Every so often, we run across a car that could never be called run-of-the-mill. A car that breaks completely away from the pack. Now, many such cars happen to come from Italy. After all, the Italians have a long history of independent thought in the arena of exotic automotive design. Well, the latest example of that is this Qvale Mangusta. A machine with an intricate heritage, over- the-top style, as well as a few surprises. In other words, now that’s Italian! Indeed, wherever you, go the 2000 Qvale Mangusta will turn heads, and raise a few questions. The number one being, “what is it?” Well, the short answer goes like this. The original Mangusta began life in the mid-1960s under the care of designer Giorgio Giugiaro and car builder Alejandro DeTomaso. The first generation Mangusta ended production in 1970, but its demise led DeTomaso to produce perhaps its best known car ever, the Pantera. In 1998, the Qvale Automotive Group signed an agreement with DeTomaso to began manufacturing a new Mangusta, this one designed by Marcello Gandini, designer of the Lamborghini Countach and Diablo, and also build the car in Modena, Italy. Gandini wanted the Mangusta’s bold styling to match the car’s potential under the hood, and there’s plenty of that. And there also resides the surprise we mentioned earlier. It’s Ford’s 4.6 liter, twin-cam, 32-valve, V-8, the very same one found under the hood of the SVT Mustang Cobra. And with 320 horsepower and 314 pound-feet of torque, it propelled the Mangusta to 60 in 5.7 seconds and on through the quarter mile in 14.3 seconds at 101 mph. Our drivers loved the positive race-car feel of the heavy clutch and the precision of the 5-speed manual transmission. But the lack of ABS was a setback to the 12 inch, ventilated discs with 4-piston Brembo calipers at the corners, as our stops from 60 in the Mangusta came in at a rather longish 138 feet. And with pedal feedback minimal, it was tricky to determine a proper threshold of braking before locking the tires. But once you find that threshold, stopping distances are very consistent. And so were staff reactions to handling at Summit Point’s knotty Jefferson Circuit. The Mangusta handles track work well. Cornering is flat, with the optional 18 inch Michelin Pilots providing plenty of grip. With just the right touch of understeer dialed in, the Mangusta’s rear quarters stay firmly planted. The fully independent multi-link suspension with double wishbones, coil springs, and anti-roll bars give the car a well balanced feel in rapid side-to-side transitions. The steering feels nicely weighted, but feedback is a little soft. Off-track, the Mangusta offers a sporting, but civilized ride, as the galvanized boxed steel frame gives the Mangusta a torsionally stiff platform to ride on. This keeps body flex and cowl shake to the barest minimum, which is especially important when using composite molded body panels like the Mangusta’s. The Mangusta also offers two open top configurations for your driving pleasure with a roof system called Rototop. For a targa-type experience, remove the center section and store it in the trunk. To go for the full blown roadster effect, simply push a button and watch the targa top and rear window disappear behind the seats. No tonneau cover is needed. But you might want to carry a small rag, as our top leaked in downpours. The Mangusta’s interior is leather-lined and sports car tight. With supportive power and manual adjust buckets, facing a stylish and comprehensive Mustang-flavored gauge cluster. The Ford influence is also found in the Visteon-supplied climate controls, while the stereo underneath is a Nakamichi with a 6-disc in-dash changer. Qvale calls the Mangusta a 2+2, but trust us, the rear seats are for storage only. When it comes to paying up, the $82,000 sticker price attached to our 2000 Qvale Mangusta tester can be looked at in two ways. It’s kind of pricey for any car with Mustang power. But on the other hand, it’s on the order of half that of pure Italian alternatives, and again, right in line with the thinking behind the original Mangusta and Pantera. And like those DeTomaso efforts, the 2000 Qvale Mangusta 2+2 is a unique hands- across-the-sea package. And, one where American and Italian blood easily mix to produce passion.
Engine: 4.6 Liter, Twin-cam, 32-valve, V-8
Torque: 314 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 5.7 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.3 Seconds @ 101 MPH
60-0 MPH: 138 Feet