My Car Quest

October 24, 2021

What is More Rare Than An Iso Grifo And A DeTomaso Mangusta?

by Mike – 

There were 413 Iso Grifos and 400 DeTomaso Mangustas made, although there may be only 150 or so Mangustas left. So, they both are very rare classic cars.

But how about a person that owned both a Grifo and a Mangusta – at the same time! Now, that is rare indeed. This person is Darren Frank, who also happens to be a second generation Grifo owner, another rarity.

The Mangusta, on the right, is quite a bit lower than the Grifo.

Iso Grifo and De Tomaso Mangusta

Darren’s father bought a Grifo new directly from the Iso factory in the 1960s. Darren spent his childhood riding around in this car. He later bought his own Grifo that I have written about here. I wrote about Mangustas here.

Iso Grifo and De Tomaso Mangusta

Iso Grifo and De Tomaso Mangusta

I asked Darren to write about his experience with these great Italian cars, both styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro and powered by American engines; Chevrolet for the Grifo and Ford for the Mangusta.

by Darren Frank

Back in 1990, a neighbor of mine in Manhattan and I were discussing our favorite automotive designs. I mentioned the DeTomaso Mangusta, and he just happened to have a friend who had owned a 1970 US version since new. Long story short, I ended up purchasing the car, and owned it concurrently with my 1969 Iso Grifo. Driving the Mangusta was a very different experience from that of the Grifo: it was 3 inches lower; the driving position in the Grifo was upright whereas that of the Mangusta was reclining; and the two had very different driving characteristics. The Grifo, by comparison, was so much more “civilized,” and the Mangusta almost an untamed beast.

Iso Grifo and De Tomaso Mangusta

While I loved the looks of the Mangusta and its exotic qualities, it was a much harder car to live with on a day-to-day basis. The windows only went down about halfway, due to the curvature of the doors. The windshield was at such an extreme rake that the top of it came close to touching my forehead when driving, which is fairly disturbing. In order to put gas in the car, one had to lift a rear fender, and if the surface of the ground was uneven, there were times when this became impossible due to the torque stresses on the body! I never really got used to the ZF’s shift pattern, and the car seemed like it wanted to get airborne at speeds above 70 MPH.

Iso Grifo

All that said, I enjoyed owning my Mangusta and was sorry to see it go after several months, but the market was peaking and I seized my opportunity to made a quick, but hefty profit on it. The Grifo, on the other hand, remains in my garage after 22 years of very satisfied ownership.

All photos by Darren Frank.

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