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Monica Prototype No. 2

Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2
Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2
Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2
Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2Monica Prototype No. 2
Lot number 83
Hammer value £12,500
Description Monica Prototype No. 2
Registration 2 ARX
Year 1968
Colour Grey/Maroon
Engine size 3,000 cc
Chassis No. 301

The Monica project began in 1966 when French industrialist Jean Tastevin decided the world was ready for another luxury touring car along the lines of the recently defunct Facel Vega. He approached Englishman Chris Lawrence to design and manage the project, attracted by Lawrence’s reputation as a race car engineer who had enjoyed great success with Morgan and with his own Deep Sanderson and LawrenceTune concerns.

Work began in Astwood Mews, Kensington, and by late 1966 Lawrence’s team had completed the chassis of the first prototype which was originally to be fitted with a 2.6-litre Triumph engine. However, Lawrence soon persuaded Tastevin that his car deserved better than this old four-cylinder unit and recommended instead that he use a lightweight and powerful V8 recently developed for racing by Ted Martin. Within weeks Tastevin’s company, CFPM, had bought the rights to the Martin V8 along with four complete 3-litre versions of the engine.

Serious chassis and engine testing was well underway by early 1967 and the first prototype was fitted with fairly crude bodywork by Maurice Gomm in London. The 3-litre Martin V8 was coupled to a Triumph TR4 overdrive gearbox and a De Dion rear axle located by trailing arms and a Panhard rod - the differential being a Rover 3500 unit with vented front and rear disc brakes. Rocker arm front suspension linked the lower wishbones and stub axles to the inboard coil spring shock absorbers.

However, Tastevin and his wife Monique (after whom the Monica was named) did not like the look of the body so in early 1968 a second prototype was constructed with much more elegant all-aluminium bodywork by racecar coachbuilders Williams & Pritchard of Lotus, Cooper and Lister fame. Inside, the front seats were taken from a BMW 2002 while the rears were custom made in the same black vinyl and all remain in the car to this day.

To preserve the secrecy of the project, this second prototype was registered as a Deep Sanderson with the registration number 2 ARX, and it was soon clocking up thousands of test miles, both in the UK and on the Continent. In his 2008 autobiography, “Morgan Maverick” (published in 2008 by Douglas Loveridge Publications - ISBN 9781900113045), Lawrence stated that “the car was very light and the acceleration was surprisingly good with the de Dion rear suspension providing good traction. The steering was light and positive with zero bump steer and very little kick back. The minimal frontal area and excellent penetration allowed the car to reach a top speed of about 140mph.”

At the Montlhery oval near Paris, 2 ARX proved capable of covering the standing-start kilometre in 27.4 seconds, half-a-second faster than a Porsche 911 and only a second slower than an Aston Martin DB4 Vantage GT – not bad for a four-door saloon! Later that year on the Aosta Autostrada near Turin when the car was being demonstrated to coachbuilder Vignale and engine builder Conrero (both being considered for future development on the Monica project), 2 ARX did the standing kilometre in 27.2 seconds, Lawrence attributing the extra pace to the foggy conditions.

Shortly after this, prototype number three was built but this proved to be a backward step because the bodywork was now all steel which seriously blunted performance and Lawrence continued to drive around in prototype number two. During 1969 three more prototypes followed but number two remained Lawrence’s favourite, especially after it was fitted with a ZF 5-speed gearbox during a trip to their factory in Germany.

By the time the Monica finally entered production in 1973, some 22 pre-production prototypes had been made in total (although several were just mules for bodywork development or for crash testing) and from number eight onwards they were, at Tastevin’s insistence and to Lawrence’s dismay, no longer fitted with the Martin V8 which was replaced by a much larger, heavier and more powerful 5.6-litre Chrysler V8. Only eight production cars were made before the whole project was sadly ended by the 1974 fuel crisis with made 11mpg cars totally unsaleable.

Prototype number two continued to be driven by another member of the development team, Colin James, for several years before it was acquired by the current vendor, also a member of the Monica team, in 1997. Since then the car has been partially dismantled and the chassis and bodywork restored, the latter repainted in its original two-tone grey over red. There is still a fair amount of work to do but the car is believed to be complete apart from the front windscreen (for which Pilkington apparently still have the moulds, according to the vendor). It comes with three Martin V8 engines, all in bits, plus a quantity of literature and photographs relating to the Monica development project.

Altogether a fascinating piece of motoring history which is surely worthy of the sympathetic restoration that it now requires.

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