By on January 21, 2021

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]

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17 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Incredibly Rare 1981 Monteverdi Safari, an International Delight...”


  • avatar
    wolfwagen

    I remember reading about the Monteverdi Safari in a book from our local library back in the mid to late 80’s. I always thought his stuff was cool. In the same book, I recall a BMW SUV that had a BMW front end and a roof similar to an Oldsmobile vista cruiser. Not sure who made it.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I’ve never heard of this but now I must have one.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It’s a Fiat Land Rover.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    * Front chunk is off center. (Does this affect the operation? The stresses?)

    * That is a truly impressive a/c compressor.

    * Also an impressive leaf count on the front suspension.

    [These are hints that you have to click on the seller’s link in the last paragraph to get to the good pictures.]

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not permitted to use seller photos at this time, without express written permission from seller.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      All 4x4s have an offset pumpkin. Two reasons, 1. to clear the oil pan. 2. because the driveshaft for the front comes out of the side of the transfer case to clear the transmission. It does seem worse in a Scout II due to the narrow overall width.

      Just an old school Tecumseh 2cyl commonly found on Fords of the same era and used on aftermarket set ups in that era too. Note this is not aftermarket air, that is the factory installed system even if it looks and functions as an add on unit with its own fan and temp controls.

      That is the Cat busting 3100lb front springs introduced and made standard for the 1975 Model year. For that year a Catalytic converter was required for cars and trucks with a GVW of 6000lb or less. So the 2500lb and 2700lb springs got dropped 3100lbs all around were made standard and boom no need for a Cat, saving IH a ton of money at least in the short run. That is the same reason the few 1975 Full sizers were 150’s and had the 6200 GVW as well.

      That is also the reason that we have the F150 today, Chevy did the “Heavy Half” and the Lil’ Red Wagon and Warlocks from Dodge slipped through the same loophole.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        Scoutdude, I always enjoy your posts – you are a wealth of information.

        (Let me say out loud here that I clearly acknowledge that I am a second-string poster at best. Just trying to keep the site alive until the Return of the A Listers.)

        [Corey, that wasn’t a criticism – just trying to help out. (“C’mon man!”)]

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’m either showing my youth or failing to recognize sarcasm with a 0-62 time of “just 13.2 seconds.” I am unfamiliar with a world where even compact cars are slower than about 9 seconds to 60 miles per hour. I know that technology has advanced and that acceleration times are but one aspect of a car’s specification, but that broke my mind.

    I do acknowledge that I’m on the younger side, so…

  • avatar
    MoDo

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

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    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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