During this 2021 the Lamborghini Urus has exceeded 15.000 units, occupying more than 60% of the workload at the Sant'Agata Bolognese factory. A fact that can lead many purists of the brand down the street of bitterness. But like it or not has made it possible to consolidate the always fragile accounts of a company focused on a market as specific as that of supercars. A case this very similar to that of Porsche with the Cayenne and Panamera. As far from the definition of 911 as useful and even necessary for the maintenance of the historic sports saga.
However, to understand these marketing games it is not necessary to stick to more or less current times. Far from it, already between the sixties and seventies the case of the ill-fated Monteverdi existed. Swiss luxury car brand, which began its journey in 1967 with the presentation of the High Speed. A powerful and comfortable GT with 7-liter Chrysler engines that had at Maserati Ghibli from 1966 as the main reference to beat. Something that is seen with a simple glance at his lines raised by Pietro Frua. Giving the car to the asphalt with a low profile body and generous width.
However, despite being relatively simple to manufacture thanks to the fact that many parts came from other models, the High Speed does not quite balance the accounts with solvency. Thus, in 1971 appeared the 375/4. A spectacular long saloon. With more than three meters of wheelbase and all the luxuries imaginable for a cabin of the moment. Something like what the Panamera means for Porsche. To which was added in 1976 what would be the Cayenne under the name of Monteverdi Safari. An original luxury SUV that came to want to save the brand's accounts with the Range Rover as a competitor and a mirror to look at.
MONTEVERDI SAFARI. A CAR MADE TO RETALS
The Monteverdi High Speed could be criticized from the perspective of comparing it to a Maserati Ghibli. And it is that, after all, while the Italian had a tuned V8 with quadruple camshaft made in Italy the High Speed bought its engine in America. From here, I adjusted and tweaked it to fit in the context of European GTs. But, although the attempt was meritorious, it sounded too similar to those models made with pieces from here and there like the AC Frua GT or the Iso Grifo GL. A kind of transatlantic experiments where it was impossible to hide that something similar to a Corvette was hiding under the hood.
A feature that was also shared by the sedan variant of the Monteverdi High Speed. Which even got to mount the handles of a FIAT 128. A very controversial detail when you were paying for one of the most expensive and exclusive cars for sale in Europe. However, when the Monteverdi Safari was introduced in 1976, more or less the same thing happened. And it is that even the chassis was created by Monteverdi engineers in Switzerland. Far from it, they contacted the American company of agricultural vehicles and SUVs International Harvester for the purchase of frames.
Specifically those used by the Scout. A versatile vehicle designed to put the simple Jeep on the ropes, mixing qualities on roads of all kinds with a comfortable cabin for day to day. In fact, such was the success of International Harvester with this model that Jeep had to catch up with the launch of the Cherokee in 1974. Possibly one of the first models to qualify as past SUVs according to what we understand today of these vehicles with saloon habitability and raised chassis.
MOTORIZATIONS TO RETURN THE BET TO RANGE ROVER
Once the foundation for the Monteverdi Safari was established, the Swiss wanted to equip their SUV with powerful mechanics to take on the Range Rovers. Not an easy goal. Since this English presented in 1970 had atmospheric V8s capable of delivering more than 200Cv in the 4-liter version. Thus, Monteverdi sought help from Chrysler preparing a range with four engines. All of them V8, but with a gradient from 5 to 2 liters. However, in fact, the overwhelming majority of the nearly 7 Monteverdi Safari sold belonged to the 2'3.000, 5'2 and 5'7 liter displacements.
And it is that of the most powerful - the 7 liter with a Chrsyler 2 Magnun Big Block engine - only seven copies were manufactured. Undoubtedly one of the most exclusive off-roaders of all time, which he found among his short portfolio of clients of oil millionaires residing in the Middle East. A most impressive vehicle thanks to its 305CV, but far, far, from being able to compete with the Range Rover and its studied mass production. Thus, the Monteverdi Safari remained as a vehicle for connoisseurs of a small factory that acted as coordinator.
And it is that not only the frame and the mechanics were bought from other brands. Also the body. Which the Turinese Fissore was in charge of during what were his last years in business. The swan song of a bodybuilder with sports cars like the De Tomaso Vallelunga under his belt. A firm that seemed almost on par with Monteverdi. Both paid off in the face of the little margin that chain production and expanding markets left small independent brands. All this despite the fact that, like the Swiss manufacturer, some tried to settle their scores by looking for new markets in rising segments such as luxury SUVs.
Images: LEMACC / Monteverdi
P.D. The unit with which we illustrate this article is the only Monteverdi Safari with a 7-liter engine for sale. Offered by the classic dealer lemacc, has remained all his life in the hands of the same owner. A true collector's item.