Model history: In 1964 Peter Monteverdi became the latest addition to the ever growing list of Enzo Ferrari's disgruntled associates and customers. For 12 years he had been the Swiss Ferrari importer, only to sever the ties when Enzo Ferrari insisted he placed an order for 100 cars at once and pay for them in advance. Like Ferruccio Lamborghini before him, Monteverdi decided to build a Grand Tourer under his own name.
Monteverdi was no stranger to building cars as under the MBM banner, he had built small single seaters and sports cars for some years already. The Monteverdi 375S launched in 1967 was nevertheless a fresh design. This luxurious coupe was penned by Frua and featured a 375 bhp Chrysler engine (hence the name) and a DeDion rear axle. Compared to the contemporary Ferraris, the new Monteverdi was aimed at an older audience with options like an automatic transmission. Production commenced shortly after and around 50 cars were built per year at Monteverdi's factory in Basel.
At the 1970 Geneva Motorshow Monteverdi showed the Hai 450 SS; the Swiss manufacturer's first foray into the quickly emerging mid-engined supercar market. Its simple and aggressive styling (hai is German for shark) was penned by Fissore's Trevor Fiore and Peter Monteverdi. Opinions differ on who contributed what but the overall shape is very similar to a possible Alpine A110 replacement Fiore was working on. The Hai's most outstanding feature was the compact shape with a relatively short wheelbase and wide track, made possible by mounting the engine virtually between the two seats.
This engine was the legendary Chrysler Hemi engine, which, as the name suggests, produced 450 bhp. It was mounted centrally in a sturdy steel spaceframe. The suspension was by double wishbones at the front and an exotic DeDion axle at the rear. ATE ventilated disc brakes and a ZF sourced completed the mechanical package. The body was constructed in steel by Fissore in Italy. This little known coach-builder was owned for 50% by Monteverdi at the time. At 1290 kg, the completed Hai 450 SS was relatively heavy but could nevertheless accelerate to 100 km/h in under 5 seconds.
Painted in a striking metallic purple, the prototype was first shown in nearby Geneva. The same car was shown several times more in 1970 and 1971. To give the impression that more than one example existed small details were changed before every outing. Monteverdi went as far as relocating the doorhandles. The prototype was finally sold in December of 1971 to a Swiss customer. This seemed the end of the line for the Hai but in 1973 a second car emerged. It was dubbed the GTS and featured a more civilised Chrysler 440 engine, a slightly longer wheelbase and alloy wheels.
For the third Hai, we had to wait another 17 years. This was a carbon copy of the long wheelbase GTS built in 1973. In 1992 the final Hai was produced but this was a Hai in name only. It featured modernised styling and a Formula 1 sourced Cosworth engine. By this time no Monteverdi road car had been built for well over a decade. It is a real shame that the car never entered series production. This was apparently mostly down to Monteverdi's reluctance to sell the Hai. He would usually convince the interested customer to buy a front-engined 375S instead. Except for the prototype it is believed that all other Hais have never been sold by the late Peter Monteverdi and are currently on display in the factory, which has been converted into a museum.
Chassis: TNT 101
This is the original prototype, which toured the major shows in 1970 and 1971. It was sold to Karl-Heinz Schuberth in December of 1971. It subsequently changed hands several times before it was acquired by American Norbert McNamara. He had the car restored at Fissore and repainted gold before having it shipped to the United States. Some ten years later it found a new custodian, who set about restoring the Hai 450 SS to its original condition. In this guise it is seen here during the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. For the first time in almost 20 years, the unique prototype was offered again, during Bonhams' 2010 Retromobile auction. The only privately owned Hai was estimated to sell for €400,000 - 500,000 and eventually found an owner for €398,000.
I hope the new owner really likes the Hemi, as it appears that anyone lucky enough to drive this beast will be getting in very intimate contact with the sights, sounds, and sensations of this legendary powerplant.