This is an original Monteverdi Sahara from 1978, it’s one of just 30 that were made by the little-known Swiss automaker, with the intention of competing with the wildly popular Range Rover.

If you’re looking at the Sahara pictured above and thinking it looks familiar, that may be because it’s essentially a modified version of the International Harvester Scout 800 series of 4x4s, with some design updates to ensure it looked more like a Monteverdi.

Fast Facts – The Monteverdi Sahara

  • The Monteverdi Sahara made its debut in 1978 as a sibling of sorts for the earlier Monteverdi Safari which had entered the market in 1976. Both vehicles shared International Harvester Scout 800 series underpinnings, though the Safari was a far more comprehensive and luxurious rebuild with a higher MSRP.
  • While retaining the chassis and body of the original Scout 800, the Sahara underwent several updates including new quad headlights, an updated grille, and revamped interior, aiming to align it more closely with Monteverdi’s luxury aesthetic.
  • It offered various engine options including a standard 5.7 liter V8 from International Harvester, with an optional more powerful 5.7 liter Chevrolet V8, and even a rarely chosen Nissan SD33 diesel engine.
  • The Sahara was customizable with choices in paint colors and interior finishes like fabric, leather, and vinyl. It included modern conveniences such as air conditioning and the option for either automatic or manual transmissions.
  • The Sahara did not sell as well as expected, with only approximately 30 units produced. This makes it a rare sight in classic 4×4 circles, and we only very rarely see them come up for sale.

The Monteverdi Safari

The Monteverdi Sahara was developed specifically due to the many customer requests the Swiss automaker received to build a luxury 4×4 that was more in-line with the pricing of the British Range Rover. The company was already producing the similarly-named Monteverdi Safari, however the cost was far higher than its English contemporary.

Monteverdi Safari

Image DescriptionThis is the Monteverdi Safari, it was given a new body built by Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Fissore based on a Scout chassis. It was considerably more expensive and luxurious, but it does keep a clear familial resemblance to the earlier Monteverdi cars, as well as the Monteverdi Sahara. Image courtesy of Monteverdi.

Both the Monteverdi Safari and the Sahara that would come later were based on the chassis and running gear of the International Harvester Scout 800. The Swiss company had developed the Safari to enter the then-new world of luxury SUVs which was led by the Range Rover.

They couldn’t have known it at the time, but over the next few decades this genre would explode in popularity and become worth billions in annual global sales.

The Safari was a comprehensively rebuilt Scout, it had a whole new body designed and built by Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Fissore featuring distinctive Monteverdi design cues, like the quad headlights, a squared off profile with sharp crease lines, and an opulently equipped interior.

Engine choices varied, a 5.2 liter Chrysler V8 came as standard offering far more power than the 3.5 liter Rover V8 in the Range Rover. Optional engines included a much larger Chrysler 7.2 liter V8 which offered even more power, and a top speed of over 200 km/h (124 mph), at the expense of woeful fuel economy.

The Safari offered many luxuries that hadn’t yet been offered on the Range Rover, including an automatic transmission and electric windows, as well as some more common luxuries like air conditioning and a full leather interior.

Exact production numbers of the Monteverdi Safari aren’t known, though most estimates put the figure somewhere in the low hundreds, which would make it one of the Swiss automaker’s most successful models.

Monteverdi Sahara 7

Image DescriptionThe similarity between the Monteverdi Sahara and the International Harvester Scout 800 its plain to see, the body was only slightly modified and given new headlights, un updated grille and bumpers, and a new interior.

Interestingly, Monteverdi would later collaborate with Range Rover, building a four-door version of the vehicle at a time when the factory in England was only making two-door models. These Monteverdi-modified Range Rovers were sold in limited numbers through official Range Rover dealers until the official four-door Range Rover debuted in 1981.

The Monteverdi Sahara

The Monteverdi Sahara made its first appearance in 1978, two years after the Safari, as a new lower-cost luxury 4×4 option. Whereas the Safari cost thousands more than the Range Rover, the Sahara had a similar sticker price, making it a much closer competitor.

In order to keep costs down, the body and chassis of the original Scout 800 were kept in place on the Sahara. A series of modifications were applied, including quad headlights, new badging, an updated interior, new bumpers, and a new grille.

When ordering your Sahara you could choose from a variety of paint colors and interior options, including fabric, leather, and vinyl upholstery, air conditioning, automatic or manual transmissions, and more.

The standard engine used was the 5.7 liter V8 from the International Harvester Scout 800, though an optional Nissan SD33 diesel engine was offered it seems that it was only ever ordered by a single customer. There was also the option to specify an upgraded 5.7 liter Chevrolet small block V8 would offered more power over the standard Scout unit.

Monteverdi Sahara 19

Image DescriptionThe interior was considerably upgraded over the standard Scout, and it could be ordered with air conditioning as well as optional engines like the small block Chevy V8 and a Nissan diesel unit.

The driveline included the original dual-range transfer case and four-wheel drive system of the Scout, with live axles front and back on leaf springs.

The interior of the Monteverdi Sahara was significantly upgraded over the original Scout, bringing it up to the same level as the Range Rover but providing notably more space due to the larger size of the vehicle.

Despite the lower cost, the Monteverdi Sahara was a much slower seller than the Monteverdi Safari. It’s believed that just 30 or so examples were ever made, and even many experts in the classic 4×4 world have never seen one in person.

The 1978 The Monteverdi Sahara Shown Here

The car you see here is a 1978 Monteverdi Sahara from the first year of production. It’s one of the examples that was ordered with the upgraded Chevy small block V8, which will make sourcing parts a simple affair, and it has the automatic transmission option.

Monteverdi Sahara 4

This Sahara is finished in a two-tone metallic grey with a silver upper section. It has a Bordeaux cloth-trimmed cabin, with black piping and vinyl seat sides, and a brown vinyl floor and trim. It rides on a set of silver 15 inch steel wheels with Goodyear tires, it has black wing mirrors, and an air conditioning system.

This is the first Monteverdi Sahara we’ve seen come up for sale in years, and no one knows how many remain in extant, so it could be a unique chance to purchase one. It’s now being offered for sale on the Collecting Cars platform out of Bordeaux, France and you can visit the listing here if you’d like to read more about it or register to bid.

Monteverdi Sahara 22 Monteverdi Sahara 21 Monteverdi Sahara 20 Monteverdi Sahara 18 Monteverdi Sahara 17 Monteverdi Sahara 16 Monteverdi Sahara 15 Monteverdi Sahara 14 Monteverdi Sahara 13 Monteverdi Sahara 12 Monteverdi Sahara 11 Monteverdi Sahara 10 Monteverdi Sahara 9 Monteverdi Sahara 8 Monteverdi Sahara 7 Monteverdi Sahara 6 Monteverdi Sahara 5 Monteverdi Sahara 3 Monteverdi Sahara 2 Monteverdi Sahara 1

Images courtesy of Collecting Cars

Published by Ben Branch -