CONSTRUCTORS: DE TOMASO AUTOMOBILI SPA
Name: De Tomaso Automobili SpA
Alessandro de Tomaso established De Tomaso Automobili in Modena in 1959 to prepare cars for his racing career. The company was funded by his wife who was an heiress to an American construction firm. He soon retired from driving and in 1960 the first de Tomaso appeared. This was a Formula 2 car with a Conrero Alfa Romeo engine. It was run at the Modena GP meeting in October by Roberto Bussinello but failed to qualify for the event after an accident. This car was rebuilt in 1961 and was raced by Bussinello to fifth place at the 1961 Naples GP. The car also appeared at Modena but Gastone Zanarotti failed to qualify. By then De Tomaso had another F1 design up and running. These cars were entered for a variety of drivers with a variety of engines but never achieved much.
The company also produced Formula Junior cars which were marketed under the Isis name. This design was later upgraded to F3 specification in 1964 with some success, Mario Casoni winning at Caserta. In 1962 the company produced a new F1 chassis - designated 801 - which had been designed by former Maserati engineer Alberto Massimino and this was run by Nasif Estefano at the Italian GP. It failed to qualify. The cars continued to appear in odd races until 1965.
That year De Tomaso began building road cars, starting out with the Ford-engined Vallelunga model. This was followed by the Giugiaro-designed Mangusta in 1966. Two years later De Tomaso bought the Ghia styling company and its chief stylist Tom Tjaarda and hired Giampaolo Dallara away from Lamborghini. He also concluded a deal with Ford's Lee Iacocca for Ford to sell his cars in the United States. Ford took a stake in the company and the first car produced was the Pantera. The De Tomaso company seemed to be on the move and it even attracted Ferrari engineer Nello Ugolini.
For the 1969 season De Tomaso planned a return to racing and Dallara created a new Formula 2 car designated the 103. This first appeared in the hands of Jonathan Williams in the Monza Lotteria. It was also raced by Jacky Ickx and Piers Courage (who finished third in a heat at Vallelunga). It was promising enough performance to convince Frank Williams to do a deal for De Tomaso to build him F1 cars for the 1970 season. The Cosworth-engined chassis was debuted at the South African GP with Courage driving and the car was even tried by Jackie Stewart during the International Trophy meeting where Courage finished third. At the Dutch GP in June, however, Courage crashed and was killed in a fiery accident.
The team reappeared at the British GP a month later with Brian Redman driving but after he failed to qualify twice it was handed over to Tim Schenken who finished off the season without any real results.
After that disaster De Tomaso went back to building road cars. The Ford alliance broke up after the oil crisis of 1973 but De Tomaso bounced back by buying Maserati in 1975 and Innocenti the following year. He also bought the Moto Guzzi and Benelli motorcycle companies.
The Pantera, Longchamp and Deauville models took the De Tomaso company through the 1970s while Alessandro tried to revive the Maserati name with the Quattroporte and Biturbo models. De Tomaso racing cars appeared in sportscar racing in the mid-1970s and a factory Maserati Biturbo team was entered in the abortive World Touring Car Championship of 1987. In 1989 he sold Innocenti to Fiat and Maserati followed in 1993.
De Tomaso went back to running his own small company but suffered a stroke in the early 1990s and the company was taken over by his wife Isabelle and his son Santiago. In recent years De Tomaso has launched a variety of news models including the Guara, the Bigua (designed by Marcello Gandini, the designer of the Lamborghini Countach and Diablo) and the new Mangusta.