For $29,000, this Mangusta may not be the snake-killer you’re looking forS

The original Mangusta was named after the one animal that was brave enough to stand up to the deadly Cobra. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Qvale Mangusta sports a Cobra engine, but will it price make you say Qvale who?

Kjell Qvale — which is pronounced shell kev-all-ee is to West Coast automotive history as Max Hoffman was to the East. Starting out as the first importer of Jaguars on the Pacific side of the U.S., the Norwegian-born Qvale was also instrumental in the founding of the San Francisco Auto Show, the Jensen Healey, and, with his son, Bruce, today's Qvale Mangusta.

Originally intended to be marketed as a de Tomaso under the name Biguá, the car ended up under Qvale's own name after a falling out with the mercurial Argentinian. The Mangusta shares both its name and the selection of a Ford V8 for power with its de Tomaso ancestor, however absolutely nothing else.

The original de Tomaso Mangusta replaced the ultra-limited run Vallelunga, and trumped that car's Cortina-based 1600 four with a 289 Hi-Po V8. Painfully beautiful, thanks to its Giorgetto Giugiaro styling, the Mangusta was also painful to drive due to its awkward ergonomics, spine-compressing roofline, and bellhousing-shattering ground clearance. The de Tomaso Mangusta was a demanding mistress.

The Qvale Mangusta demands but a grain of salt in consideration of its RTM body work. The modern Mangusta was designed by Marcello Gandini, whose work is rarely described as beautiful. Brutal maybe, polarizing and unique for sure. Gandini's work is certainly iconic, and here you can recognize his mark in the Joker smile of the Mangusta's canted rear wheel arch.

For $29,000, this Mangusta may not be the snake-killer you’re looking forS

The car's roof is also unique, and is inspired by the TVR Griffith, a car Alejandro de Tomaso viewed and immediately began scheming to copy. The Mangusta's three-position roof provides either a full enclosed coupe, a targa top, or full convertible thanks to its removable center section and electrically movable back glass and pillars. This results in an awkward look when fully closed, but it gets better when open. That feature was ditched when, after Qvale couldn't make a go of it with this car, he sold the rights and the tooling to the owners of MG (of which Bruce Qvale was one), and the Mangusta was reborn for a nanosecond as the MG XPower SV.

This particular 2001 Qvale Mangusta, one of about 280 cars sold, comes in midnight blue and rocks a diminutive 8,000 miles on its Mustang odo. Jump into its cow-covered interior and you'll find a hell of a lot more than just that originating in Ford's pony car. The gauge cluster, climate control panel, air vents, and switch gear are easily identifiable as S95, and in fact Ford supplier, Visteon provided the entire dashboard, pre-built to the Modena factory where the Mangusta was assembled. That means that the quality of the materials may not be up to the car's original eighty grand price tag, but at least parts won't be a problem. The current owner has attempted to spice up the interior of this car by lining up rows of pennies in its console. The effect is debatable.

For $29,000, this Mangusta may not be the snake-killer you’re looking forS

Under the frog-faced hood lurks another refugee from the corral, the SVT Cobra 4.6-litre V8. That 4-cam engine was good for 320-bhp, and could move the 3,196-lb Italian to 60 in 5 seconds. The transmission here is the standard 5-speed stick. Other mechanical elements represent the car's bona fides with double wishbone suspension all around, Brembo discs at each corner, and a near 50/50 weight distribution providing excellent handling.

The seller of this Mangusta gives basically no description beyond an all-caps proclamation that it has been WELL MAINTAINED. The pictures do tell some of the story - it rolls on the factory Antera wheels and everything looks about as clean and un-marred as you could want, and there's those low, low miles. The question is, for $29,000, is this a car that anyone would want?

For $29,000, this Mangusta may not be the snake-killer you’re looking forS

The Qvale Mangusta represents an odd but notable blip in automotive history, and the car itself should be fairly easy to maintain considering its under the dress Mustang-ness. There will be issues should the bodywork need repair as it is RTM plastic rather than steel, and as you can imagine, they ain't making those any more. Its Gandini styling, just like his Lamborghini Countach is neither love it or leave it, but kind of accept it for what it is, and that's part of the question of this Mangusta's price - is it too fugly to command $29,000?

What do you think, is this Qvale Mangusta $29,000 interesting? Or, does its Mustang-ness outweigh its uniqueness?

You decide!

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