Monica 560 Berline

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560 Berline





Monica is the name of a French luxury automobile produced in the commune of Balbigny in the department of Loire between 1972 and 1974.

The Monica car was a project of Jean Tastevin, a graduate engineer of the École centrale de Paris. His father Arnaud bought the Atelier et Chantiers de Balbigny in 1930. That company was a manufacturer of mining and railway equipment. In 1955 Jean succeeded his father, becoming Chairman and Managing Director. He renamed the company Compagnie française de produits métallurgiques, or CFPM, and began to specialize in the manufacture and rental of railroad tank cars. The factory where the rolling stock was manufactured operated under a different name, being Compagnie Française de Matériels Ferroviaires (CFMF). The company prospered, eventually coming to have 400 employees.

Tastevin was an automobile enthusiast who personally owned cars from Aston Martin and Facel Vega. After Facel Vega shut down in 1964 he bought a Jaguar, but regretted not being able to buy a French-made car of that class.

In pursuit of both his interest in cars and a way to diversify his railway business, Tastevin began making plans to launch his own brand of automobile in 1966. He made his long-time assistant, Henri Szykowksi, the project manager. He would also set aside a portion of his factory in Balgigny so that the cars could truly be said to be made in France.

The car was named in honour of Tastevin's wife, Monique Tastevin.

With the long development period finally at an end, production gets underway in Balbigny.

The car is built on Lawrence's steel-tube and sheet metal chassis. The body is Rascanu's design with Coward's revisions executed entirely in steel. Five exterior colours are available: Atlantic Blue, Azure Blue, Purple Amaranth, Chestnut Brown and Beige Sand. The final version of Lawrence's rocker-arm/De Dion suspension is automatically leveling, and the car sits on four Michelin 215/70VR-12 Collection tires mounted on 14 inch alloy wheels. The original sill-mounted fuel tanks have been replaced with a single tank under the floor of the trunk due to regulatory restrictions.

The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is connected to an adjustable steering column that is topped by a custom Motolita steering wheel.

Braking on the production Monica was still a dual circuit system with Lockheed disks inboard at the front operated by a 4-piston caliper and Girling disks at the rear operated by a 3-piston caliper but the disks front and rear were both now 11 inch ventilated pieces.

The seats are upholstered in Connolly leather available in three colors: Marine, Havana, and Champagne. The floor is covered in Shetland wool carpeting. The dashboard is finished in burl elm wood and suede.

The state of the car is monitored by a brace of custom Jaeger instruments all bearing the Monica name. Gauges include a speedometer, tachometer, oil temperature gauge, oil pressure gauge, ammeter, water temperature gauge, fuel gauge, and clock.

The windows are electrically operated. A High-fidelity sound system with integrated tape recorder and player is standard equipment, as is an air-conditioning system with separate controls for the rear seat passengers. The doors on the Monica are electrically operated to open and close silently at the touch of a button. In the trunk is a complete set of custom luggage.

With a quoted top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph) the Monica 560 could lay claim to being "The fastest sedan in the world" at the time.

Photos from the period indicate that a future coupe and convertible were already being planned.

The Monica 560 makes its last public appearance at the Paris Auto Salon Paris Auto Show in October 1974. On February 7 of 1975 Tastevin announces the cessation of production and closes the company.

Many factors contributed to the failure of the car. It endured a seven-year long gestation period. The car was remarkably expensive while lacking the kind of reputation or recognition enjoyed by other more established marques in this market. It faced competition from many similar-sized low-volume manufacturers. Finally, it had the misfortune to be officially released just as the first major oil crisis made fuel prices jump and large expensive motorcars less desirable.

Five Monicas remaining at the LawrenceTune headquarters were sold by Lawrence to Cliff Davis and Bernie Ecclestone, the proceeds being payment for LawrenceTunes work for Tastevin. Lawrence was driving pre-production car #21 at the time. The Tastevins kept three Monicas for their own use.

The production assets of the Monica company and as many as thirty cars in various stages of completion were sold to French race driver and Formula One team owner Guy Ligier. Ligier did not resume production.

In April 1976 Motor Sport magazine reported an announcement by Bob Jankel of Panther Westwinds that his company and C.J. Lawrence and Co. would resume production of the Monica. C.J. Lawrence and Co. would manufacture sub-assemblies and Panther would assemble, paint and trim the car. Power was elsewhere rumored to be coming from a Jaguar V12 motor. Production would move from Balbigny to Surrey. Nothing came of these plans.

Thanks to its 285bhp 5.6L V8 Chrysler engine, it was able to drive four people at a brisk pace in total comfort. But the luxurious car could not withstand the oil crisis and only 22 units were made, and just a few have survived until today.

Six production Monicas are known to exist. At least three of the prototypes are reported to remain in Britain. Chris Lawrence personally owned a production Monica for several years that was sold from his estate.

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