Richard Dredge
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Richard Dredge

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Richard Dredge
Author

Richard Dredge

Lamborghini 400GT Monza

Hidden away for more than 30 years, this one-off Lamborghini resurfaced in 2005, but is still largely unknown

You’d be pretty chuffed to find a forgotten one-off Fiat in a barn. Just think of the excitement you’d feel if you were to discover  a special-bodied Lancia that had lain undisturbed for decades. So try to imagine how you’d feel if you were to track down a unique Lamborghini that was last seen 40 years previously – you wouldn’t be able to contain yourself. That’s just the situation in which Simon Kidston found himself in the mid-1990s. Kidston is the man who runs the Bonhams auction house, and around the time that he was discovering the Shah of Iran’s Miura SVJ, Kidston was also tracking down a special-bodied Lamborghini which was presumed lost. Called the 400GT Monza, this one-off was based on Lamborghini’s 400GT, and until this point it had been hidden away waiting to be discovered.

The Monza made its debut at the 1967 Barcelona motor show; the only time the car was ever displayed in public. It took just this one appearance to be snapped up by a wealthy enthusiast, who wanted a Miura but wasn’t prepared to join the four-month waiting list. Although he lived in Spain, this unnamed sportsman had the right connections to circumvent the strict import rules that at the time would have prevented any ‘normal’ person from importing such a vehicle. Things were made easier by virtue of the fact that at the time, Spain was the only European country in which a protoype could be registered as a new car; even in the sixties there was plenty of red tape to be overcome when it came to putting a car on the road.

The new owner took the car to Spain, renaming it Jarama, in honour of the circuit at which the Miura had been launched; coincidentally, Lamborghini would use this moniker on a car of its own only a few years later. The Monza’s owner then covered just 7136km before bricking it up at the back of a shop in 1970, where it stayed until the end of 2005.

The 400GT Monza story started with Giorgio Neri and Luciano Bonacini, who ran a respected workshop in Modena, maintaining racing cars for Ferrari and Maserati. This was also the company behind the Nembo Ferraris, the Nembo name being a hybrid of Neri and Bonacini. The firm was used by Ferruccio Lamborghini to build the first prototype Lamborghini chassis and engine and it also constructed the 350GTV of 1963, continuing as Lamborghini's chassis supplier until 350GT production was well underway.

The 350GT was critically acclaimed, but things got even better when the first 400GTs were tested towards the end of 1964. This newer car was even more highly regarded, and several coachbuilders embarked on projects to rebody it, the most widely known being Carrozzeria Touring’s Flying Star II. However, there was an altogether more exotic 400GT-based special built; the Neri and Bonacini Monza.

Although the Monza made its public debut in May 1967, it was apparently completed about 12 months earlier. It carries chassis number 1030, but because the numbers weren’t always allocated in sequence it’s hard to put an exact build date on the car. Dated photographs suggest it was finished in May or June 1966, and as early as August 1966 the car was receiving coverage in contemporary motoring magazines. There’s even talk that the car is based on a 350GT, with the chassis number donated by a written-off 400GT to make it appear newer – and hence make it more saleable.

Whichever angle you view it from, the Monza looks familiar. But how it’s viewed dictates which car it’s reminiscent of – there’s a strong hint of Miura in there as well as Iso Grifo and Bizzarini 5300GT Strada with a dash of 250GTO. However you look at it though, the Monza is beautiful, while also appearing lithe and aggressive at the same time.

Considering how together it all looks, it’s amazing that the car wasn’t styled as such – at least not in a conventional two-dimensional form. Instead the design evolved on the hoof; Neri and Bonacini created a sort of buck using stiff wires, over which was formed an alloy skin. Having created a starting point it was simply a case of altering the proportions until it looked right; there were no formal drawings at any stage.

The Monza’s one and only owner passed away in the early 1990s, with his family unaware of the car’s rarity; consequently they made no efforts to do anything with it. But a few years after the owner’s death Simon Kidston tracked the car down, although it took another decade for the family to be persuaded to sell the Lamborghini. It was sold at auction on 5 December 2005 by Bonhams for £177,500.

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