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Forgotten V8 blocks: Monica


The luxury Monica V8 was a project by Jean Tastevin, a graduate engineer from the École Centrale de Paris. He earned his money with railroad equipment and thought it was a pity that no luxury fast cars were made in France. The Monica's were produced between 1972 and 1974 in the municipality of Balbigny in the beautiful Loire district.

About 40 have been made, of which there are still six left worldwide. The Monica 560 V8 was at the time considered by many car enthusiasts to be a beautiful French super car and the natural successor to the Facel Vega HK500 V8 GT. The short V8s were also used in F1 racing cars. And there is our link.

The motorization of the Monica

The motorization of the car event began with Chris Lawrence, a technician and race driver. The goal was clear: The dreamed topper of course had to have at least one V8 under the hood. Lawrence brought Tastevin in contact with Edward C. "Ted" Martin, who had designed a V8 engine that Lawrence thought would fit well with the Monica. After evaluating the engine, Tastevin bought the design, the rights and the existing tools for the engine. The deal also involved four complete engines of 3,0 liters. And at least two of them have now been found. In the Netherlands.

A light-alloy V8

The Martin engine was a completely light-alloy V8 with a camshaft (SOHC) per cylinder row that is overlayed by a toothed belt. Designed for the new 3 liter limit that applied to the 1 Formula 1966 season, the fully equipped block weighed only 100 kilos and produced the 270 horsepower at 7000 rpm. An unusual feature of the Martin V8 was that four of the connecting rods on the big end were forked, just like those of the legendary Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. (And the Harley V twins.)

A nice and short V8

This meant that the big end taps did not jump on the crank line, so that the total length of the engine remained nice and short. The engine was used in the Pearce-Martin F1 car and the Lucas-Martin, a modified Lotus 35 Formula 2 chassis. The block also came in 2,8-liter versions in some specials, including some of Lawrence's own Deep Sanderson sports and racing cars.

But Tastevin wanted to make luxury cars

He therefore needed a subcontractor to deliver the engines. Two options were obvious: one was Coventry Victor and the other was Rolls-Royce. Lawrence had heard that Rolls-Royce had recently shut down one of their production facilities due to the loss of a defense contract and might therefore be interested in starting the Martin V8 project.

Rolls-Royce dropped out

An appointment was made with representatives from Rolls-Royce, who were fascinated by the small dimensions of the Martin V8. But Rolls-Royce won an important defense contract that gave a lot of work back to the company. . Lawrence went back to Coventry Victor. Tastevin had kept Coventry Victor under contract to produce the engines. So it was now asked to produce 25 copies of the V8 engine in a cylinder capacity of 2,8 liters. Coventry Victor was able to produce 18 pieces before he went bankrupt.

Developed further…

Meanwhile, Lawrence had continued to produce the engines at LawrenceTune's headquarters in England. Tests of the 2,8-liter engine showed that the engine was not powerful enough so he enlarged it with the name Monica cast in its valve covers to 3423 cc where the breathing was provided by four double Weber 40 DCLN downflow carburetors. The revised engine delivered 240 hp at 6000 rpm. Although the maximum torque was not produced until 4000 rpm, the torque curve was relatively flat from 2500 to 4000 rpm.

And approved

The technical drawings were finally completed and approved by Tastevin, who delivered Lawrence, together with prototype # 4, to Turin, so that the production of the body panels could begin. Comparisons have been made between the final shape of the Monica and many of its contemporaries, comparing the front view with the Maserati Indy and Lotus Elan + 2, the rear with the Ferrari 365 GT 2 + 2 and the side view to the Aston Martin DBS . But beautiful remains beautiful.

However, problems with the engine remained

Blow-through head gaskets were the order of the day and problems with the delivery of both castings from blocks and cylinder heads did not make matters any better. The story stopped. And was forgotten. But now a few of those extremely rare Monica V8 blocks have surfaced.

Meanwhile. I a box in South Holland ...




Leave a Reply
  1. Very late response to this item, but I think I saw these bikes under a workbench in Oudewater more than 25 years ago. Came from the speedboat of cheese merchant Verkley from Oudewater… Knew they came from a Monica but unfortunately no money to buy them…. Even without a car around it, a beautiful V8!

  2. In the 90 years I came across a (dark blue?) Monica at the Facel specialist Hans Ruhé in Scheveningen. Perhaps this has something to do with the Martin blocks in the South Holland box?

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