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.