American V-8s have found their way into numerous European sports cars over the years, creating memorable hybrids like the Shelby Cobra. This episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” features a car that married an American V-8 with Italian bodywork.
The 1970 Monteverdi High Speed 375S was the result of an argument. Much like Italian tractor mogul Ferruccio Lamborghini, Peter Monteverdi got into a spat with Enzo Ferrari and decided to beat Ferrari at his own game. Monteverdi was a Ferrari distributor in his native Switzerland, and legend has it that a disagreement over terms for a shipment of cars ended the relationship.
Monteverdi wanted to build a luxury GT car, similar in character to most Ferrari road cars of the time, but with greater reliability, Leno said. So he decided to source a 375-horsepower Chrysler 440-cubic-inch V-8, which was used in everything from muscle cars to police cars. Leno’s car has a 4-speed manual transmission, which drives the rear wheels. It’s one of only four cars built with the manual; the rest had Torque Flite automatics, Leno said.
1970 Monteverdi High Speed 375S on Jay Leno’s Garage
The engine is set far back in the chassis for better weight distribution. It’s so far back that a cutout at the base of the windshield is needed to clear the air cleaner.
The Chrysler powertrain was cloaked in bodywork from Italian coachbuilder Fissore, which was based near Turin. Several other small automakers followed a similar template, producing cars like the Bizzarrini 5300 GT, Iso Grifo, and De Tomaso Pantera that combined American V-8 power with Italian coachwork. The High Speed was even more of an international effort, however, boasting a chassis manufactured in Germany, with final assembly in Switzerland.
Leno’s car was displayed at the London Motor Show and featured in brochures, although it was painted yellow at the time. The High Speed was not a sales success, in part because it was launched shortly before the 1973 OPEC oil embargo. The company introduced other models, including a sedan based on the Plymouth Volaré and an SUV based on the International Scout, then moved on to making four-door versions of the Range Rover. When Land Rover started building its own version, Monteverdi ended car production, shutting down its Swiss factory in 1984.
Check out the video above for more information from Jay. The end provides the usual treat as Jay takes the car out for a drive and we get to see this beautiful piece of forgotten machinery on the street and hear the rumble and wail of its American V-8.