The cars we loved.
Enzo Ferrari’s legacy stands as one of the greatest in automotive history. One surprising and little known aspect of that legacy was his ability to piss off the wealthy patrons who were brave enough to suggest improvements to the Ferrari cars they bought. The automotive ventures that eventually spawned from these clashes with Enzo have resulted in the creation of one-off supercars like the Ford GT and whole companies like Lamborghini. The Monteverdi High Speed 375/4L was somewhere in between. Peter Monteverdi was a wealthy Swede who had a passion for cars. He had been building race cars in the 50’s and eventually branched out to road cars from a base in Basel Switzerland. At some point Enzo Ferrari publicly insulted the young Mr. Monteverdi and the end result was a car (or more like a line of Gran Turismo cars) that was intended to go head to head with Ferrari.
The Monteverdi High Speed 375/4L was initially conceived as a 2 + 2 grand tourer in the classic tradition of a large comfortable coupe. like many small firms in Europe building sports cars, the design and fabrication process was complicated and multi-national. Monteverdi lacked the in-house resources and budget to develop many of the components of the Hi Speed itself, so it went shopping for components with the most bang for the buck.
First, the engine: a 7.2 litre Magnum 440 V8 from Chrysler in America. One of the largest Hemi engines ever built with 375 hp. Next Monteverdi commissioned the Italian companies Frua to design the car and Fissore to build it. The end result of this collaboration produced a beautiful, sleek Swedish Sports car with Italian curves and serious American muscle. All that power from the Hemi was funneled through a Chrysler Torqflite 3 speed automatic or ZF manual 5 speed transmission. The first car was shown at the Frankfurt auto show in 1967 and was an instant success, resulting in many advance orders of anxious customers. The resulting furry of attention lavished on the Monteverdi must have stolen some of the thunder from Ferrari’s own Dino concept at the same show. I wonder if Enzo took notice.
Monteverdi had just revamped its production facilities and was able to handle the slowly rising demand for its new car. The 375 featured an independent front suspension with a de Dion tube set up in back. Top speed was 155 mph and was slowed by disc brakes all around. The coupe came in a few variations and eventually was stretched into a sedan. While not as sleek and well proportioned as the coupes, it did have a commanding presence. After a few redesigns in 1972 and again in 1975, the 375 was retired after selling more than 3700 cars, the most of any Monteverdi. Later, the company focused its attention on developing more affordable cars, including a number of small and mid-sized sedans, station wagons and eventually a line of SUVs. For country known for it’s practical and safe Volvos and Sabbs, the sports cars of Monteverdi offered a refreshing counterpoint and illustrate the diversity of the European market during the late 60’s /early 70’s.