Another brand bites the dust

De Tomaso has filed for bankruptcy, bringing into danger the future of the company that was once a serious player in the exotic sports car world and in F1. It was founded in 1959 by Argentine exile Alejandro de Tomaso, who had settled in Modena because of his desire to go racing. The company, which was funded by De Tomaso’s wife, the heiress to an American construction firm, began with a Formula 2 car, powered by a Conrero Alfa Romeo engine, which was followed by a Formula 1 car, although this never achieved a great deal. It was followed by Formula Juniors and a new F1 car, designated the 801 – which was designed by former Maserati engineer Alberto Massimino. The cars appeared in occasional F1 races until 1965 but by then de Tomaso was building road cars, beginning with the Ford-engined Vallelunga model. This was followed by the Giugiaro-designed Mangusta in 1966 and then two years later de Tomaso acquired the Ghia styling company and hired Giampaolo Dallara from Lamborghini. The result was the Pantera and this was sufficiently successful for Ford to take a shake in the business. De Tomaso’s first love remained F1, however, and in 1969 he built a third F1 car, designed by Dallara and raced by Jonathan Williams, Jacky Ickx and Piers Courage. This convinced Frank Williams to do a deal for the car in 1970 and the Cosworth-engined chassis appeared in South Africa that year with Courage driving. The car was even tried out by Jackie Stewart during the International Trophy meeting where Courage finished third.

Sadly, in June at the Dutch GP Courage crashed and was killed. The team continued with other drivers but disappeared at the end of the year. De Tomaso went back to building road cars. The Ford alliance broke up but De Tomaso bounced back by buying Maserati in 1975 and Innocenti the following year. He also bought the Moto Guzzi and Benelli motorcycle companies. The Pantera, Longchamp and Deauville models took the firm through the 1970s while de Tomaso tried to revive Maserati with the Quattroporte and Biturbo models. There were various adventures in motorsport as well, but then had to sell both Innocenti and Maserati. De Tomaso suffered a stroke in the 1990s and the business was run by family members before going out of business in 2004. Four years later Gian Mario Rossignolo bought the company trademarks and began planning for a revival. The company unveiled a prototype at Geneva in 2011 but was unable to find the backing to continue.

25 thoughts on “Another brand bites the dust

  1. The De Tomaso Pantera went on to become the MG X-Power SV, thus being responsible in part for the collapse of 2 car companies.

    1. I think you are mixing up the Biguá and the Pantera. The Pantera was a good car that sold plenty, the Biguá was a TVR clone that sold very few indeed.

  2. I remember the first time I saw the Pantera. At first I thought, hmm, that’s awkward in an interesting way. I thought it was ugly and beautiful if that’s possible. I remember driving it for the first time as well. It was a bit of a let down. Sometimes it’s better to leave those cars alone and just remember them as what they were; super cars that never reached their potential an weren’t as goo as they seemed to be. Perhaps that previous statement defines DeTomaso best. Still, similar to many brands before it, it’s always sad to see the names disappear.

  3. Ghia (I always thought that was just a Ford trim level), Dallara, Maserati… Fascinating how all these brands/names have got to where we are today. Might spend an hour or two on Wikipedia at some point learning about Zetec and Pinafarina etc.

    Thanks Joe.

  4. When I owned an engineering company in the late 1960’s, we also serviced various “super-cars”. I went to pick up a customer’s Mangusta. I went back in after trying to leave and told him “the clutch hydraulics are seized”. He went out and tried and told me “you just have to push the pedal harder; that is what it is always like”. Without a doubt the worst “super-car” I have ever driven, with in addition to the gym work out clutch, awful brakes and dreadful handling. Spectacular looking but best as a static exhibit. If their later cars were anything like this, I am surprised they lasted as long as they did.

    Wilson

  5. It couldn’t have been announced on a more poignant day as today would have been Alessandro de Tomaso’s birthday

  6. That’s a shame, I actually saw a Pantera on the motorway this week. It was in the layby with hazards on, maybe it knew what was coming.

  7. A friend of mine has 3 Panteras in varying stages of development . They are in my opinion the supercar answer to the Cobra. Crude but very effective. Courages’ death was a very sad part of their history.

  8. I think Frank Williams also had a relationship with Iso back in the day. Must have been a very interesting time for him. Pity to see any car firm go under. Wonder if anyone will buy out the name to use on their own project.

  9. They used to love Italian sports cars. Many of those always were head-turning and heart-beat-accelerating events. Nowadays anyone can make fast cars which look like legendary Italian sports cars. As they say, times are a-changing and this event proves once again that making good-looking cars is not enough to survive. It happens in the best families. The 928 nearly bankrupted Porsche and the Etna didn’t save Lotus. Only time will tell if McLaren Cars will survive Ron Dennis.

  10. I saw that Geneva prototype… no wonder they failed. What they should have done (and everyone who heard about it chimed in) was to revive the Pantera styling in a modern chassis, as was tried with the Stratos.

  11. I’m old enough to recall the impact the Formula 2 De Tomaso made, giving Rindt, Regazzoni, and Cevert a vigorous wake up.

    I don’t recall JYS trying the F1 version, but I do remember he would jump into any car offered him in the pits, and give it a whirl.

    On one occasion, in the US, he was casually asked his opinion of the McLaren M10B, and after a quick spin in his opponents car, set a very fast time, and this verdict;

    “If your man can’t get within a second of that time, give him the sack!”

    Imagine, Horner asking Lewis to try out the current RB, at last week’s GP?

    Were those THE days?

    Perhaps…

    1. LOL you remember that too! Actually, poor by-then-potbellied A.J. Foyt was the victim of that 7-second humiliation in 1971.
      As to Piers Courage’s Zandvoort death in the deTomaso, that fiery calamity was a huge trauma for Sir Frank, and unknowingly a rehearsal for the even-worse horror of Roger Williamson’s death there 3 years later.

      1. Thanks for the confirmation Anthony.

        I recall reading it at the time in MN, MS, or Autosport (actually, it must’ve been AS, Jenks would not have included it in MS!)

        Was it really as much as seven seconds, how embarrassing for the illustrious AJF?

        I think it was the Questor GP, as reported here…

        http://counter-x.net/f1/questor/index.html

        Whilst trying to work out your connection to PTaruffi I came across Prisca’s site here:

        http://priscataruffi.it/prisca/museo.html

        Be warned Gentlemen, it has red cars driven by a pretty Italian Lady!

        1. http://www.forix.com/8w/questor.html
          1-sentence mention of the JYS-AJF test there; from that and the grid times one can confirm the 7-second gap. I remember the quote as “If your bloke can’t do a ’42, he should get the sack!” A top U.S. road racer (probably George Follmer, judging from the language used), was then quoted as saying “A.J. oughta slug the little bastard in the mouth for making a crack like that!” Fun days to be a race fan!
          No connection to illustrious Piero, just a whim, and I’d surrender the tag to the lady if asked to. Salutes from Boston.

  12. @FastNick The 928 nearly bankrupted Porsche? Really? I have one and have read loads about their development etc and have never once heard that.

    Given how many manufacturers are gradually migrating towards developing electric cars, and given how there’s been a healthy injection of sex appeal in the offerings of the electric car industry of late (Tesla, Rimac, Fisker etc) a smart move may have been to reposition Pantera among the vanguard of sleek but silent supercars. After all, unlike all the others, it would have had a singular advantage – heritage…

  13. Ah memories…. (Back to the mid 70’s). I was living in the South of France, working, and my first car was a Renault 8, very cheap, boring, and ugly. My next car was an Innocenti de Tomaso. Red, with black trim. Brand new. It was the Italian version of the UK Mini Cooper. It went like a rocket, and as for pulling, or encouraging the opposite sex, it was like a magnet. Wish I never sold it. Looked great, but yes, it did fall apart a few times, but then again that was also a nice talking point for the opposite sex, easy chat up lines. Been Italian, been Red, and of course breaking down, and my Italian been crap, it did lead to some interesting times.

    Off subject, but I do believe that Joe has a birthday coming up soon. So is one staying in and saving up for all that extra tax you are required to pay now, or pushing the boat out?

  14. Mate bought a cheap Panterra for 13K (Sterling) and although a bit agricultural, as I was into Sports Cars I just loved ( and drooled) the way the whole rear end body work tilted up and revealed a back end just like a CanAm car, and as per others here the car died at a Petrol station and after an hour of hunting for the battery we gave up. ( inside bulkhead behind seat) Sold immediately after for 20k making instant 7k – Ahhhh the power of buying cheap and reselling.

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