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De Tomaso Vallelunga

Posted in Celebrity Cars, De Tomaso, History by Dustin Driver | September 20th, 2012 | Leave a Reply |

De Tomaso is known for stuffing huge lumps of American iron into gorgeous Italian bodies. The company’s first car, however, was a bit more modest. The Vallelunga was powered by the venerable 1.5-liter Ford Kent four cylinder and used a VW transaxle. It was the world’s first mid-engine production car. And any respectable gearhead should know all about it.

Argentine Alejandro De Tomaso founded De Tomaso in 1959 in Modena, Italy, in 1959 to build race cars. He started working on his first production car in the early ’60s raise more money for his race teams. The Vallelunga was his first effort, a fiberglass-bodied mid-engined sports car with a steel spine and disc brakes all around. It was essentially a race car wrapped in a gorgeous, low-slung body.

The car used fully adjustable unequal-length wishbone suspension up front and reversed lower wishbone, top-link and radius-arm suspension out back. The rear suspension was bolted directly to the engine and transaxle, just like the Formula Fords of the time. For motivation Vallelunga used the famous 1.5-liter Ford Kent four-cylinder, good for about 105 horsepower. Top speed was around 130.

The car weighted just 1,600 pounds.

The car was built by Ghia in Italy. It was incredible to drive, a true race car for the road. Its light weight and stiff steel spine made it handle like a hummingbird. Despite this, the car didn’t sell. De Tomaso only made 53 before focusing his efforts on the bigger, more powerful Mangusta. That car would have a similar steel spine chassis, but would be equipped with a Ford 302 V8.
Interesting fact: Ricci Martin, Dean Martin’s son, owned a Vallelunga. He got it when he was 16 and promptly crashed it. Luckily, Ricci’s mom had another flown in from Milan, Italy a few months later. A few years later Ricci sold Vallelunga #2 and purchased a Mangusta. It’s good to be the son of one of the coolest cats to ever walk the face of the earth.

 

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