Cars You Should Know- The De Tomaso Vallelunga

There are certain cars-  Corvettes, Porsche 911s, the Countach, that strike a familiar chord in even someone with only a passing interest in cars. But there are many, many great cars out there that, even if you’ve heard of them, you might never get the chance to actually see. Hooniverse wants to make sure you not only know about these great cars, but get to see them too. And today we’re starting with a beautiful Italian- well, she’s mostly Italian.
The answer to this morning’s mystery car quiz is. . . . dun, dun, dun: A 1965 De Tomaso Vallelunga!  This jaw-droppingly gorgeous mid-enginer is the first road car that Alejandro De Tomaso ever commissioned. Named after the Autodromo di Vallelunga near Rome, and sporting a body designed by Carozzeria Fissore, the car is much smaller in person than the pictures let on.
De Tomaso learned a lot from Colin Chapman, and the layout of the Vallelunga’s chassis is much like that of the contemporary Lotus Elan- with a pressed steel backbone frame supporting the body and acting as suspension mounting points. That suspension is based on De Tomaso’s  F3 racer, with some Triumph Herald thrown in for good measure. The gearbox is a close-ratio Hewland 5-speed actuated through a short-throw shifter just inches from the wheel, and requiring some effort as the linkage is long, and the pattern is a little odd, with reverse and first out of the H. The interior is cozy, and the tiny seats lean way back, barcalounger-style, to allow for the extremely low roofline. And while there’s plenty of glass, the seating position means that you’ll have to determine where the nose is by feel. That means that driving in traffic would be a butt-puckering experience as these cars are valued in the hundreds of thousands these days. The car is raw and unforgiving, but being so small, it’s a bit like an aggressive chihuahua. A full driving impression may be found here.
Also taking its cue from Lotus is the motivating force – a lusty Ford 1600 Kent engine with de rigueur Weber 40DCOE carbs and finned alloy valve cover. It nestles within the rear Y of the backbone – immediately behind the driver’s right shoulder – providing a cacophony and sending enough vibration through the car to mix paint. The Ford four was good for a peaky 105-bhp, but as the car only weighs 1,600-lbs, it still moves out smartly.
Production did not move smartly however, and the Vallelunga line died after only 54 cars had been built. It was replaced by the larger, and more meaty Mangusta, which preceded the Pantera. We’ll talk about those cars here too in the near future. But for right now, you can enjoy some shots and having a little more knowledge about this bello italiano.

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13 responses to “Cars You Should Know- The De Tomaso Vallelunga”

  1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    That is one sexy car.

  2. engineerd Avatar

    In my readings on this car this afternoon, I found that the production number is disputed. Official Ghia records show 50 produced. DeTomaso built 1 alloy-bodied spyder and 2 alloy-bodied coupes before handing off the coachwork responsibilities to Ghia. That bring the number to 53. However, DeTomaso’s oldest son swears there were 58 built. Considering the recordkeeping quality, or lack thereof, at these small boutique firms the number could lie anywhere in between.

  3. SirNotAppearing Avatar

    Your mom goes to hooniversity.
    Also, I think the toggle switches make the car. They are mandatory for my next vehicle.

    1. tiberiuswise Avatar

      Everything about the dash / center console is awesome. If only the toggles had flip up covers.

  4. Prawo Jazdy and The Velocity Trumpets Avatar
    Prawo Jazdy and The Velocity Trumpets

    Damn. I was close with that motor. The Kent was in the Cortina though, not the Sierra (its replacement)

  5. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    Excellent taste and discrimination in the show and tell department.
    With all that glass it had to be a sweatbox in an Italian summer!

  6. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

    Wasn´t the early Kent a 1.500 cc ?

    1. Robert Emslie Avatar
      Robert Emslie

      Actually, the first generation were under one litre. There were 1300, 1500 versions and here the 1592 cc engine. Same block sits under the Lotus Twincam head in the Elan, et al.

  7. Tollberg Avatar

    Damn. And I thought I was special when I was able to correctly identify a Pantera from afar at a local cruise night. I’ve never even heard of this magnificent creature. I look forward to being shown how little I know about cars on this site.

    1. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

      Wow we got nibbles overhere too? From the official De Tomaso site

  8. Armand4 Avatar

    Looks like a cheap ripoff of the Matra-Bonnet Djet, if you ask this Francophilic gearhead…
    Seriously, I’ve always had a thing for De Tomasos– or at least, for the Vallelunga, Mangusta and Pantera (let’s just forget about the Longchamps and Deauville). In some cases, I even like them more than “real” Italian exotics– they offer the same level of style and handling, but the Ford powerplants appeal to the tinkerer in me. You can’t do a whole heck of a lot to soup up a Ferrari, but with the Vallelunga’s Kent 1600 (or, better yet, the Pantera’s 351 Cleveland) you can hot-rod to your heart’s content.

  9. skitter Avatar

    Hooniversity Cliffnote: Having first rather than fifth gear offset makes this a ‘dog-leg gearbox’, something you may have been hearing about all those years. It will be common to many five-speed, performance oriented cars, with the intent of easier shifting in gears two through five. They are more difficult to drive only in the sense that the 1-2 shift has the more complex motion of the 2-3 shift in an ordinary shift pattern.