The Mangusta replaced the Vallelunga model, on which its chassis was based.
The word "Mangusta" is Italian for "Mongoose", an animal that eats cobras. It was rumoured that the car was so named because De Tomaso had been promised engines from Ford that went to the Shelby Cobra instead. The Mangusta was replaced by the much cheaper to build De Tomaso Pantera in 1971.
There are reported to be fewer than 200 left in existence of approximately 400 built.
Originally fitted with Ford 289 V8 engine, in the North American market the Mangusta was introduced with a mid-mounted 306 horsepower (228 kW) Ford 302 V8 engine driving through a 5 speed ZF transaxle. Giorgetto Giugiaro designed the car, which is easily recognised by its gull wing doors over the engine and luggage compartment. Disc brakes were fitted at all four corners. Top speed was claimed to be 250 km/h (155 mph).
The Mangusta was relatively inexpensive for the time but, with a 32/68 weight distribution and a less than solid chassis, suffered from stability problems and poor handling. The car was also cramped and had extremely low ground clearance.