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Side view of the P72 hypercar with engine door open

‘Meet Isabelle’ – The Cryptic Message from De Tomaso Automobili

A few days ago, I received an email from the media team at De Tomaso Automobili. I am very skeptical about unsolicited mails but this time, my curiosity got the better of me and I tapped on the notification. The mail was mostly blank save for a video clip and a title that read, ‘Meet Isabelle – a love story, coming soon’.

A Short Teaser

They had me at this point and I opened the video. The short 46-second clip began with the silhouette of a low-slung race car that bears a strong resemblance to the De Tomaso P72, the brand’s upcoming hypercar. I could barely make out the words, ‘Isabelle’ on the rear panel before the image flickered and disappeared.

The words, ‘iconic American sounds’ then appeared on the screen, preceding the sound of the aforementioned race car firing up its engine. The clip ended with a message to watch out for a film release slated for September 15, 2021.

Side view of the De Tomaso P72

I wondered if this was an announcement for a new hypercar? That is possible though unlikely, given that the De Tomaso P72 hypercar is yet to enter full production. Maybe a full reveal of the final production-spec De Tomaso P72 then?

It could also be that I was just overthinking things and De Tomaso Automobili had somehow ventured into film making and were going to release a movie titled, ‘Meet Isabelle’ on September 15, 2021, exactly as stated in the video.

Concept art of the De Tomaso P72 rear end

History of De Tomaso

In any case, that email did get me thinking about De Tomaso as an automobile brand in general and once I did some digging around, I discovered the carmaker’s journey has been a rather intriguing one indeed. The company was founded by the now-deceased Argentine-born Alejandro de Tomaso in Modena in 1959.

It started off producing prototypes and racing cars, including the race car used by the Frank Williams racing team in the 1970 Formula One Championships. Most of the initial funding came from de Tomaso’s brother-in-law. That changed in 1971, when Ford acquired an 84% stake in the company. However, the partnership quickly soured and Ford backed out 3 years later, returning its shares to the company.

Side view of De Tomaso Vallelunga

De Tomaso’s first road-going production car was the 1963 Vallelunga. The car, built around a lightweight chassis, was one of the first mid-engine cars in the world at the time. However, it was his next creation, the 1967 De Tomaso Mangusta, which really brought international recognition to the brand. Mangusta translates to mongoose in English and rumor has it that it was a very deliberate choice for the car, to show that it was superior to Carroll Shelby’s Cobra sports car.

You see, Alejandro De Tomaso and Carroll Shelby had a tumultuous relationship that culminated in the infamous 1965 Can Am conflict but that is a story for another time. The Mangusta was the brand’s first volume model and about 4oo units were built during a 4-year production run.

The cult classic, De Tomaso Pantera was next and would end up becoming the brand’s most popular car till date, remaining in production for over 2 decades, spanning 1971 to 1992. It was during this period that the carmaker also acquired the Maserati brand, overseeing the production of cars like the Maserati BiTurbo, Quattroporte III and colossal flop, the Maserati Chrysler TC.

The Struggles of De Tomaso Automobili

Unfortunately, De Tomaso Automobili was not without problems and a combination of poor management decisions, sub-quality products and financial hardships eventually brought the company to its knees in 2004 when it entered liquidation. In 2009, Italian business mogul, Gian Mario Rossignolo, acquired the De Tomaso trademark and founded a new company named De Tomaso Automobili SpA. Whatever plans he had for the company soon went up in a puff of dirty brown smoke when in July 2012, he was arrested for misuse of government funds.

The fate of the De Tomaso trademark and production facilities remained in corporate limbo until 2014 when an Italian court approved its sale to Hong-Kong based Ideal Team Ventures for a price of about $1.2 million. Under the new (and current ownership), the brand soon set about reinventing itself and at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed, De Tomaso unveiled its first modern creation – the De Tomaso P72, in commemoration of the company’s 60th anniversary.

Shelby De Tomaso P70

Future of the De Tomaso P72

The De Tomaso P72 pays homage to the original Shelby De Tomaso P70 race car and incorporates some styling cues from the ‘60s era vehicle. According to Norman Choi, the company CEO, the plan is to create a car that ‘evokes the spirit of Alejandro de Tomaso, the brand and the eras that the car represents.’

As the name suggests, only 72 units of the limited-series hypercar will be made. The car is expected to go into production late in 2022 and the company has promised that the final production-spec would largely retain the same profile as the prototypes that’s been shown at various exclusive car events all over the world. For now, the De Tomaso P72 has a base price of $1 million and the company is currently accepting ‘registrations of interest’ via its website.

Now, back to the video in my email. Given that the production date of the P72 is still some ways out, you understand why my earlier speculation about an upcoming new car reveal may not be as far-fetched. Here though, is one final twist to the puzzle. Alejandro de Tomaso was married to an American who shared his fiery passion for racing and automobiles in general. Her name? Isabelle De Tomaso. Make of that what you will.

Update – It’s the 15th!

Okay, so it’s D-Day. We finally know what De Tomaso Automobili had up its sleeves with the ‘Meet Isabelle’ campaign and yes, I was spot on with one of my speculations! While De Tomaso may not have ventured into film production, ‘Meet Isabella’ is indeed a short film celebrating, as the carmaker puts it, the ‘romance’ between Alejandro De Tomaso and his wife, Isabelle. In 180 seconds, the movie, which features the P72 homologation prototipo, traces how a shared passion for cars and racing connected Isabelle to her husband and ultimately led to the birth of De Tomaso Automobili.

If you watch the video – and I think you should – then, you will notice the second part to the ‘Meet Isabelle’ story. Isabelle was played by Carmen Jorda, a pro racer and fashion icon. Ryan Berris, CEO/CMO of De Tomaso Automobili, said, ‘When deciding to pay homage to Isabelle and communicate her untold story, there was unquestionably no other person who embodied the core traits, spirit and talents of Isabelle than Carmen.’

The partnership between De Tomaso Automobili and Carmen Jorda does not stop there. A press release from the carmaker has announced her appointment as a factory development and Scuderia De Tomaso racing driver. Carmen is a lifelong car enthusiast and, among her other accomplishments, is one of the few women to have held an official driver role with a Formula One team. There is no doubt that her appointment will help boost the image of De tomaso Automobili as the carmaker continues to reposition itself within the automobile industry.