The Italian Lotus

The qualities which distinguished the Vallelunga were its lightness combined with good performance and excellent road-holding, earning it the nickname “The Italian Lotus”.

One could write a book about the automotive adventures of Alejandro De Tomaso (1928 – 2003), full of ascents to success and ruinous falls: in fact, years have passed since the Modena marque, founded by the Argentinian entrepreneur in 1959, was declared bankrupt.

Despite this, the cars produced by the house of the T-mark still arouse great emotions and, from the first model, the Vallelunga, we retrace where it all began, analysing the creation of a model that De Tomaso seems to have wanted to sell as a whole project, leaving the job of producing and marketing it to other car manufacturers.

The new car, which was named after a famous racing circuit, made its debut at the 1963 Turin Motor Show as a Spider, actually remaining the only example as such. The bodywork was the work of Fissore, who also carried out the design of the normal version of the Vallelunga, which was presented at the same salon the following year. Although the new sports car was the work of Fissore, De Tomaso gave the job of producing the bodies to Ghia, starting in 1965.

The qualities which distinguished the Vallelunga were its lightness combined with good performance and excellent road-holding, earning it the nickname “The Italian Lotus”. The car was based on a single girder frame with the gearbox and engine also having load-bearing functions, and a body made from fibreglass. As for the engine, it was a four-cylinder Ford unit as used in the Cortina model, with 1592 cc producing 104 bhp, giving a maximum speed of approximately 215 km/h. The beauty of its lines meant that in 1966 the new De Tomaso was exhibited at the New York Museum of Modern Art, in the company of other much more famous (at the time) sports cars. Production of the Vallelunga continued until 1967, totalling just over fifty examples, when it was replaced by the more powerful Mangusta.

As for the De Tomaso marque, this went into liquidation in 2004 and was subsequently taken over by entrepreneur Gian Mario Rossignolo, who intended to produce a new luxury SUV using the historic De Tomaso name of Deauville, but the plan ended before any were made and the famous businessman was arrested for fraud. Today all that remains of the marque is the former factory located between Via Virgilio and Via Omero in the hamlet of Cittanova, in the province of Modena, closed for more than fourteen years now and in an obvious state of neglect in an area where the construction of a new commercial centre is planned. In short, an undeserved and deeply sad end.

Text by Tommaso Lai

Translation by Norman Hawkes

Copyright © Cars Forgotten Stories. All rights reserved.


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