Alejandro de Tomaso

Born:
10th July 1928
Buenos Aires
Died:
21st May 2003 (Aged 74)
Modena, Emilia-Romagna (I)
Nationality:
Argentinian
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

The son of an Argentinian politician who had served as Agriculture Minister, the young Alejandro de Tomaso did not complete his education for he had only one ambition. A real racing enthusiast – he settled in Modena, the centre of Italian motor racing, and the de Tomaso name would remain forever linked to the town.

Racing career

He worked as a mechanic at Maserati but his ambitions were as a racing driver and he drove a Maserati in the 1955 and 1956 Buenos Aires 1000Kms when seventh and fourth respectively. His Grand Prix debut followed in the 1957 Argentine GP with an old Scuderia Centro Sud Ferrari 500 that had been fitted with a 2500cc 625 engine. He qualified in 12th position and ran toward the back of the field to finish a distant ninth.

Back in Europe, de Tomaso raced for OSCA that year in his first of three seasons with the Maserati brothers-run concern. He won the 1100cc sports car race that supported the 1957 French GP but rarely finished in that year's championship events.

He made his Le Mans debut in 1958 when sharing the class-winning 750cc OSCA Sport with Colin Davis – also successful in the Index of Performance. He was in Cuba for the Havana races and was with Juan Manuel Fangio when his friend was kidnapped by revolutionaries.

The 1959 season was de Tomaso’s last as a driver. Sixth in the non-championship Spa GP sports car race, he started a world championship F1 race for the second and final time. That was the United States GP at Sebring where de Tomaso qualified a Cooper T43-OSCA in 14th position but his brakes failed after 13 laps.

De Tomaso Automobili

By now he had married for a second time, to Coca-Cola heiress and sometime racing driver Isabelle Haskell. They founded De Tomaso Automobili in 1959 with premises in the Modena suburb of Albareto. The company built racing cars for Formula Junior before an unsuccessful and short-lived F1 venture followed. A new departure for the company was given its public launch at the 1963 Turin Motorshow when the first performance road car (the De Tomaso Vallelunga) was displayed.

He returned to F1 in partnership with Frank Williams in 1970 but that project died with Piers Courage at the Dutch GP. It is as supercar manufacturer that the De Tomaso brand has achieved longevity. Best known was its Ford-powered Pantera that was, like other exotic machinery, often temperamental. One owner, Elvis Presley, was once so frustrated that he drew a gun and shot his car when it would not start.

De Tomaso’s life turned full circle when he acquired the bankrupt Maserati marque in 1975, reviving its fortunes and eventually selling it to Fiat 18 years later.