Words & photos - Daniel Bevis
De Tomaso have always built wilfully odd cars, fusing coachbuilt Italian style with bought-in engines; their first model, the Vallelunga of 1963, had a Ford Cortina crossflow, but they're better known for the later efforts that shoehorned in thudding American V8s. Like this thing, the 1966 Mangusta.
The name is Italian for 'mongoose' - an animal that kills cobras; the story goes that De Tomaso had initially been promised a supply of top-spec V8s by Ford that ended up being installed in Shelby Cobras instead... whether apocryphal or not, it does lend the old girl a sense of vengeful purpose.
Pioneering a new modus operandi for De Tomaso, the Mangusta featured contemporary Italian supercar styling - crafted by Ghia - with a 289ci Ford V8 mounted amidships (in the same state of tune as a Mustang GT350), although there's a tangible refinement and maturity to the Mangusta that distances it from its Countach-on-PCP successor, the Pantera. And, of course, the Mangusta has a staggeringly beautiful, unique rear end that flips open like a beetle's wings - you can't argue with a styling quirk like that, can you? Magnificently strange.
Only 401 examples were built, with just 120 thought to survive today. This one was spotted by SSBB on the concours lawn at the 2014 Goodwood Festival of Speed - click here for more photos.