Rare Rides: The 1978 Sbarro Windhound, a Luxury SUV of 6.9 Litres

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Today’s Rare Ride is the third car in the series from designer Franco Sbarro. Our premier Sbarro creation was a windsurfing-specific take on the Citroën Berlingo, and the second was a very hot hatchback called the Super Eight – a Ferrari underneath.

While both of those creations were one-off styling exercises, today’s Sbarro actually entered very limited production. Presenting the Windhound of 1978.

The full-size SUV world of the late Seventies was very different than it is today, even though you’ll recognize all the names present. Trucks like the Toyota Land Cruiser, Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, the Range Rover, and the International Harvester Scout were just that: Trucks. Their ornamentation was minimal, most of the time they were seen with only two doors, and sometimes a rear seat was optional. There wasn’t wood or leather, but one could find vinyl seating surfaces and minimal soundproofing. There was one exception to this rule, the luxurious Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

But a few visionaries at the time saw the potential for more luxurious off-road SUVs. We’ve covered one of the earliest examples of such a luxury truck previously: The Monteverdi Safari that went on sale in Switzerland in 1977. Based on the IH Scout II, the Safari beat Sbarro to the punch by just one year.

The basis of the Windhound was the aforementioned G-Wagen, not a bad place to start. Using the G’s chassis, Sbarro designed an entirely different body up top. With its original design, the Windhound took things a step further than the clip swapping completed on the Safari. Windhound was available with either two or four doors, and sort of looked like an Eighties Toyota 4Runner. Four-door Windhounds were identified by their two rectangular headlamps, while two doors used quad circular lamps. A distinctive feature was the wrap-around roof spoiler above the rear hatch. This was supplemented in one example by exhaust pipes that ran up over the roof rails. All examples featured an interior full of wood and leather trim, and an unusual tailgate design with dual lower porthole windows. The Windhound was Sbarro’s second original design, as he’d spent the earlier part of the decade building replica cars (usually BMWs). His first original design was from 1974 and was a mid-engine Maserati-like sports car called the Stash, with an interior done by Pierre Cardin. We’ll cover that one later.

The Windhound was designed to be more powerful than other SUVs on offer, and as such used the 6.8-liter V8 from the 450SEL 6.9 as its primary motivation. The V8 was good for 282 horses and 410 lb-ft of torque, very impressive during the smog-choked Seventies. Typically the transmission paired to it was a three-speed automatic.

Typically is used above and applies to the 6.9 engine as well, because the Windhound was a built-to-order truck. Though its chassis remained G-Wagen, the truck on top was powered by different engines per customer preference. Six examples used the Mercedes 6.9 engine, while two used BMW power. A further five used Jeep engines. Finally, one used the 2.8 inline-six from a 280GE. After a run of 14 cars, the Windhound disappeared off the world’s radar and Sbarro moved on to other creations. Mainstream luxury SUVs would catch up about a decade later.

[Images: Sbarro]

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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2 of 9 comments
  • Wolfwagen Wolfwagen on Oct 21, 2021

    I always liked the SUV vehicles of Monteverdi and Sbarro. I would love to see a modern version of one these as long as it doesn't look like the current CUV blobs that are running around out there

  • El scotto El scotto on Oct 21, 2021

    At the Steyr plant, grown men weep at the thought of this.

  • Glennbk First, Cadillac no longer has brand cache. And as such, the prices need to drop. Second, reliability. Cadillac doesn't have that either. Dedicate GM funds to re-design the High Value Engines. Third, interiors are too gimmicky. Take a step back and bring back more buttons and less black plasti-chrome. Forth, noise isolation. These are supposed to be luxury cars, but sound like a Malibu inside.
  • Dave M. Mitsubishi for many years built stout vehicles for whatever market they were in (specifically citing Mighty Max and Montero). In the '90s they became the LCD for high-risk borrowers; coupled on top of mediocre and stale product, interest in them waned. Aim for the niches (hybrids, small pickup, base CUVs). I find it interesting that they have a plug-in CUV based on/made by Nissan, but Nissan doesn't.
  • Glennbk Please Mitsubishi, no more rebranded Nissan products.
  • Wolfwagen What I never see when they talk about electric trucks is how much do these things weigh and how much does that detract from the cargo-carrying capacity?
  • Wolfwagen I dont know how good the Triton is but if they could get it over here around the $25K - $30K They would probably sell like hotcakes. Make a stripped down version for fleet sales would also help