The bodywork, designed by Fissore and produced in Italy, was elegant and square-shaped with a large glass area and was clearly closely related to the off-road vehicle made in the USA.
The history of the Monteverdi brand is inexorably linked to the talent and passion of Peter Monteverdi (Jun 7, 1934 – July 4, 1998) who lived amongst cars from childhood, first in his father’s garage in Basle and finally becoming the Ferrari importer for Switzerland. It was precisely from the experience he gained over the years that a then little more than 30-year old Monteverdi took the decision to embark on his own adventure as an artisan car manufacturer.
Backed by loyal customers who wanted a car capable of combining the comfort of a Mercedes with the performance of a Ferrari, the young entrepreneur presented his first model in 1967, the High Speed 375 S, with 2-seater coupé bodywork designed by Pietro Frua. In 1969 he began a collaboration with the Italian coachbuilder Fissore, who was entrusted with the production of the bodies, which were then sent to Binningen, near Basle, for final assembly.
In the course of its production life the small Swiss company also produced an SUV, the Safari. Developed on the mechanicals of the International Harvester Scout, it was presented and entered production in 1976. The bodywork, designed by Fissore and produced in Italy, was elegant and square-shaped with a large glass area and was clearly closely related to the off-road vehicle made in the USA. The refined finishes, precious materials and electric windows did the rest, making the car even more exclusive. In 1978 the Safari was joined by the Sahara model, still based on the Scout platform, but this car also retained the bodywork, with a few differences, treating it as a simplified and more affordable version of the Safari which, in 1979, was also seen in a long wheelbase version with 5 doors but which remained a prototype with only one example built, which can still be seen in the company’s museum.
The drive was mainly to the rear wheels but could be switched to four wheel drive on demand. The gearbox was a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic, combined with a 5.7-litre V8 International Harvester engine producing 156 bhp to give a maximum speed of 180 km/h for the manual and 170 for the automatic version. The car was also engineered to accommodate a 7.2-litre Chrysler V8 engine producing 301 bhp for a 200 km/h stop speed, fitted with a three-speed automatic transmission. During the Sahara’s three years of production (1978 – 1980), however, it was fitted exclusively with the 5.7-litre with manual or automatic transmission as well as, for just one year (1979) with a 3.3-litre Diesel engine producing 89 bhp for a top speed of 145 km/h.
Both the Safari and Sahara went out of production in 1980 at the same time as the International Scout ceased production. As for the Monteverdi marque, its activities continued until 1984.
Subsequently the small factory was converted into a museum, which still exists and can be visited today and where all the models produced in the almost twenty years of the marque’s activities are displayed (Click HERE).
Text by Tommaso Lai
Translation by Norman Hawkes
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