, valve springs, lifters and a “high torque” cam. Beautiful exhaust manifolds were custom made with 2 1/4 inch header pipes going directly to the mufflers.

    When the engine was run on the dynamometer the young guys who had never worked on an engine with points and a carburetor were amazed at the power. Torque was measured at 342 pounds, flat from 2100 to 4200rpm.

    Also, in Italy they did not put the wire from the starter to the coil for a full 12 volts when starting.

    I always had trouble starting it.  I knew that wire had to be there, I saw one but it turned out to be the electric tach.
    For over 30 years I had starting problems until we found it.  I remember putting one on my MG when I put the small block in that.

    Since you are interested in the mechanics I am including some of the things that I did to the car through the years.
    _____________________________________________________________________
    THINGS I HAVE DONE TO THE MANGUSTA TO MAKE THE CAR A MODERN TROUBLE FREE DRIVER:

    BRAKE PROPORTIONING VALVE IN THE FRONT
    NEW ALUMINUM TWO ROW RADIATOR
    HIGH PERFORMANCE WATER PUMP
    TWO LARGE 25 AMP FANS AND SHROUD
    THERMOSTATICALLY CONTROLLED FAN SWITCH
    SMALL FRONT SPOILER
    BLOCKED AIR HOLES ON THE FRONT LOWER VALANCE TO FACILITATE THE SPOILER
    COOLANT RECOVERY SYSTEM
    FULLY SEALED RADIATOR TO BODY
    RESTORABLE CIRCUIT BREAKER FOR THE FAN SYSTEM
    TOTAL CHANGE TO THE REAR STRUCTURE AND TRANSMISSION MOUNTS (WERNER MEIER)
    HIGH TORQUE STARTER
    NEW HIGH PERFORMANCE SPECIAL BUILT HEADERS, 2 1/4 INCH HEADER PIPES to the Pantera S mufflers.
    KONI SHOCKS
    SEAT CUSHIONS RAMPED UP AT THE FRONT
    HIDDEN RADIO AERIAL (SO I CAN GET THE BALL GAME!)
    NEW BFG TIRES, CURRENTLY BEST SIZES /  225X60X15 FRONT(24.6 DIA.) AND 275X60X15 REAR(28” DIA.) 
    NEW DESIGN WIPER ARMS (FOR LOOKS, IT HAS NOT BEEN IN THE RAIN SINCE 1986.)
    MORE POWERFUL WINDOW LIFT MOTORS
    LARGER DIAMETER REAR TRAILING LINKS (THE MORE POWERFUL ENGINE MADE THE ORIGINALS BEND)
    BOOT ON THE SHIFT LEVER TO STOP HOT AIR FROM COMING INTO THE PASSENGER COMPARTMENT
    PATCH TYPE EXTERIOR REAR VIEW MIRRORS
    SEAT BELTS INSTALLED
    FIRE EXTINGUISHER
    FLIP STYLE VENTED GAS CAP
    INTEGRAL BATTERY MAINTAINER

    Also a lot of other small things too numerous to mention, Restoration has also started as I have also rebuilt the shift linkage, steering column. and the brakes and front suspension since the racing parts were never meant to last 60,000 miles. The rear hub carriers have also been rebuilt as well as the engine accessory drive shaft.

    According to Peter Brock the Mangusta chassis design is from the P70 race car DeTomaso was going to build with Shelby.

    Dick Ruzzin

  8. Mr Ruzzin

    Thank you for the reply and extra comments/information. Certainly didnt mean to sound nit picky , but I’m glad it all jogged your memory and helped add more info to the history of the car.
    Whatever its technical specification, it was and is a beautiful machine, and quite frankly, I imagine it to be the ‘best’ car of its type extant.

  9. Mark D. Carbone

    Wow & Thank You !

  10. Cameron Rapotec

    Nello Tacconelli was my great grandfather. I grew up loving his silver 1970 Mangusta and still today it’s one of my all time favorite cars. I wish I had the opportunity to buy it from my great aunt years after he died.

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