The Corpus Christi Old Car Museum Auction

Lot 156
1968 Intermeccanica Italia
OFFERED WITHOUT RESERVE


Selling on Saturday

1968 Intermeccanica Italia

CHASSIS NO: 50021

• Rare and beautifully styled Italian American hybrid
• One of only an approximate 500-600 examples produced
• One of the signature products of Frank Reisner’s Intermeccanica firm
• Exciting and elegant sports car with Ford V-8 powertrain
• Early-production example from the inaugural model year


302 cid Ford V-8 engine, four-barrel carburetor, 250 HP at 4,800 RPM, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension, live rear axle with coil springs and radius rods, hydraulic front disc and rear drum brakes; wheelbase: 2,400 mm (94”)


Costruzione Automobili Intermeccanica, best-known simply as Intermeccanica, was established in 1959 in Turin, Italy’s automobile-manufacturing capital. Company founder Frank Reisner was a Hungarian-born, American-educated entrepreneur who would later move the company to the United States and finally Canada. In addition to producing and marketing racing parts and tuning kits, Reisner’s first car produced during the early 1960s was a Formula Junior monoposto for an American buyer. Reisner also designed and built 21 alloy-bodied, 500 cc competition coupes, one of which won its class at the Nürburgring and caused Carlo Abarth’s demand that Fiat block Reisner’s engine supplies. Soon, Intermeccanica was involved in design and construction of aluminum prototypes and the steel production bodies for the promising Apollo GT project, which ended after just 88 of these very fine road machines were produced.

Reisner’s next project was the Ford-powered Griffith GT. The brainchild of American TVR dealer Jack Griffith, the car bearing his name was developed in the wake of the bankruptcy of British sports-car maker TVR, one of the makes Griffith sold in America. As with the Apollo GT, the Griffith drew almost universal acclaim from the press and buyers alike, but sadly suffered from financial difficulties, a fact unknown to Reisner. Steve Wilder, a new partner, decided to take over the Griffith project. He renamed the cars Omega and had them built in North Carolina, but again, funding dried up.

Undaunted, Reisner developed a new two-seat sports car, initially named “Torino” but subsequently re-branded “Italia” after Ford registered the “Torino” name. Styling was penned by former GM designer Bob Cumberford, with a fresh and modern overall theme that has aged incredibly well, influenced by timeless elements of the Ferrari 275 GTB and 400 SA. Italian designer, long credited for the Italia’s design, actually made subtle detail changes, including the bumperettes. Ample power for the Italia was delivered by Ford’s latest small-block V-8 engines, initially displacing 302 cubic-inches and later the 351 “Cleveland,” as used in the De Tomaso Pantera. Chassis engineering was performed by racing legend John Crosthwaite, using square tubular members welded to the Italia’s hand-built steel body into a single unit, mounting rack-and-pinion steering, independent front underpinnings, a Mustang live axle at the rear, supported by coil springs and radius rods. Wheels were of the attractive “Magnum 500” styled steel type. Performance was outstanding, comparable to contemporary Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini road cars at a fraction of the price.

The elegant and sporty Italia caught on quickly, with the first cars imported to the U.S. early in 1968 and some 40 sold by March that same year. Production numbers are not precise, but most frequently cited in the 500-600 car range. The Italia’s production run was quite lengthy, spanning 1967-73 or 1968-74, again depending upon the source quoted. All surviving examples of these beautiful performers draw crowds of admirers wherever they appear, whether on the road or at select shows and concours events.

Finished in striking Fly Yellow with a contrasting black convertible top and dark brown upholstery, this Intermeccanica Italia convertible is an early-production model from 1968. Power is delivered by a 302-cubic-inch Ford V-8 engine equipped with a Holley four-barrel carburetor and mated to a four-speed manual transmission. Just 33,380 miles were indicated at the time of cataloguing. Other features include a heater/defroster, power windows, Ford AM/FM radio, with deeply bolstered late-model adjustable seats and useful instrumentation including a tachometer, ammeter and oil-pressure gauge. Riding on a set of five-spoke alloy wheels mounting Falken performance radial tires, this Italia is also equipped with a Pontiac “Formula” style steering wheel. Now, as when new, the Intermeccanica Italia delivers exceptional design, reliable American V-8 power, and fascinating history; this example from 1968 marks a truly rare opportunity for astute collectors.

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