Though originally designated as the de Tomaso Biguà, the chassis design under today’s Nice Price or No Dice Mangusta went on to also underpin the MG XPower SV. Let’s see if this middle child is worth its very grown-up price.
The biggest problem faced by yesterday’s 1989 Chevy Cavalier Z24 was the competition. When taken at its $10,500 asking, there were just too many other — probably better — options out there. Low miles and like-new condition couldn’t sway that allure of otherness and that saw the Cavalier collapse in an 83 percent No Dice loss.
In automotive circles, anyone familiar with the name Qvale will also be acquainted with today’s 2001 Qvale Mangusta, although perhaps not with the model’s unique history. The name Qvale comes from Kjell Qvale, the Norwegian-American auto importer who was connected with many great sports car lines and was instrumental in the founding of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Qvale became friends with the Argentinian automaker, Alejandro de Tomaso in the mid-’60s when the former entered into an agreement to import the latter’s Mangusta supercar into the U.S. Decades later, the two shook hands over another Mangusta, a model that de Tomaso was developing under the Biguà name as an Italianate version of the British TVR Griffith. That British inspiration would come full circle near the end of this story, as we shall see.
The Qvale family, led by Kjell’s son Bruce, pumped millions into the Mangusta’s development along with the building of its production facility near Modena. Unfortunately, a falling out between the family and de Tomaso over finances led to the two partners going their separate ways, with the Qvales keeping the car in the divorce. The new Mangusta eventually entered production in 1999 but without the de Tomaso brand.
To keep costs down, much of the production car’s bits and pieces were off the shelf. Those included the 320 horsepower SVT Mustang Cobra V8 under the hood, along with that car’s Tremec T-45 five-speed transmission and a good bit of its interior componentry too.
Everything else is pretty much unique to the car, including the steel-section chassis, full double wishbone suspension, and, of course, its Marcello Gandini-penned design. That wild — and wildly unconventional — styling, plus limited marketing pretty much condemned the Mangusta to short-term success, if even that. Only 284 would be matched with owners over the car’s short four-year production run before the money ran out and the Qvales packed up their bags and shuttered the factory.
That’s not the end of the story, however. Remember how it was the British TVR that originally inspired the Qvale’s design, including its Swiss Army Knife-like “Roto-top” roof? Well, at the close of Mangusta production, Bruce Qvale contacted the Phoenix Consortium, the company that had bought the MG Rover Group from BMW in 2000. Qvale arranged the sale of his company’s assets to Phoenix and that company developed the Mangusta into the equally wild and financially untenable MG XPower SV.
This 2001 Qvale Mangusta is said to be number 185 out of the 284 cars produced while under Qvale’s control. The seller claims a seven-month-long restoration to bring the car to its current presentation. That included some fiberglass work and a full respray in what appears to be the factory black. The Roto-Top is functional and the badges have been refreshed. Aside from the smoked lenses for the headlights, the work all appears to be well thought out.
If the interior looks familiar, that’s because there’s a lot of Mustang in here, including the instrument cluster and much of the componentry in the center stack. That’s all been gussied up appropriately with Italian leather and silver accents. The black airbag in the steering wheel hub is jarringly discordant, but it otherwise looks luxurious and tasteful.
Underneath, the car enjoys some new bits, including ball joints on the A-arms and both a new steering rack and ABS module. This is mostly all Ford componentry, so maintenance and repairs shouldn’t be too problematic.
What will be is that Gandini styling. It’s frog-like and truly love it or lump it. The car does carry Gandini’s trademark forward-canted rear wheel arch, which it shares with the likes of his Countach and Lancia Stratos Zero show car. On some less polarizing notes, the car carries a clean title and 130,000 miles on the clock.
The seller calls this Mangusta a $28,000 car and is emphatic in the ad that the PRICE IS FIRM. Considering that’s what we have to work with, what’s your take on this well-presented and extremely rare sports car and that $28,000 asking? Does that seem a fair price for its provenance? Or, does that price make this Qvale questionable?
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