The four-wheel-drive classic off-roader. It intrigues me, but does anyone actually need such a car in their life? What would its purpose be and how would you use it?
I have often been drawn to the notion of owning a classic off-roader of some sort. I’m not entirely sure why or for what, nor am I sure which make and model I would go for. Maybe that’s why I haven’t bought one yet? But the peculiar little Steyr Puch Haflinger which Dave presented us to for last Saturday’s Prime Find reignited all of these thoughts. Amusing as the little Austrian is, I’m pretty sure that won’t be my first four-wheel-drive classic car. But what then?
Maybe I need something with more luxury and more exclusivity? I have after all grown accustomed to my Jaguar XJ12 and my Mercedes-Benz 450SLC. For the counterpoint to the Haflinger, maybe all I need to do is jump across the border from Austria and into neighboring Switzerland? Hmmm… a Monteverdi perhaps…
Mention Monteverdi and most people will think of the flamboyant Hai 450SS – as do I. A fabulous sportscar and a fabulous story too. The only problem was; it didn’t sell – at all. In comparison, the Monteverdi High Speed managed somewhat better, but still not in numbers which were ever going to scare the competition. After several years of this, Monteverdi stopped production of these bespoke GT’s and supercars, and instead entered a new market: Off-roaders!
It may seem somewhat grotesque and most certainly a massive step backwards, but at least when viewed with commercial eyes, Monteverdi got it right. While hardly qualifying as mass-produced, the Safari quickly became Monteverdi’s best selling model, just as it became one of the world’s first luxury off-roaders. I can’t help but feel that Monteverdi were well ahead of their time with this transformation from sportscar manufacturer to mainstream SUV manufacturer. Just look at what Porsche did approximately 25 years later, followed more recently by both Maserati and Lamborghini.
Now, Monteverdi were never known for creating technically sophisticated cars, and that’s even more true when it comes to the Safari. It was based on the second generation of the International Harvester Scout, which was introduced in 1971 and as such a precursor to the SUV craze which was to follow. Monteverdi simply adopted the complete chassis with drivetrain, drum brakes and all, and had it clad with a Fissore designed body lending it an aire of sophistication and Italian style. This cocktail was then marketed at a seriously bumped-up price to Europeans and especially Arabs who weren’t too worried about the excessive fuel consumption of 25 liters/100km or 10 mpg (according to the test conducted by Auto, Motor und Sports in 1978).
Ultimately though, I’ll pass on the Monteverdi Safari too. There’s just a bit too much The Emperor’s New Clothes about this fairytale. My personal conclusion is that the world apparently wants to be deceived. The Safari adds nothing to the Scout II which it is based upon, it’s not particularly good looking either, and it was even more expensive than the period Range Rover. If I’m to be perfectly honest, I would rather have the original International Harvester Scout, which at least isn’t the slightest bit pretentious and no doubt a better off-roader for it.
Do you own a classic off-roader, or have you thus far settled with dreaming of one like I have? Would yours be a Haflinger, a Safari, a Scout or perhaps something entirely different? And finally, the question which really interests me: What would you use your classic off-roader for?