“She was tall, thin and tarty and she drove a Maserati, faster than sound, I was heaven bound…..”. Rod Stewart’s non-PC song from 1972 is a reminder of that land that we can never revisit, The Past.
Except sometimes the rules get a little bent, distorted almost. I had not been to the Goodwood Festival of Speed for a few years, a matter of regret but other things would get in the way. Nearly did not make it this year when the brakes failed on the car……………as good a definition of living in interesting times as you can get. A good egg, Andrew Cotton, took pity on me and picked me up at cock-crow on the Saturday and we headed for the South Downs.
Once on site I made my way to the Concours in front of the Stables, Cartier’s Style et Luxe. This has always been one of the highlights of the past Festivals of Speed and 2019 did not disappoint. The usual suspects had been rounded up and it was a collection of automotive grace and beauty. Then my attention was drawn to one side where there was a stand with that rarest of beasts these days, a modern car with style and elegance, it turned out to be the De Tomaso P72.
OK the beauty was not from Modena, except perhaps in spirit, but it would surely have inspired Rod the Mod to sing. This interest and appreciation was shared by a wide number of car guys and gals thronging the grounds of Goodwood House. In particular one observer caught my eye , sporting a trade mark Marlboro stetson. Who else, but the great Arturo Merzario? He gave the curvaceous Italian the once over, nodded approval and toddled off possibly muttering “Bella Signorina”. His verdict was shared by all I spoke to there………
A young American asked me who was this cat in the hat that everyone was staring at? I answered that Art was a legend on track, a Ferrari Grand Prix driver and double winner of the Targa Florio and had played a prominent role in the rescue of Niki Lauda from the flames at Nürburgring in 1976. This explanation appeared to mean little to him, though he was trying his best to be polite to an old guy just rambling on. He soon returned to admiring and filming the P72 with his phone and doing all manner of social media things…………some days you feel your age.
The voluptuous coupé had me fascinated, it had the siren-song of a V12 when fired up for its trip off the pedestal and up the Hill. I needed to know more.
One motive in heading to Goodwood in general and to De Tomaso in particular was the chance to meet up with old friends, Gayle and Pete Brock. Was it really 20 years ago that Doctor Don created the American Le Mans Series? My travels following that circus around the turn of the century led me to getting to know the legend that is Pete. More time available for conviviality during the treks across North America than on his annual pilgrimages to La Sarthe or Monza.
Gayle and Pete were in Goodwood courtesy De Tomaso Automobili, apparently he had provided inspiration for the relaunch of the brand and the P72. But how or why?
A consortium had acquired the De Tomaso name back in 2014 and had taken a deep breath considering what to do next. They then acquired the assets of Gumpert Apollo and developed the Apollo IE, a hypercar that almost defies description. The carbon fibre chassis set the group thinking, perhaps something could created and the 60th anniversary of De Tomaso’s founding in 2019 gave the team a target. But what inspiration should this resurrection take?
Going back into the history of De Tomaso there was a collaboration in late 1964 between Alejandro de Tomaso and Carroll Shelby to produce a prototype known as the P70. Big powerful racers such as this proposed project were very much coming into their own in the mid-’60s, this would lead to the fabulous Can-Am era still regarded by many as one of the high points of motorsport history.
Peter Brock had enjoyed great success as a designer and stylist, in particular with the legendary Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupé that had comprehensively defeated Ferrari in the GT arena. He was called upon to design that new car that would be built in Modena, this would be known as the P70.
De Tomaso would build the car, actually the job would be farmed out to Carrozzeria Fantuzzi, one of the many excellent motor shops in the Modena region. It was to be powered by a 7-litre V8, Ford-derived.
The resulting design was a combination of elegance and function, it had to perform on the track but it should also a thing of beauty, it was the spirit of the times.
Despite the best efforts of the designer the project eventually foundered on the clashing personalities of Shelby and de Tomaso, that and Shelby being offered the opportunity to take on the GT40 campaign for Ford, winning the lottery in motor racing terms.
The story of the P70 is fascinating, Peter and Gayle have produced a fine book on the topic. Rather than me rehash the tale here do yourself a favour and purchase a copy, you can get it autographed if bought from this website
Back to the future and the P72. The new group had a chassis courtesy of the Apollo. For the prototype they would use their V12, a development of a Ferrari engine and entirely in keeping with the retro ethos of the project. For the proposed 72 production cars the powertrain has yet to be announced, I would not be surprised if it bears more than a passing resemblance to sonorous unit in the prototype on show at Goodwood.
The styling has been compared to a Ferrari P3 or P4 and certainly there are elements in common, but one could say that about the Glickenhaus SCG 003 or Ferrari’s own P80C. Bill Warner, the guiding light behind the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, was quoted recently about the work of the great Sergio Scaglietti. “They’re the kind of voluptuous shapes boys are trying to draw when they sketch racing cars during study hall . . . instead of doing their homework.” From my perspective that sentiment could be applied equally to the P72.
The interior finish and styling was on a different level to virtually anything outside the Rolls-Royce/Bentley/Pagani/Bugatti level, it reflects the values of Style et Luxe. The budget has been spent in those areas rather than on electronics, old school one might say.
Value is an interesting thought, the proposed price is €750,000, a comparative bargain when compared with most other cars in this class. 72 people are going to be very happy when they take delivery, the likes of me can just dream…………….
John Brooks, August 2019
Photography courtesy of Gary Harman and De Tomaso Automobili