by Doug Bradley
Just prior to the Monterey Classic Car Week festivities, I got a call from CAPTURE’s publisher and executive editor about a rare supercar that would get its first USA appearance at Quail and on the Pebble Beach Concept Lawn. A CAPTURE reader thought this De Tomaso- branded P72 was interesting enough to cover and I quickly agreed. I had met the late Alejandro de Tomaso years ago and was familiar with his mercurial career, so this story had just the right potential of high fashion and intrigue.
Two Characters Nearly Collaborate
Fifty-five-years-ago, race car driver and entrepreneur Carroll Shelby was on a roll, producing Shelby Cobra sports cars and highly modified Ford Mustangs as well as developing world-class racecars. Shelby connected with Alejandro de Tomaso, who shared Carroll’s racing and car building background, and a project was launched to design and produce a car for the new CanAm racing series.
Shelby sent Peter Brock, the gifted designer who created the original Corvette Stingray with Bill Mitchell and Larry Shinoda while at GM and Shelby’s Daytona Coupe to Modena for what was named the P70 project. Brock was smitten by the artisan car building culture of Italy where fabricators loved forming complex designs by shaping metal bodies over wire frames and where sketches soon became rolling art.
Meantime, Carroll Shelby ran his fledging automotive enterprise as aggressively as his right foot drove his former racing career and when de Tomaso demurred about keeping the P 70 on schedule, Shelby pulled the plug on the project and called Brock back to California to work on profitable ventures. The details of this period are beautifully chronicled by Brock in his book The Road to Modena and it’s a great read for car enthusiasts.
A Taste for the Exotic
Alejandro de Tomaso died in 2005 and although his enterprises had included race and sports cars and even the stewardship of Maserati, his automotive undertakings had thoroughly wound down. In 2014, the De Tomaso brand assets were put up for bid and the winner was Ideal Team Ventures, whose principal and car enthusiast Norman Chan just wasn’t satisfied with current supercar offerings.
In 2016, Chan acquired former Audi racecar designer Roland Gumpert’s company in Denkendorf, Germany, providing his enterprise carbon fiber construction technology and the Apollo, a wild supercar that’s barely tamed for street use. The firm has sold ten, limited copies of its IE (Intense Emotion) model for US $2.7-million each.
Meantime, work had quietly begun on a De Tomaso supercar that would be thoroughly modern while paying homage to the original P70. Chen wanted the new car to be completely engaging for the enthusiast driver, with only a standard transmission offered and precision analog instruments in jewel like bezels. The analogy is fine handmade timepieces that shun quartz movements and batteries. You wouldn’t try to connect your iOS or Android device to a screen in a P72 any more than you would pack your boarding pass on your Patek Philippe wristwatch.
While we know what the new De Tomaso P72 is not- it isn’t trying match track or speed records with hypercars, there’s little information about what’s beneath the curvaceous carbon fiber. De Tomaso’s chief marketing officer Ryan Berris tells me that while the engine and transaxle will be sourced from a major automaker, details will only be shared when the contract ink is dry.
Berris couldn’t even share where the P72 might be assembled, although it won’t be in Italy, since work rules make that country a challenging place to do business. Chan is from Hong Kong and Ideal Team Ventures is headquartered in London while Germany is Apollo’s home, so there are lots of choices for a small output facility, depending on where the geopolitics winds blow.
Just 72 Examples
Berris asserts that more than 400 well-healed hand-raisers are interested in parking a P72 in their garages at the fairly reasonable price of US $850,000. Only 72 will be created and allocation will go to the ten Apollo owners, then those who are most likely to drive the cars, not store them in a nitrogen bubble. We’ll see how that works.
De Tomaso will employ a dealership distribution model, appointing Miller Motorcars in Connecticut as the North American distributor. Miller retails Bugatti, McLaren and Pagani among its ultra-luxury brands, so a new entry in this space should fit right in.
What happens after the P72? Berris hints of a higher volume sportscar that might borrow from De Tomaso’s Pantera era with Ford. In the early 1970’s, Lincoln Mercury dealers sold 5,500 of what was a pretty exotic, mid-engine sportscar for an MSRP of $9,000. Although that was nearly twice the price of Chevy’s Corvette, the Italian supercar was more exotic. Today, with Corvette’s new eighth generation, mid-engine exotic offered at a surprising low entrance price, opportunities may have changed dramatically for a new entrant. But it’s fun to see the De Tomaso brand find a potential new life for enthusiasts.