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by Jay Traugott
Restoring life into what was for many years forgotten in storage.
When you hear the name 'Apollo', the first thing that may come to mind is the ancient Greek god. Most others will immediately associate it with the famous NASA space program that took astronauts to the moon and back. For those who are into classic and especially rare automotive brands, the name may very well resonate something a little less technically complicated than a spacecraft (or even an ancient god). As always, there's a story to be found here.
Back in the early 1960s, three young engineers fresh out of college had the dream to start a new car company, but with sort of a European flavor. Milt Brown, one of the founders, had the idea of building the American version of a European GT car. His inspiration came from the likes of those classic Ferraris and Aston Martins
. Fortunately for Brown, who was looking for a coachbuilder, met a guy named Frank Reisner who also shared a passion for European GTs. During that time, Reisner became inspired by Turin, Italy and soon opened up Intermeccanica. The two then joined forces and the result of their work is the Apollo.
Engineered by Brown himself, the design came courtesy from Ron Plescia, a friend of Brown. Crafted from aluminum, the car was powered by either a 215 cu in 3.5-liter or a 300 cu in 4.9-liter Buick
V8 mated to either a three- or four- speed manual transmission. Top speed was also respectable, coming in at around 150 mph. Buyers could also choose between a coupe or convertible. Although the car and its creators were American, some of the assembly took place by Intermeccanica in Turin, Italy. The completed bodies were then shipped to Oakland, California where the engine and all other drivetrain components were installed.
It went on sale in that city as well for a base price of $6,000. However, financial difficulties forced the small and young automaker to halt production, but not before the Apollo was given some of the Hollywood treatment. It was featured in the classic Disney film "The Love Bug" and was also bought by singer and actor Pat Boone. The company never fully recovered from their money troubles and the Apollo was out of production entirely by 1971. Today, the company is based in Canada and is run by Reisner's son. This particular '63 Apollo that was recently up for auction on eBay has quite an interesting story.
Normally when the cars arrived from Italy, they went straight to the Oakland factory for final assembly. Supposedly, seven cars were sold directly off the boat and were then completed by their owners. The reason why is because the company was short on cash and needed a quick infusion to keep things running. Of those seven cars, all but one were completed. That one is the car pictured before you now. It was reportedly first bought by a Merchant Marine who planned to install the drivetrain, cooling system and steering himself. For whatever reason, he put the car and storage before shipping out and was never heard from again.
That was in 1963 and in 2004 the storage unit was opened (it was declared abandoned). The Apollo was in decent condition and the seller bought the uncompleted project. After a breakdown of the work required, the restoration began and a Chevy 327 was installed. Basically, this Apollo is a true hybrid: American muscle combined with Italian coachbuild. With just 3,651 miles on the odometer, this is truly one of a kind. The asking price was $128,000, but the auction ended before someone offered that amount. Chances are, it'll pop up again on eBay. So if anyone is interested, be sure to be on the lookout. Photos courtesy of fusioninvestments.