Monteverdi Sierra

We're going to be knee-deep in the Malaise Era this morning, as we drag this mutt back into the sunlight for just one…more…peek.

Those of you old enough to remember the Plymouth Volaré (and who hopefully bought something else other than a Volaré) are no doubt aware of the car's shortcomings, issues so serious that the Volaré and its sister car, the Dodge Aspen, nearly killed Chrysler.

First, the cars were prone to rust, often within five years of going on sale. Second, thanks to fallout from the Arab Oil Embargo, the Volaré (and everything else on sale at the time) wasn't exactly a thoroughbread in the engine department: one of the most powerful standard options  (in the Volaré Road Runner) was a 5.7-litre V8 engine with 4-barrel carburetor that returned a tall glass of roughly 170 net horsepower.

And in the looks department, the Volaré  is as shapely as a moist dish towel.

That said, it was fast enough to hang with its muscle car competition from Ford (Mustang II) and General Motors (Pontiac Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro.)

Now, while the Volaré was just one of many sedans available in America with a big V8 engine and plush interior, in Europe, six cylinders were all most luxury car buyers could hope for—unless, of course, they wanted to pay to get themselves into a top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz, Bentley, or Rolls-Royce.

Swiss entrepreneur Peter Monteverdi saw an opening in the market that would help to push his small and often sporadic operation into the mainstream: Monteverdi would use the mechanical components from a well-respected American car and sell the new luxurious, coachbuilt machine to well-to-do Europeans.

I can't tell you if Monteverdi got a heart attack when he saw the Volaré for the first time, or when he started to read about the car's quality problems, but with its launch in 1976, there wasn't much time for Carrozzeria Fissore to design and build a more European Plymouth.

The Sierra was fitted as standard with Chrysler's 5.2-litre V8 engine, giving respectable performance: zero-to-100 km/h (62 mph) in less than 10 seconds and a top speed in excess of 200 km/h (120 mph). Volaré-sourced components were ditched, and Monteverdi strengthened its body, added upper and lower wishbones, coil springs, and adjustable shocks to complete the front suspension. Better brakes, tires, and a limited-slip rear differential completed the major changes to the car. As far as spec sheets are concerned, it would have been the near-equal of almost any European sedan on the market at that time.

Inside, a revamped leather interior now placed plush materials everywhere, as well as an adjustable steering wheel, cruise control, air conditioning, and power everything.

With about 20 made—including a single convertible—the Sierra is an interesting and likely well-engineered update to its build quality and mechanical components that came, unfortunately, from the near-disastrous Volaré.

I'm so impressed with its sleek styling and redone interior that I'd say the Sierra almost manages to shake off its Malaise Era-upbringing.