Celebrating 60 Years
"One of the greatest untold stories in automotive history."
-Our team on Alejandro de Tomaso
Born in 1928
Alejandro de Tomaso
The man, the myth, the legend.
Buenos Aires, July 10th 1928
Alejandro De Tomaso is born to Italian-born politician Antonio De Tomaso and the daughter of one of Argentina's most prominent and wealthy ranching families. After the premature death of his father, Alejandro left school to run the family ranch. He married his first wife, Lola Guiraldes with whom he had three sons.
From an early age, racing and racing cars had possessed Alejandro.
The Argentina Years
Alejandro de Tomaso
From an early age, racing and racing cars had possessed Alejandro. In 1945 he drove his first race in a modified Bugatti Type 35. A driven individual and innovator at heart, he was keen to be involved in designing, constructing and racing the latest innovation in auto racing, mid-engine race cars.
In 1954 he had competed in the 1000-km race of Buenos Aires, going on one year later to win his class together with co-driver Reyes in a new 2 litre Maserati A6GCS.
As a young man, De Tomaso was politically active and had backed an underground political newspaper opposing President Peron. In 1955 he returned to Buenos Aires to take part in an attempt to overthrow the regime, but when this failed he was forced to leave the country (and politics) for good. There however, was a silver lining to this as history would prove this to be a crucial moment in Alejandro's journey.
A man on a mission
“He came to Italy and wanted to make his debut but he was nobody. So, he asked which hotel in Modena was the most prestigious? And they told him, the Canalgrande. So he went there. After a month, they gave him the check that he, obviously, could not pay so they kicked him out. The first thing he did when he made his money was to buy the hotel.
Think about it — it’s incredible!”
-Marcello Gandini on Alejandro de Tomaso
Italy – The O.S.C.A. Era
Where Alejandro meets Isabelle
After settling in Bologna, Italy in 1955, Alejandro secures a role as a test driver for O.S.C.A. (founded by the Maserati brothers).
During his OSCA years, 1956 to be exact, Alejandro met an American heiress, Elizabeth "Isabelle" Haskell. This was a moment that would change their lives forever. Isabelle was granddaughter of William C. Durant, one of the founders of General Motors. The two were soulmates and married shortly thereafter in 1957.
Isabelle herself was a very capable racing driver and together, they raced successfully in OSCA sports cars from 1956-1958. In 1958, Alejandro experimented with his own race car design using a 750 cc OSCA engine mounted in front of the rear axle.
A racing driver, engineer and entrepreneur, Alejandro was a man with ambition and a vision.
Alejandro becomes frustrated with the design limitations imposed by the Maserati brothers and leaves OSCA to pursue his dream of designing his own mid-engined road and race cars...
to pursue his own brand...
De Tomaso Automobili
De Tomaso Automobili
The legend begins
In 1959, after leaving OSCA, Alejandro and Isabelle co-founded their own brand, De Tomaso Automobili. They moved to Modena and once settled Alejandro built his next race car, a 'monoposto.'
This single-seater race car featured a 1492 cc OSCA engine, fitted at the rear. During his early years, De Tomaso would rely heavily on OSCA engines to power his cars.
Up until 1963 Alejandro focused and achieved his initial vision of designing, developing and constructing his own mid-engine racing cars and racing was the focus of the day.
Alejandro’s vision becomes a reality
De Tomaso designed and produced prototypes and race cars for Sports Car classes, Formula Junior, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1 and Indy. From 1961 to 1963 De Tomaso had a series of Formula 1 appearances utilizing his own chassis and various engine solutions mostly comprised of OSCA, Alfa or Ford units.
Encouraging results ensured which led Alejandro to create a base of wealthy gentleman drivers to help grow the business. Racing was the focus of the period and during its racing endeavors, De Tomaso would end up building Formula 1 cars for Frank Williams, amongst other notable achievements.
" The Italian car industry had many colorful characters, but no one quite like Alejandro de Tomaso. "
-Gilles Chapman, Independent UK
Vallelunga | The First Road Car
The “Vallelunga” helps expand the business
De Tomaso's first road-going production model was the Vallelunga (named after the racing circuit) introduced in 1963. The Vallelunga was one of the first mid-engined road cars in the world and featured a lightweight backbone chassis, which became a signature feature of many De Tomaso vehicles.
The “Back-bone” chassis and Prototype Dreams
After leaving OSCA and the Maserati brothers, Alejandro De Tomaso started to build his own race cars. Despite his new endeavor, he still relied on OSCA to be a key engine supplier to De Tomaso. Over the course of this period a number of prototypes ensued, such as the Sports 1000 and 2000.
Shelby contacts Alejandro
This proved to be an important part of history as the P70 program heavily influenced Alejandro's next steps.
The P70 / Sport 5000
Carroll Shelby contacts Alejandro de Tomaso
“In 1964 the unlikely pairing of Carroll Shelby and Alejandro de Tomaso, two of the strongest egos in international motorsport, conspired to build a car they felt could defeat the best in the world, they created the P70.” - Peter Brock, designer.
A special story unfolded...
A name and chassis derived from the P70 program.
The second road car, first volume model
A name and chassis derived from the P70 program
Following the Vallelunga debut, Alejandro realized that he would need to use a different business model to find financial stability for his company. This approach consisted of producing homologated road cars in higher volumes. At this point, Alejandro confident with the initial success of the Vallelunga was ready to truly establish himself on the world stage.
Ford & the Pantera Program
Lee Iacocca strikes deal with Alejandro de Tomaso
Iacocca and Alejandro deal
Ford and De Tomaso Collaboration
De Tomaso’s efforts to-date had caught the attention of famed Lee Iacocca, head of Ford North America, who instructed Ford’s product division to hold discussions with Alejandro. The vision was to have De Tomaso create a GT car that could be mass-produced and sold through Ford’s Lincoln-Mercury dealership network. Ford desired a car that would overshadow the Corvette and anything else General Motors could produce and Iacocca had a keen plan to leverage Alejandro de Tomaso's suave "Italian" image to promote the car.
In 1970 Ford acquired a majority equity interest in De Tomaso and this partnership led to the iconic Pantera, De Tomaso's third and highest volume road-going production model. The Pantera debuted in 1970 with a brand-new high-volume design concept, one which embodied the core pillars of De Tomaso which combined the muscle power of an American V8 with signature Italian styling whilst offering world-class performance at a fraction of the price of its competitors.
The Pantera was an instant success and saw multiple variants over its twenty-three year production run.
Alejandro's Industrial Empire
During the 1960s and 1970s, Alejandro's entrepreneurial ambitions led De Tomaso to acquire a number of Italian industrial holdings including the Ghia and Vignale coach-building studios, Benelli and Moto Guzzi motorcycle firms, the Innocenti car company and then...
as if something out of a movie,
In 1975 De Tomaso purchased Maserati, a company for which he had roots tied to his first Italian employer, OSCA (Maserati brothers), from Citroen, which he rescued from bankruptcy with the assistance of the Italian government. De Tomaso then owned Maserati from 1975 until 1993 when he sold his shares at a profit to the F.I.A.T. group.
Companies Acquired by De Tomaso
In 1975 De Tomaso purchased Maserati, a company for which he had roots tied to his first Italian employer, OSCA (Maserati brothers), from Citroen, which he rescued from bankruptcy with the assistance of the Italian government.
The deal was originally structured whereby Alejandro acquired 30% of the shares with the remaining 70% being taken by GEPI, a state institution that purchased financially unstable companies in the spirit of preventing unemployment. After purchasing Maserati, De Tomaso was forced to make a difficult, but prudent decision to reduce its workforce from 900 to 600, a measure that the GEPI had tried to prevent, but was required to stabilize the company.
De Tomaso then owned and operated Maserati from 1975 until 1993. In 1989, Alejandro sold 49% of his shares to FIAT. In 1993, he sadly suffered a stroke and shortly thereafter divested his remaining stake in Maserati to FIAT, at a profit.
Although it was not an easy path to resolve the issues Maserati faced at the time De Tomaso acquired the company, he managed to return the company to profitability. It is commonly viewed that had it not been for de Tomaso acquiring the company that Maserati may have ceased to exist.
Alejandro had previously been working with Ghia on his first road car, the Vallelunga, and was now in need of assistance in order to bring his second road car, the Mangusta to market. In order to achieve his goal Alejandro arranged for his brother-in-law to finance his acquisition of Ghia. De Tomaso became was appointed President and Ghia then began to manufacture the bodywork for the upcoming Mangusta. In October 1967, Rowan (Alejandro's brother-in-law) also obtained 80% of the De Tomaso Automobili stock leaving Alejandro with enough cash in the bank for more new ventures.
In June 1970 Ford bought ~80% of the Ghia, Vignale and De Tomaso Automobili stock and the remaining 20% went to a new firm, De Tomaso Inc. After, De Tomaso and Ford parted ways in 1974, Ford retained ownership of Ghia.
In 1969, De Tomaso acquired Carrozzeria Vignale with the help of his brother-in-law, Rowan. Rowan would provide 70% of the financing and Alejandro the balance. Vingale then became part of the holding company which later was part of the equity acquisition and partnership with Ford.
Moto Guzzi is famous for its historic role in Italy's motorcycle industry, worldwide motorcycle racing palmares and innovations such as the first motorcycle centre stand, wind tunnel and eight-cylinder engine.
In 1972 De Tomaso acquired Moto Guzzi, a struggling Italian motorcycle manufacturer with the assistance of the Italian government agency, Gepi, with the initiative to return the firm to profitability.
In 1971 Alejandro began a new endeavor as he expanded his reach into the motorcycle business as he acquired Benelli with the assistance of the Italian government agency, Gepi, with the initiative to return the firm to profitability.
The company was known for Lambretta scooters, the BMC (later the British Leyland Motor Corporation, or BLMC for short) Mini, and the Innocenti Spyder (a re-bodied variant of the Austin-Healey MKII.
In 1976, Alejandro de Tomaso acquired Innocenti and rebranded it under the name Nuova Innocenti. The acquisition was again with the assistance of the Italian government agency, Gepi.
The company was then sold to Fiat in 1990.
The Deauville debuted at the Turin Motor Show in 1970. Designed by Tom Tjaarda, the same designer as the Pantera. This luxury quattroporte helped De Tomaso expand into a new market.
A 2+2 GT Coupé
Introduced at the 1972 Turin Motor Show, the Longchamp was the last model ever made by the De Tomaso / Ghia / Ford collaboration.
The last road car
Presented at the 1993 Geneva Motor Show; the Guarà was the final model created by Alejandro. The car was based upon the Maserati Barchetta Stradale prototype race car from 1991 and was styled by Carlo Gaino. The Guarà was offered initially as a coupe and later came a spider and an open barchetta variant.
The Passing of a Legend
May 21st, 2003 -
De Tomaso suffered a stroke in 1993 and with failing health, the day-to-day operations of De Tomaso Automobili were handed over to his son, Santiago. On May 21st, 2003, Alejandro De Tomaso, a true legend and pioneer in the automotive industry, passed away in Modena, Italy at the age of 74.