Alejandro de Tomaso was born in Argentina in 1928 to a politically prominent family. In the mid 1950s he was forced to flee his country for his grandfather’s homeland, Italy, after being suspected of participating in a plot to overthrow the current Argentinian president. He found himself in Modena, a city rich in automotive history and racing culture. There he began a career as a racing driver for companies such as Maserati and Scuderia. He made his Formula One debut in 1957, participating in four races, but he scored no championship points.
In 1959 he founded the De Tomaso Automobili, which was intended to build racing cars. Production soon turned to high-performance sports cars, many of which used an aluminum chassis, which became a company trademark. The first road going De Tomaso was the mid-engined Vallelunga, which was produced from 1964 to 1968. The Ford V8 powered Pantera went into production in 1972 and continued until 1993, with more than 7,000 leaving the factory. To celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2019, De Tomaso planned to produce 72 P72 models, starting in 2020.
During the 1960s and 1970s, de Tomaso acquired a number of Italian companies, including coachbuilders Ghia and Vignale, and Moto Guzzi motorcycles. In 1975 Maserati became his latest acquisition, having saved it from bankruptcy with the help of the Italian government. Eventually, many of these holdings were sold off. For example, Maserati was sold to Fiat in 1993.
In 1993 De Tomaso suffered a stroke, resulting in day-to-day operations of the De Tomaso company to be handed over to his son Santiago. Alejandro participated in business dealings and automotive engineering as could, until he died in Italy on this day in 2003.