What is a Qvale Mangusta? Glad you asked, and I’ll tell you just that.
The project for this car started out in Italy back in the mid-1990’s by De Tomaso, whose semi-successful Pantera model had been discontinued and its replacement, the Guara (a car I lovingly talked about in an older post on this blog), had not exactly been a sales success.
What Alejandro de Tomaso wanted was a grand touring sports car with radical styling and a proven drivetrain. De Tomaso, which in those days owned another Italian car company, Maserati, entrusted Giordano Casarini who was their technical director, to come up with a new sports car.
Casarini, who had made several business trips to the U.K. took a liking to the TVR Griffith, and visioned De Tomaso’s next car to be similar to that. Hence, the Mangusta has a multi-position roof, similar to that on the Griffith.
While TVR used modified Rover V8’s at the time, De Tomaso looked at its former engine partner Ford once again for engines. Hence the Mangusta got the 4.6-liter, V8 engine that one would also find in the SVT version of the Mustang.
For its design, De Tomaso hired Marcello Gandini – you know the guy who penned the Cizeta V16T, the Lamborghini Miura, Urraco, Jamara, Espada, Countach, Diablo, and the Maserati Shamal – to begin work on this new sports car.
Like the Griffith, the Mangusta was going to be a roadster with a clever roof design, only the mechanism was part power operated on this car.
What was less known at the time was the fact that the project for the Mangusta was mainly funded by Kjell Qvale, who had been the importer for Maserati in North America in the pre-Ferrari owned era.
The business relationship between Mr. Qvale and Mr. de Tomaso was however tarnishing, because both parties had different views on the future of their business.
So the two split, and the De Tomaso Mangusta (which was also initially known as the Bigua) had become the Qvale Mangusta.
Apart from the badges, nothing was changed on the car itself. Qvale, having had experience in selling low-volume, niche sports cars started marketing the car for sale mainly in the U.S.A.
The automotive press also got a hold of the car, and while their opinion on its styling was split, they all loved its performance. Having the SVT spec V8 meant 320-hp and 314 lb/ft of torque. Power was fed to the back wheels via either a BorgWarner 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic taken from Ford (the instrumentation, steering wheel and window switches also were taken from the Ford parts bin).
The performance numbers for the manual car are quite decent. 0-100 km/h would take just 5.3 seconds, and it can top out at 255 km/h. So not the fastest car on the road, but still very respectable.
Since Qvale was hardly a household name, the Mangusta was not selling in huge numbers. Still, selling 284-examples of a $70,000 sportscar that not many people knew about is an admirable feat.
Qvale, who had put up most of the money for the development of the Mangusta was still surely going to lose money on this project. However, a deal with the MG Rover Group lead to them paying CDN$11.2-million to buy the rights and assets to the Mangusta. MG used the Mangusta’s underpinnings towards developing their own niche sports car, the MG X-Power SV (another car I really like).
So Qvale recovered its money and had made only one model, and was in the business only between the year 2000 and 2002. All the cars were made in Italy and powered by an American motor.
While they are rare, it is not impossible to find a Qvale Mangusta for sale, especially in America. These days, you can pick one up for about $30,000 – which makes it cheaper to buy than a new Ford Mustang GT.