Yes, it’s actually a true story: A new car has finally arrived in the garages, and the new De Tomaso Deauville is really something quite exotic.
Really exotic, in fact. Many car enthusiasts will probably never have seen a Deauville, maybe not even heard of it – and yet it is not a bad car (I know now!), it is rather pretty and fast too. And with the Deauville is just that slightly left field as I prefer my classics, and as such also happen to be one of my old dream cars.
Six years ago since I wrote an article about the Deauville predicting it as The Next Great De Tomaso. Much to my disappointment that has not quite materialized – yet. But then again it is also kind of fortunate in the actual situation, as you will see. I still think the Deauville has a lot going for it, though, as in short its history is something like this: The Deauville was supposed to be the bigger and more useful brother to the sports car Pantera and as such should have established the De Tomaso name as a power factor in the exclusive league of Italian prestige producers. Both cars had the same strong, durable and reliable engine from Ford and it was not least the collaboration with the huge sales machine of Ford that was to send De Tomaso into overdrive.
It worked with the Pantera, but not with the Deauville: Over a long production period from 1971 to 1985 fewer than 250 Deauvilles were built in total, making the only four-door De Tomaso one of the truly rare birds in the automotive world. Why it went so wrong saleswise is a good question, as now that I’ve driven one I can attest that it’s definitely not a bad car. On the other hand it was much more expensive than the Pantera, and not least the Jaguar XJ6 that had arrived just a few years before had set new standards in the class and was even cheaper yet.
But actually with this particular car I personally find it is almost as exciting as the car itself HOW it did arrive in the garages in the first place, so let’s just look back a few months: Do you remember the story “Smart for four: Classic cars with friends”? Otherwise, click on the link and reread it, because it was here the background for the new classic emerges. You know as well as I do (because otherwise I would have written about it ..) that I was in no way going to acquire a new classic anytime soon, as I really have plenty in advance. It was exactly the same situation with the friends on the said trip, as between us we probably have about fifteen classics, and did not need, neither had space, time for nor even the lust for one more – the latter usually an important parameter.
Unless one considers such a hypothetical car for sharing as something other than a car purchase, and more like a, say, joint project in the world of classics in general, a study of the way to own them and the things to do with them. And we three friends really do have a common interest in that: We have been to trade fairs, on holidays, to museums, to restaurants together – which was why the idea of having a classic to run joint trips in makes sense in the first place. At least it did back in January, and debates about which four-seater car it should be are always exciting, right? Already here the social element worked fine and Peter, Ronald and I had fun with theoretical car sharing.
It immediately became more serious when an obviously well suited candidate for the project appeared for sale in the Netherlands. In fact the De Tomaso Deauville had at an early stage in our talks proved to be pushing the right buttons with all three of us, and the candidate for sale seemed like created for the project. It was from 1981 and restored some years back, and had since been used extensively on several road trips, so along the way had acquired a little new patina: It was nice, but not too nice – also one of our criteria. As almost an omen to us it turned out that it had already been a shared car once in its life: It was two Dutch brothers who had bought and restored it together – and then also had driven it together as a kind of seal for their brotherhood or maybe just advanced male bonding. The icing on the cake (for me, at least) was perhaps the color: “Rame Metallizzato” is a Maserati color in a kind of golden copper metal which suited the big limousine just beautifully.
In recent years my friend Ronald and I had seen different Deauvilles at the shows and exhibitions, but even though we considered our selves well into the substance, we were not experts. Moreover, the car was for sale in Holland and we did not really have the time to drive down and look. But Ronald, who is Dutch himself, used his contacts and had the car inspected by a Dutch Facel-Vega expert, which turned out to be surprisingly positive: The car’s price of almost 50,000 Euros is surely not peanuts, but the same expert had just seen a Deauville to 70,000 Euros, which he declared inferior to this one. As a perfect Deauville approaches 100,000 Euros it suddenly seemed like a relatively good buy – and then we dared go for it: A telephone handshake was given (this was also in the middle of corona times, so it was not easy otherwise) and the car was purchased.
Here is just a little twist on the definition of “purchased”: Since a Deauville is so rare and today mostly relevant for a selct few connoisseurs, we had in advance made a plan for how the car should be imported and registered in Denmark, notorious for our high car taxes. The Danish tax would add another 12,000 Euros on top of the purchase price of the Deauville and is not refundable on an eventual sale back out of Denmark later. A completely stupid law and probably illegal after EU trade law, but as per now that is how it is. As we figured the car would probably be sold outside of Denmark anyway the money would basically be lost, so we decided to lease the car instead. That way we only pay half a percent of the taxes per month, limiting our loss should we sell it outside of Denmark.
When will it be sold? Oh, that is really too early to say as it depends on how happy we will be with the car and this scheme of sharing it. Could it be already in the fall – or maybe next year? Possibly. With that sort of time frame a lease with a small monthly tax makes a lot of sense. So in terms of “purchased”, it is technically Selected Car Leasing (which for the sake of good order is part of the car group where I work) that has bought the car, and we then lease it. If any readers here exclaim “then you have no sense of ownership and blablabla”, then I can clearly say “Sure we do!”. But if you happen to feel that way about ownership of a car you should probably not consider sharing cars at all, right?
Thus, as the Deauville arrived from Holland on a car transporter none of us had yet seen it in real life. It started rather badly (literally!) as the car would not fire up and get down from the transporter under its own power. But to excuse it somewhat (already! See how I love it?!?) it does has a slightly complicated starting procedure involving an electric auxiliary pump, two fuel tanks and a switch between them, which was probably the reason – as starting has not been a problem since.
Other than that small hiccup I was actually positively surprised when I first saw it: The whole thing actually presents rather smartly, and the Tom Tjaarda lines from the Ghia studios really come into their own in the copper-colored metallic hue. The paint itself is not perfect, but it is certainly not a disaster either. Even many years after the renovation, there is not a rust bubble on the body, and panel gaps and adjustments are probably not much worse than they were ex-factory. The condition of the interior’s rich leather also surprised positively, and the equipment level is sumptuous for a European limousine from 1981: Four power windows are one thing, but electrically adjustable front seats are pure luxury.
It even drives well – which for once is important, considering that we have bought it for driving: You sit excellently in proper soft armchairs in front, and this also applies in the back – only here one is sat so deep down that you can hardly see out of the windows. The whole impression is more GT car than limousine, and although it undeniably looks like a Jaguar XJ6, it clearly drives in a more sporty manner. The steering is a really positive surprise too, as many old servo-assisted limousines (such as in the Jaguar) have too much servo help going on, making the steering too light and rather numb – but in De Tomaso it is suitably weighted, nicely precise and even controlled via a quite funky sports steering wheel that very well sums up Deauville’s cocktail of sport and comfort.
The engine is the same 5.8-liter Ford Cleveland V8 as in the Pantera, although only rated at to 290 horsepower in the limousine. Considering that the Deauville has almost half a ton more to haul around as well as a three-speed automatic transmission, it is no race car: While 230 km/h top speed and 8 seconds to a hundred made it amongst the fastest four door limousines and is still great in theory – hmm, I would think that we usually stay below 140 km/h and in fact will appreciate more the cosseting comfort where ever we sit – as well as the huge boot.
Not to mention the car as a whole and what it is: A moving piece of De Tomaso history that we can be proud to drive, share and show off – and that’s what it’s all about. We met for the first time all four last week and the air was electric with good energy (despite an apparent loose connection in the ignition system). I am, in fact, quite sure we’ll all be happy with that car and that maybe the hardest part will be finding things to drive to now that the world is still not quite up to speed with us.
We are not quite there yet either: New tires need to be fitted, the (worst) loose connections need to be sorted out, the car needs to be serviced, the radiator needs to be soldered and the water pump may need to be replaced preventively. Plus various little things along the way, right? As it is with old cars. But we already agree that it runs really well (better than any of us had thought, actually), so when the final details are sorted we will have ourselves a really delicious, really rare and really useful classic, which can qualify for most events most of the time. We have considered driving it to the Padova trade show this autumn as La Grande Finale in the 2021 season, but even more obvious is a trip to France before that: Namely a dash down to Deauville, the fashionable French holiday town after which the car is named.
That trip is so obvious that we consider it a rock-solid part of the program. We’ll have moules frites. Many other details are still uncertain, but rest assured that you will be able to read more about it on ViaRETRO.