Rare Rides: The Incredibly Rare 1981 Monteverdi Safari, an International Delight

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

We’re back again with more Monteverdi today, and I’m determined the Rare Rides series will cover all of Monteverdi’s vehicular offerings. European design, American power, and Swiss attention to detail combined with very high prices to make all the company’s models Rare Rides.

We’ve covered two earlier Monteverdi offerings previously, in the 1970 High Speed 375/4 sedan, and the 1971 High Speed 375/L grand touring coupe. Today we head into luxury SUV territory with the Safari.

Mister Monteverdi founded his brand in the mid-Sixties and began a product portfolio with the previously featured High Speed cars in two- and four-door varieties. But the High Speed line aged out of existence by the late Seventies, down to a combination of changing safety regulations, emissions requirements, slow sales, and (most painfully) the eventual discontinuation of the Monteverdi favorite Chrysler big-block V8.

Monteverdi needed a new direction, and fast. Turning away from the bespoke car market, Monteverdi issued a couple of all-new products by the end of the Seventies. Said products were sourced from other automakers, rebodied, and then slathered with Swiss luxury accouterments. The first of this new product direction to debut was the Safari.

Shown at the Euro auto shows in 1976, the Safari wore a boxy body designed by Fissore – a name you may recall from the LaForza presented here previously. Available only in three-door guise, all examples were four-wheel drive and powered by the last of Chrysler’s 440 V8, the 318 V8 from the Dodge Diplomat, or the 345 V8 from International Harvester. Unlike European SUVs of the time, the Safari was available only as a three-speed automatic. The new Safari entered production in Switzerland in 1977.

That IH power was a clue to Safari’s bones: At its heart, the new luxury SUV was a Scout II. Monteverdi was at the forefront of European luxury SUV offerings with Safari, as at the time the Range Rover was still largely a bare-bones utility vehicle, and the G-Wagen did not yet exist. Safari’s interior was trimmed in Switzerland, and the truck had a higher level of equipment than Range Rover. Accordingly, it was slightly more expensive than the Range Rover, which made it the most expensive SUV available. Unique in the class, Safari’s optional rear jump seats meant it sat six passengers in luxurious comfort.

As with all Monteverdi cars, the Safari focused on performance. With the 318 V8, top speed was 103 miles per hour, and 0 to 62 took just 13.1 seconds. The price of such performance was reflected at the pump, where a test example from 1977 achieved 9.4 miles per gallon. Buyers of the 440 V8 version experienced a top speed of 124 miles per hour, and half the fuel economy of the 318.

Monteverdi bought up enough Scout chassis to continue Safari production through 1982, though the Scout passed away after 1980. Safari was the last SUV offering from Monteverdi, but it won’t be the last time we present the brand here.

Today’s Rare Ride is a 1981 example, powered by the IH V8. In restored condition, it’s for sale in the Netherlands for $60,000.

[Images: Monteverdi]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • MoDo MoDo on Jan 21, 2021

    Cold war motors (youtube) found one in a field in Alberta (BADLY rusted and got it running)

    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Jan 21, 2021

      There was also the cheaper Sahara, which was just a clip update on the actual Scout body! Not available until later, and cancelled before Safari.

  • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Jan 21, 2021

    This isn't really a new body on a Scout II chassis, it is a Scout II with a new skin blended in from the body line up. The dash is an overlay of the original steel unit with that row of controls on either side of the steering column being where the original shows through. Would love to have one, where else are you going to find an exotic European car with the parts in stock at your local auto parts store.

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