Peter Monteverdi was a Swiss engineering prodigy and race car driver. He had built his first makeshift racer by the age of 17 and by his early twenties was competing in international events with his own team, Monteverdi Binningen Motors (MBM). The reasonable success he had was short lived when a serious crash at the 1961 German Grand Prix prematurely ended his racing career. He then turned his attention to selling fast cars and was the official distributor for Ferrari, Lancia, BMW, and Rolls Royce in Switzerland.
Monteverdi’s decision to create a namesake car was a result of a showdown with Enzo Ferrari. Ferrari’s financial situation was less than ideal in the early 60s, and he wanted Monterverdi to keep a stock of a 100 cars for the Swiss market. This was obviously not to Monteverdi’s liking and he decided to go his own way. His first car was the 375S, a two-seater sports car first shown at the 1967 Geneva Motor Show. The car seen here, and up for auction at Bonhams’ London Olympia sale in December, is the 375L: available from 1969 onwards, this was a 2+2 GT in the mould of its contemporaries like the Lamborghini Espada. As was a trend at the time among the growing number of small sports car manufacturers in Europe, Monteverdi wanted the elegance and style of an Italian design with the power and reliability of a big block American V8.
Consequently, the 375 cars featured a body built by Carrozzeria Fissore (also responsible for designing the Osca 1600 GT) and styled by Pietro Frau. There were two Chrysler engine options, a 7.0-litre (375hp) and a 7.2-litre (450hp) Hemi. This here is one of the rarer right hand drive variants that get its power from the larger 7.2-litre Hemi engine. Power was put down through a three-speed Chrysler TorqueFlite automatic transmission or a 5-speed manual. Monteverdi’s tubular spaceframe chassis sat on front independent coil-spring suspension and a de Dion rear axle with limited-slip differential. As you could imagine, both the engines were good for top speeds of well over 150 mph.
The interiors of these handbuilt grand tourers were top-notch and had every creature comfort a car of this stature could hope for. Only about a 100 of these were built, of which about 66 were of the 375L spec. A handful of 375C convertibles and 375/4 four doors were also made but these are a much more rarer sight.
Sadly though, the energy crisis and the stringent new Federal safety norms in the U.S. meant that production of these cars did not last beyond the mid-70s. The Monteverdi 375 came at a time when car design in Italy and the muscle car phenomenon in the US were at their peak. It managed to find a perfect balance between these two major shifts in the car industry and created something unique and desirable out of it. Photos: Bonhams