|Peter Monteverdi, founder|
During the late 1950s and early 1960s Peter Monteverdi built, sold and raced a number of "specials" called MBM while at the same time developing the motor vehicle repair business founded by his father into a major dealership handling Ferrari, BMW and Lancia brands.
By 1967, he had decided to undertake series production of exclusive high performance luxury sports and touring cars. The first model, the 2-seater Monteverdi High Speed 375S coupé, was launched at that year's Frankfurt Motor Show and received very positive reviews. The car used a heavy and simple steel frame provided by Stahlbau Muttenz GmbH with an aluminium body designed by Pietro Frua. It looked quite similar to other Frua creations of that time, particularly the Maserati Mistral Coupé and the British AC 428. There are rumours that all the three shared some details like windows etc. The elegant looking car was powered by a 440c.i. (7.2 Litre) Chrysler V8 engine delivering up to 375 bhp (according to SAE standards) and had a luxurious interior finished to the highest standards. Eleven copies of the Frua-designed Monteverdi coupé were built from 1968 to 1969, then the alliance of Monteverdi and Frua split in anger. Not long before, Frua had built two 2+2 coupés with a stretched wheelbase. One of them was presented as Monteverdi 375/L, the other one stayed for some years at Frua before, in 1971, it was slightly modified and sold to AC where it was presented as a one-off AC 428.
In 1969, Monteverdi chose the small Carrozzeria Fissore for further collaboration. Fissore re-designed the 375 Coupé and built the bodies that were then delivered to Monteverdi in Switzerland, where the cars were finally assembled. Now, the car has square lines but still elegant proportions. The 2+2 form became the standard model but subsequently other body styles were offered. First, there was a short-wheelbase two-seat coupé called the 375/S and - on the same short wheelbase - a drophead dubbed the 375/C. Those cars are extremely rare nowadays. Soon, Monteverdi also offered a large sedan called 375/4 and about 30 were built. Other variations on the same theme were the 1974 Berlinetta with a different front styling and Triumph TR6 tail lights and another convertible, called Palm Beach, which remained a one off.
The production of super luxury cars ended in 1976. By that time, Monteverdi had started the mass production of a new kind of car, well-equipped luxurious off-road station wagons. The first model was the Monteverdi Sahara. It was not a Monteverdi development but a boutique car. Monteverdi used a technically unchanged International Harvester Scout, changed the grill and tuned up the interior. The second model was the Safari. In this case, Monteverdi also used a Scout but most of the bodywork was changed, once again designed by Fissore. In addition to standard Scout 5/5.6(304/345 ci) litre V8 there was an option to install the 440 c.i. V8 from Chrysler. The car had a proper, almost Italian look, and it sold well, in Europe as well as in the Middle East. Until the arrival of the Safari, Monteverdi's production had rarely strayed deep into the double digits (in 1971, before the oil crisis hit, about sixty cars were finished), but in 1979 production reached 350 (nearly all off-roaders).
Boutique era and decline
As far as road cars were concerned, Monteverdi changed to the boutique car system in 1977 for these as well. The Monteverdi Sierra was a Sedan with a 5.2 litre V8 engine and distinctive looks. It was a Plymouth Volaré with slightly changed bodywork. With few modifications, it had similarities to the Fiat 130. Fenders, bumpers, grill and some smaller parts were modified: headlamps were taken from Fiat 125, rear lights came from Renault 12. The rest - windows, doors, and mechanical parts remained unchanged. The Sierra soon was accompanied by a two-door convertible based on a Dodge Diplomat Coupe. Only two were made. Finally, Monteverdi also made a station wagon based on a Plymouth. It remained a one-off that was never sold.
When the production of the Plymouth Volaré ended in 1980, Monteverdi chose another car to be converted. This time, it was the new Mercedes S-Class (W 126). The front got a massive chrome grille with four round headlamps looking like an Alfa Romeo Alfetta (third series), while the rear lamps were provided by Peugeot (505 sedan). It was announced in March 1982 for a price of 185.000 Swiss Francs, and badged as Monteverdi Tiara. It is not clear if there was serious production, particularly as the final design looked somewhat dated, being less aerodynamic looking, when compared to the Mercedes-Benz original.
In 1978, work began on a four-door version of the Range Rover. This was executed with the active cooperation of Land Rover, who also allowed customers to order Monteverdi Range Rovers directly from Land Rover dealers. The Range Rover Monteverdi was introduced in March 1980, at the Geneva Motor Show. While the design work was carried out by Monteverdi, the actual work took place at Fissore's factory in Savigliano. White two-door cars were sent directly by Land Rover with an extra set of doors for conversion. Following the introduction of Range Rover's own four-door model in 1981, Monteverdi ended their conversions in early 1982. Around 167 cars were built, although a range of other numbers have also been suggested. Car production in Basel ended by 1984. The factory was converted into a museum, the Monteverdi Car Collection, which opened in 1985.
In 1992, Monteverdi tried to re-enter the car scene with the Monteverdi Hai 650 F1 with no success. Two prototypes have been built, all residing in the Monteverdi Museum in Basel.
In 1990, Monteverdi returned to his racing roots through his acquisition of the Onyx Formula One team, which he renamed Monteverdi-Onyx for the 1990 season. The team survived only until the tenth race of the sixteen race season before closing down.
List of models
- Monteverdi Special (1950–1952)
- MBM Tourismo (1961–1962)
- Monteverdi High Speed 375S (1967)
- Monteverdi High Speed 375L (1969)
- Monteverdi High Speed 375C (1970)
- Monteverdi High Speed 375/4 (1970)
- Monteverdi 2000 GTI (1969)
- Monteverdi Hai 450 SS (1970)
- Monteverdi Sierra (1977)
- Monteverdi Safari (1976)
- Monteverdi Sahara (1978)
- Monteverdi Hai 650 F1 (1992)
- de:Monteverdi Palm Beach
- Bloomfield, Gerald (1978). The World Automotive Industry. Problems in Modern Geography. Newton Abbot, Devon, UK: David & Charles. p. 200. ISBN 0-7153-7539-3.
- Lösch, Annamaria, ed. (1981). World Cars 1981. Pelham, NY: The Automobile Club of Italy/Herald Books. p. 403. ISBN 0-910714-13-4.
- "All about the RR Monteverdi". Rangerover Monteverdi.com. Retrieved 2013-01-21.
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