De Tomaso Longchamp: You Know You Want To

The very name ‘De Tomaso’ sends a shiver of excitement down the spine; collection of Italianate syllables that’s as evocative as any of the best-known supercar makers. But while its big, sleek coupes – Mangusta and Pantera most notably – met with plenty of recognition in the company’s heyday, its luxury cars have, even to this day, remained relatively obscure.

One of the best rear ends of the 70s?
One of the best rear ends of the 70s?
How’s about the Deauville, for example? Remembered only by a few hardcore Italian car fans, this four-door saloon in the vein of the Maserati Quattroporte, with which it shared its chassis, was an obvious influence on Jaguar’s designers when they came to style the XJ40 XJ6. Unlike the XJ6, though, only 244 Deauvilles were made, making it one of the most exclusive and little-known of all the 70s executive saloons.

The Deauville did, however, spawn a two-door version: the Longchamp. It used the same 330hp 5.8-litre Ford V8 as the Deauville and the Pantera, but housed it within a  two-door, three-box bodyshell. Inside, evidence of the blend between Italian and American became clear; while the sharply-styled interior was swathed in an Italianate mix of fine leather, wood and velour, it also featured a steering wheel directly lifted from a Ford Limited, and an enormous transmission tunnel atop which sat the tall shifter of the three-speed - count 'em - Ford Cruise-O-Matic gearbox. Meanwhile, the exterior was long, low and wide; again, styled with Italian flair (although admittedly looking a tad wonky from some angles), but American proportions.

Wide interior was lavishly-trimmed
Wide interior was lavishly-trimmed
This particular Longchamp is relatively well-known, being as it is the very car that our sister title Classic & Sports Car featured together with an Aston Martin V8 back in 2010. It featured in our Pic Of The Week, too, as a result, and it also features on the model’s Wikipedia page. Positively famous, then. Relatively few details about the car are given by the vendor, but a comprehensive history is noted, as is a selection of the relatively high specification that includes electric seats, air conditioning and dual fuel tanks. This one’s a late Series 2 car, and it’s a GTSE to boot, which means it got wider Campagnolo wheels, flared wheel arches, a rear spoiler, and de-rigeur quad headlights in lieu of the Mk1 Granada items that featured on the standard car. And while a tenner under £30,000 might seem like rather a lot for a car which hasn’t the cachet of a Pantera or the brand recognition of a Maserati, and which with that gearbox is probably a bit of a lummox to drive, you’d struggle to stop us from heading down there, cheque book in hand, if we won the lottery tomorrow.

Why you should: It's an unutterably cool 70s Italian supercar nobody will have heard of
Why you shouldn't: It isn't cheap, it looks a bit odd, and the gearbox is old & slow

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Comments (98) Join the discussion on the forum

  • digger the goat 09 Apr 2013

    I think De Tomaso did the X1/9, just to ps off Bertone, and Fiat.


  • Coatesy351 09 Apr 2013

    Thought the shifter looked familiar

  • Finlandese 31 Mar 2013

    Twincam16 said:
    Just out of interest, when did he say that? Because I've asked him about it and he dismissed any notion of it being influenced by Jaguar. They were developed around about the same time, but you can see the way the XJ6 evolved out of the 420 shape, whereas there's a definite squareness to the Deauville that was way ahead of its time. The press did call it an 'overpriced mock-Jaguar', but in reality the styling had been finalised before the Jaguar had come out. Unfortunately they spent two years fine-tuning the ride, handling and NVH and it ended up looking like they'd just copied it. All rather unfortunate really.

    The De Tomaso blaming Tjaarda thing (which may have happened in connection with this) sounds like something he told me regarding a sports car concept released in 1971. De Tomaso managed to get his hands on the design sketches for the Fiat X1/9 before Fiat had a chance to put a prototype into production for the motor shows, and really did ask Tjaarda to copy it to make it look like Fiat had nicked his idea. They appeared at the same Turin show and the press gave De Tomaso a bking - criticism he passed in the direction of Tjaarda, claiming he knew nothing about the Fiat plans. Tjaarda stressed that this was the first and last time he was ever asked to copy anything.
    I spoke with Tom in Lahti Classic Motorshow in 2011, when he was checking out my Longchamp proto-recreation. We spoke about the Deauville in passing, while leafing thru my research material for my project(amongst others, a "spy" drawing of a Longchamp - drawn by Tom´s friend, it turned out!).

    Tom spoke more about Deauville´s conception in the Classic and Sports car 3/04. According to Tom the original desire for Jag competitor came fom Lee Iaccoca. The brief itself came from DeTomaso. "As a designer you´re given a brief and you stick to it. Alejandro told me to do a car like Jaguar `but make it different`. It´s difficult to take someone else´s concept and make it your own. They do look different, but I never made any secret of the inspiration behind the Deauville".

    According to Tjaarda, De Tomasos Fiat X1/9 came about as De Tomaso had seen the body buck for the upcoming Fiat, and summoned Tjaarda to the body shop, where Tjaarda was given an order to copy the car. When the excrement eventually hit the fan, De Tomaso fired Tjaarda! Then he called him the next day, and wondered why he wasn´t at work... I think De Tomaso did the X1/9, just to ps off Bertone, and Fiat.

    You maybe right, but I would be very suprised, if De Tomaso spent two years fine tuning anything.. In my opinion, He was a man of ideas, not so much of fine tuning.

  • Martin 480 Turbo 11 Mar 2013

    B A R G A I N

  • Transmitter Man 11 Mar 2013

    Congratulations Steve,

    I hope you decide to stretch it's legs once the warmer weather comes around.

    1979 Longchamp GTS 3061

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