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    The #Alejandro-de-Tomaso / Classic Life VISIONARIES / #De-Tomaso / #De-Tomaso #De-Tomaso-Pantera

    He built racing cars, Ford-powered exotics, and helped save Maserati

    Pure entrepreneurism doesn’t always make itself evident all at once. Sometimes, a person’s got to get firmly into adulthood before he acquires the proper combination of ambition and nerve. Not this guy. Alejandro de Tomaso, who ran Maserati at the time our 1987 Biturbo feature car on page 28 of this issue was being designed and manufactured, was literally born into a family of great accomplishment. His father was Italian, but his mother was a native Argentinian, hailing from the country where he was born in 1928. His father was hugely famous in Argentina, rising to become the nation’s prime minister before he suddenly died of a heart attack.


    The family ran an extensive cattle operation on the Pampas, and following his father’s untimely death at age 38, Alejandro dropped out of school so he could learn to run it. Within five years, he was fully in charge of the numerous de Tomaso ranchos. He was also beginning to dabble in auto racing then, and became involved with a dissident newspaper that called for the overthrow of Argentina’s strongman, Juan Peron. That was a dangerous pastime under Peron’s dictatorship, and de Tomaso was eventually forced to flee to Italy. Undeterred, he became a Maserati mechanic in Modena.

    Maserati was aware of his racing experience in South America, and soon chose him as a factory driver. He racked up wins at an international meet in Buenos Aires, took a class victory at Sebring and managed to capture the Index of Performance at Le Mans. His wife and sometime co-driver had some wealthy American relatives. De Tomaso started his own business building lightweight formula cars, and others too numerous to mention. One of them was his first Formula 1 car. Success was moderate but de Tomaso, now calling himself Alessandro, was getting known in the business. In 1965, the Ford Motor Company, rudely rebuffed in its effort to buy Ferrari, came calling and proposed a partnership. Ford began supplying engines for installation in de Tomaso cars, starting with the sporting Vallelunga, the company’s first production car, which used Ford Cortina power.

    Meanwhile, de Tomaso used his in-laws’ resources to go on a buying binge, acquiring the custom coachbuilders Ghia and Vignale, along with Benelli and Moto Guzzi, the motorcycle manufacturers, and Innocenti. But his best-known products were the Italian-American hybrid exotics that he produced in partnership with Ford, climaxing with the mid-engine Pantera, of which several thousand were sold stateside through Lincoln- Mercury dealerships. But the deal didn’t work out, in part because of new federal safety and smog laws. By 1974, Ford and de Tomaso dissolved their relationship.


    It didn’t mean that de Tomaso was destitute. His car company endured to produce specialty offerings such as the Longchamp, the four-door Deauville luxury sedan and a two-door version of the Deauville. By this time, the Italian government had recruited de Tomaso to rescue Maserati from bankruptcy, and his strategy was to transition it from ultra-exotics to higher-volume cars. The two-door Deauville concept shortly became the basis for the new Maserati Kyalami, with four-cam V8 power and bodywork interpreted by Frua. Ford ultimately bought Ghia from de Tomaso to add an Italian flair to such cars as the Mustang II and Granada. Vignale and Maserati were ultimately sold to Fiat. De Tomaso suffered a stroke in 1993, but managed to contribute engineering upgrades to a performance version of the Daihatsu Charade. He died in 2003.
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    Paul Ricatto
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    The #1990 #Alfa-Romeo-Spider-Veloce / #Alfa-Romeo-Spider / #Alfa-Romeo / Paul Ricatto / Westlake Village, California

    Introduced back in 1966 as the Duetto and brought to fame in the 1967 movie The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman, Alfa Romeo’s Spider is an automotive icon par excellence. It was built for more than a quarter century with only slight upgrades, while providing pure, unadulterated fun, and is the quintessential Italian sports car!

    Even in 1990, its final model year in “Series 3” guise, the Alfa Romeo Spider still exuded the Italian way of la dolce vita so prevalent during the 1960s. This Spider is a Series 3 model, and was manufactured from 1983 to 1990. It sported a controversial black rubber ducktail rear spoiler, better-integrated bumpers and, in 1986, it received more interior revisions. These models enjoy more reliable Bosch fuel injection and available air conditioning.

    The Series 3 cars provide a nice blend of availability, affordability, and usability. My Alfa is a Veloce model that includes leather upholstery, power windows and mirrors, aluminium wheels, and air conditioning. The 2-liter, four-cylinder engine packs 120 hp and propels the red rocket down the highway in fifth gear; on extended trips it can even achieve up to 30 miles per gallon!

    Manufactured during July 1989, this 1990 model was sold new on June 1, 1990, at Jim Marino Imports in Alhambra, California, to a gentleman who purchased the car as a retirement gift for his wife. The couple had fallen in love with Alfa Romeo convertibles during a vacation in Italy, where they had rented one to tour the Italian countryside. After 22 years of pampered ownership, this couple decided the time had come to pass their baby on to a new owner and turned the Alfa over to Californiaclassix, a small classic car dealership located in Ventura, California.

    I purchased the Spider from them in October 2012 with just 37,850 original miles on the odometer. Even though the car had low mileage, I knew that I should have it inspected by a specialist, and was able to locate Santo’s Italian Car Service in Northridge, a shop that has been servicing Alfa Romeos for the past 40-plus years in Southern California. Just to be safe, I had new brakes and rotors installed, along with an oil and filter change. Santo also replaced a motor mount, U-joint, rear bushings, and a speedo cable as part of the service to get the Spider in tip top shape! The tires had only 5,000 miles on them, but were almost 10 years old, so I also purchased a new set of Michelin tires.

    The interior of the car was next on my list. All four speakers were replaced, and the factory “removable” Clarion cassette stereo needed to be sent out for repairs. The last item needing attention was to replace the original carpet. Bernard and Bill, owners of Californiaclassix, offered to have the carpet replaced as a return favour for help I had given them on a previous auto transaction. Other than new carpet, I have been able to keep my Spider in factory original condition. The beautiful Rosso red paint, tan leather interior, and engine are all still in original condition. I even located a license plate frame that came from the dealer that sold the car, and had it rechromed and painted to help add the finishing touch to my Alfa!

    My Spider will be turning 25 years old this year, and I look forward to many more years of top-down, wind-in-the-hair driving experience.
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    Paul Ricatto
    Paul Ricatto joined the group Alfa Romeo Spider / Duetto club
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