I spotted this parked in front of one of the sketchiest shops in town. I’ll admit it, I had only a rough idea of what it could be. It looks like a de Tomasa Pantera at first glance, but I knew that wasn’t right. To the internets!
After some googling, I identified it as a De Tomaso Mangusta, one of 401 made between 1966 and 1971. (the headline is what autocorrect thought Mangusta ought to be, but it really means mongoose). Wikipedia says there are only 250 of them left. The front spoiler and black bumper set it apart from all of the other Mangusta I could find and that was causing me a problem. Why would someone decide to muck around with the design of such a rare car?
After much digging, I discovered that this car is a one-off special imported by Eugene Bordinat, Jr, VP of Ford Styling for nearly 20 years! The car was last advertised for sale by PI Motorsports out of Orange, California. The spoiler was installed at the factory as was the leather nose guard and bumperettes (more on that below). Go to their site, they have some great pics of this car (like the ones I borrowed).
One of the unique features of the car is the center-hinged gullwing hood covering the engine. This explains the serious body gaps on the rear quarters. It is powered by a Ford 302, making around 220 hp. The Mangusta is fairly light at 3,100 lbs, but it’s not going to blow the doors off any modern car.
Inside it looks fairly spartan, but it did come with factory air and power windows which were unusual at the time. Check out that gated shifter!
The Mangusta wasn’t known for great handling. With a terrible weight distribution of 32/68, that is no surprise. But who wouldn’t want to be seen in this car, even if you were sliding of the back sweeper of your favorite track?
With less than 4,000 miles, this car is more of a garage queen than a driver. I just hope the owner isn’t keeping it at that shop. So, what’s it doing in Baton Rouge parked in front of a shop that is literally falling down? Seriously, just look at what he’s working with. The lifts are outside, sheltered by a roof that is falling down and the main building isn’t in much better shape.
I found a link between the owner of the shop and the owner of the car. I think he is an older gentleman who is working to get out of the business. There are signs around his shop showing the property is for sale. It might be a hard sell in its current condition. He’s posted in a few places about the car, but I’ll give him some privacy and just summarize some of what he shared about its history.
The car has been described as a prototype. The bumperettes were part of a design study which helped Ford understand that the Mangusta chassis couldn’t meet the updated federal bumper regulations. According to him, this is one of the reasons that they moved forward with the Pantera instead. The nose guard is leather attached to aluminum and is screwed onto the body. It, along with the front spoiler, are one-off items installed at the factory.
The owner has said that the cockpit is snug for someone of average height. Being closer to 6' tall, he thinks it was designed around someone around 5'8".
There are few cars that I would call compelling, but this is definitely one of them. If he put it on the market, I’d be sorely tempted to hock all of my assets, get a second mortgage, and start selling plasma so I could afford it for myself. Then I’d have to figure out how to pay for insurance so I could drive it.
Maybe someday. Until then, it will just haunt my dreams.