by Dan Bennett • color photos courtesy of Fantasy Junction
Perhaps the most intriguing creation of Monteverdi, whose company made numerous Mopar-powered sports cars, was his 1970 Hai 450SS. Hai is the German word for “shark,” and the Hai lives up to that name in its visuals and its powertrain alike.
This particular car, number one of four made, is unique partly because it is powered by the Elephant Motor itself. A 426 Hemi resides mid-ship in this car. Backed by a dogleg-first-gear ZF transaxle, this may be the most exotic Mopar exotic drivetrain ever used.
The engine was given a 450 hp (gross) rating (higher than the Hemi’s US rating of 425hp, which was likely lowered due to insurance regulations — it was the same gross and net), and was claimed to be capable of propelling this car from 0-60 in 4.8 seconds. Given the time period that this car was built, including the tires available, this was blisteringly fast; it’s still respectable even today.
The Swiss-engineered car used a chassis of rectangular steel tubing, with a coil-over suspension on all corners. With a 54/46 weight bias, this car was actually well balanced considering the weight of the engine, and it had quite a low center of gravity due to its low profile wet sump oil pan, which allowed Monteverdi to set the Hemi fairly low in the chassis.
The wedgy and curvaceous body, designed by Trevor Fiore of Fissore, was built by coachworks builder Savigliano. The car, as you see it here restored to its original 1970 Geneva Motor Show specification, was painted in “Purple Smoke,” and the interior was done in white leather. The car carried a MSRP of $27,000 in 1970 — adjusted for inflation, that would be $165,000 in early 2015. Rumors have it that Monteverdi did not build these to sell, but rather as a show piece to bring customers in, and then he would sell them on more practical Monteverdi cars such as the Monteverdi “High Speed” which had an optional 426 Hemi and a standard 440.
A second car, built in 1973, carried the moniker Hai 450GTS. The main differences were that it used a 440 in place of the Hemi, a 50mm longer wheelbase, and bright red paint. There were two more cars constructed later, possibly in the early 90s — another SS and another GTS — but neither was ever sold to the public. All three of these cars currently reside in the Monteverdi Museum.
The car shown here — the 426 Hemi car which started the series — has changed hands over the years, and at one point was painted gold. In the late 90s, however, the car was returned to mostly original condition, was has been shown at Pebble Beach. In 2012, the 450SS changed hands for $577,000, a relative bargain when you consider its Mopar heritage. A one of one Hemi sports car that sold for less than a million dollars, and originally cost more than dozens of Hemi ’Cudas? Where do I sign?
Thanks to Fantasy Junction, purveyors of collector automobiles and classic cars, for providing the color photos in this article.
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