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.