Page 1 of 2 Next >> The cover article of the March 1966 issue of Road & Track featured what they referred to as the 'Ghia DeTomaso', a brand new racing car that was unveiled in the fall of 1965 at the Turin show. The author of the article revealed an ambitious racing program in Europe as well as in the newly created Can-Am Challenge. At least ten cars were to be produced with the prospect of another forty to homologate it for the GT-class. Despite all the good intentions this was the last the world saw of the V8 engined DeTomaso racer and the prototype was retired to a corner of the factory. With massive involvement from Carroll Shelby and his designer Peter Brock early on in the project, the optimistic tone of Road & Track journalist Ron Wakefield was understandable.
Exactly how, why and when the deal between former racing driver turned manufacturer Alejandro de Tomaso and Carroll Shelby came about are just some of the mysteries surrounding this machine, but it must have been early in 1964. DeTomaso had just launched the Vallelunga road car with its unusual backbone chassis, which used a diminutive four cylinder Ford engine as a stressed member. One of the biggest complaints about the svelte two-seater was the lack of power. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to get more power was to fit a compact and powerful American V8 engine. This is probably where Shelby entered the story as he supplied a competition version of the small-block Ford V8. We can only guess, whether Shelby believed the V8 engined DeTomaso could be a possible replacement for the aging Cooper based King Cobras, but he certainly took the project seriously.
To accept the more powerful engine, De Tomaso made only minor modifications to the design of the backbone chassis. Unlike the more familiar backbone chassis used by Lotus, the Italian variant did not have an Y-fork to support the engine and suspension. Well ahead of his time, De Tomaso used the engine as a fully stressed member. It left observers in period wondering what would happen to the engine and its internals once force was applied to it. Their worries were justified, but ironically it was the central spine chassis itself that did not prove to be rigid enough. The suspension followed a more familiar pattern with the exception of the rear mounting points; brackets on the clutch housing instead of somewhere on the chassis. The rolling chassis was exceptionally light due to its minimalistic design, which would later (in better executed form) would become the norm particularly for single seater racers. Page 1 of 2 Next >>