Jay Leno explains why his favorite Swiss car doesn’t have a Swiss heart
You’d be forgiven if you saw a Monteverdi and came up empty trying to name it. It could best be described as a Plymouth Roadrunner that spent a few years abroad, since there’s a Chrysler 440 V-8 under its sleek Italian body. That’s the main reason Jay Leno loves his.
Jay gave a rundown of his 1970 Monteverdi High Speed 375S in the latest episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, and the details are fascinating. For starters, the man behind these cars, Peter Monteverdi, built his first car at the ripe ol’ age of 16. The Fiat 1100-based custom was constructed in the back corner of his father’s garage business and set Monteverdi on a high-speed path.
He continued to build racing cars and eventually turned to importing Ferraris to fund the effort. The importing business grew to include BMW, Lancia, and Rolls-Royce marques. Monteverdi had a fallout with Enzo Ferrari in 1967 and decided to build what he thought would be a better Ferrari.
Interestingly, he didn’t take the Lamborghini route in this challenge. Rather, Monteverdi decided to assemble a hybrid—but not the hybrid you’re thinking of. In the ’60s, a hybrid meant the combination of what amounts to a multinational car. Monteverdi sourced the engine from Chrysler in the U.S., the bodywork from Carrozzeria Fissore just outside Turin, Italy, and assembled the whole outfit in Switzerland.
The final result is what Jay thinks is a best-of-all-worlds car: the reliable, low-maintenance power of the 440 in a tailored suit of Italian coachwork. The Chrysler-sourced air conditioning is a particular strength in Jay’s eyes, as his experience says European A/C just doesn’t work as well. On the road, the driving characteristics shine. It is a sleek grand touring car, and Jay’s is just one of a handful with the four-speed manual transmission.
To us, we think Jay is right in calling this Monteverdi a best of all worlds. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to find one in our local classifieds. The gas crunch in the early ’70s caused Monteverdi to shift from luxury sports cars to luxury SUVs. Annual production for the sports cars likely never exceeded 100 units, so seeing one of these mishmashed cars is all that more special.