Lifestyle

Mock Ferrari


The stylish 1970 Intermeccanica Italia Spyder had a Ferrari feel but was in reality a tuner car built with Ford parts

In 1959, chemical engineer Frank Reisner combined his fascination with automobiles and professional talents to establish Carrozzeria Intermeccanica. Born in Hungary in 1932 and raised in Canada, he raced sports cars and "specials" in the late 1950s before moving to Italy.

Over the next few years, Reisner built numerous cars, including the Apollo GT, which was based on Buick mechanicals, for International Motor Cars of San Francisco. These stylish Italian-bodied sports cars helped firmly establish Carrozzeria Intermeccanica as an automobile manufacturer despite the fact that 1963-1965 production was limited to about 100 units.

Reisner arranged for a new distributor to sell his first true production car, the Torino, but in 1967, the similarly styled 5-liter Italia was unveiled. The Corvette-like Italia, in Ferrari-inspired clothing, sold well in America. Sports Car Graphic said in 1970, "&it has the potential to be the Ford Motor Company's version of the 'Vette, and it's a lot more exciting." The 0-60 time was 6.2 seconds.

This Italia is fitted with the rarely seen factory air conditioning and powered by the preferred Ford 351 cubic inch Cleveland V8 mated with a 4-speed manual transmission. The engine is fitted with custom valve covers, a new Edelbrock 650-cfm 4-barrel carburetor and Edelbrock Performer intake manifold. Its recent freshening also included a new electronic ignition, rebuilt front end, new wiring harness, stainless steel exhaust system, as well as a new fuel pump.

The dash and controls are all business, exemplifying the Italia's supercar nature, while the leather seats, tan carpets, and power windows are concessions to the Grand Turismo side of the Italia. Approximately 376 Italia coupes and Spyders were built, which, in comparison to some far more expensive Ferrari models, is very few in number, making an Italia a truly rare American-powered international supercar.

The SCM Analysis

This car sold for $44,000 at the RM Auction held at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on October 12, 2007.

Membership in the Sports Car Market Intermeccanica Italia Owners Club was reduced by a third with this sale. The car sold here belonged to Dave Kinney, SCM's Senior Auction Analyst, who with a partner paid $24,000 for the car in early 2004. John Apen and I are also owners of Italias. John has had his for some time and paid $17,500 in 1998 (they were trading between $20,000 and $30,000 as late as 2003). I, on the other hand, paid $60,000 to get a car I can't fault.

Italias are striking cars that offer handsome styling with hand-formed steel bodies that were made in Turin between 1967 and 1972. Classic & Sports Car, in a 1993 article, stated, "The Italia may be one of the most gorgeously styled cars ever made, but you may never have heard of it. The Italia is one of life's great mysteries; it's an especially beautiful car. It also looks curiously familiar...a touch of the Nembo Ferrari, or a NART Spyder, especially the grille. The only identification is the two small badges on the flanks that say Carrozzeria IM and are adorned with rampant bull emblems. What is it? A Lamborghini? Nope. What you are looking at is a genuine Intermeccanica Italia."

The Italia is a descendent of the Apollo GT, a Buick-based sports car, and the Griffith GT that Frank Reisner built with American partners. When those floundered, Holman Moody got involved and refined the development of a high performance Italian-American car, resulting in the Omega. A few cars with Italia styling followed. They were called Torinos, but (for obvious reasons) Ford objected strongly.

Reisner was, however, able to source engines from Ford and assembled the entire car, now called the Italia, in Turin. The earlier cars used the 289 HiPo V8, then the 302, and finally the 351 Cleveland. Performance was not an issue; I recall one high-speed run on a recent Copperstate 1000 with Colin Comer and some of the other Cobra boys where our Italia stayed with the pack as speeds entered the low three-digits.

If Italias offered the styling as described in the Classic & Sports Car article and performance that lets you keep up with the big boys, why would one sell for under $50,000? Well, for one thing, their handling is a bit suspect. A 1971 Automobile Quarterly story reported that front suspension A-arms--sourced from Fiat pickups--could be bent by the weight of the V8 engine and thus alter the alignment.

I paid a premium for my car, as the previous owner had spent an inordinate amount of money having new springs and front suspension designed. The gas filler cap is also located low in the rear, which gives the unsuspecting an unpleasant surprise when the gas backs up during filling. I moved my filler to the top of the left fender.

All this aside, Kinney's Italia should have sold for more than what was realized here. He readily admits the venue was not conducive to selling a sports car, as the Swigart Collection was the attraction. There were only two bidders on his car, one a dealer who would have paid the $40,000 high bid, but no more, and the new owner who Kinney says would have gone at least another $5,000 if pushed.

Having admitted a prejudiced point of view, I'd still say the new owner got a heck of a buy on this car. Italias are getting stronger as collectors realize they offer an amazing amount of fun per dollar. They are relatively rare, as only 57 coupes and 354 open cars were produced during their six-year run, and they mate attractive styling with strong performance. Parts can be found at the local NAPA store, and the Ford V8 is no challenge to work on. My Italia won't leave my garage anytime soon; my wife and I have enjoyed 3,500 trouble-free, top-down miles so far.

Details

Years Produced: 1967-72

Number Produced: 411

Original List Price: $6,450 (1967), $10,000 (1971)

SCM Valuation: $40,000-$55,000

Tune-up Cost: $150

Distributor Caps: $10

Chassis # Location: Plate on firewall

Engine # Location: Under coil attaching bolt

Club Info: Intermeccanica Owners Registry, Tim Marriott, President 18699 E. Colorado Dr. Aurora, CO 80017; 303.752.2301

Website: click to visit

Alternatives: 1965-74 Iso Grifo, 1964-67 Sunbeam Tiger, 1965-69 Bizzarrini

Investment Grade: B


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