The story of Intermeccanica is a long and slightly convoluted tale of good ideas, roadblocks, hiccups, missteps and successes. Intermeccanica was founded in Turin, Italy in 1959 by Frank and Paula Reisner; a pair of Canadians who happened to fall in love with Italy while on vacation. Initially, they supplied tuning parts such as carburetor kits and big-bore exhaust systems for Fiat, Peugeot, Simca and other small-engined European cars. They soon tried their hands at building race cars with a Peugeot-powered Formula Junior that was well built but got quickly outshone by the rear-engined British Fords. Frank and Paula then shifted focus to road cars and built a small, alloy bodied car based on the tiny 500cc Daimler-Styer-Puch. Much like an Abarth Fiat 500, the Intermeccanica-Puch took a small people car chassis and fitted a lightweight alloy body and tuned engine suitable for rallying and circuit racing. The Intermeccanica-Puch managed moderate success and soon Frank and Paula quickly moved on to bigger and better things. The Apollo GT was Intermeccanica’s first proper complete road car, powered by 3.5L or 4.9L Buick V8 engines fitted into a hand-built Italian body. After the Apollo came the Italia, a car that, through several twists and turns of failed business partnerships became Intermeccanica’s most successful model. The steel body had the styling tweaked by the legendary Scaglietti, lending serious credibility to this newcomer. A deal was struck with Ford Motor Company to supply engines, transmissions, rear axles and Magnum 500 wheels from the Mustang. As the Mustang evolved, so did the Italia: The 289 V8 led to the 302, and finally to the big 351C. Components were shipped to Turin, Italy and installed in tubular chassis and bodies built in-house at Intermeccanica.
One of only 56 coupes built, this 1971 Italia is in very good overall condition. It retains its original Ford 351 Cleveland engine, 4-speed T-10 transmission and Ford rear end. The hand-made steel body is solid and straight with great paintwork and excellent chrome trim. It is believed to have had one repaint approximately 20 years ago, and it still looks fresh and pleasing with only a few blemishes from regular use. Careful mechanical upgrades have been made to improve handling and drivability without sacrificing the original feel. The front suspension has been updated and improved, and brakes have been upgraded to 11 ¼” Wilwood discs on all four corners. A set of new Magnum 500 15 x 6.5” wheels has been fitted to clear the larger brakes. The correct and original 351C was recently treated to a full rebuild with roller rockers, aluminum intake, and Mallory ignition. Cooling has been suitably improved with a high-quality Griffin aluminum radiator and high performance Edelbrock water pump. This Italia now runs very strong and keeps a cool head in today’s traffic. Inside the cabin, the original leather interior has been refurbished and presents well with no rips or tears, but some heavy patina is evident with cracking on the surface of the seats. The dash, door panels and carpet are in very good original condition.
The Intermeccanica Italia has a strong collector following thanks to a fascinating history, ties to Ford Motor Company and Scaglietti, as well as for its thundering performance. It is an attractive and usable sports car that has the cachet of a hand built Italian body along with an easily serviced American power plant. Collectors have been paying greater attention to 1970’s “Hybrids” (American engine, European chassis) and values of many similar cars are on the rise. As one of only 56 coupes out of less than 600 total cars, and one of a handful with an original 351C engine, this Italia is sure to remain highly collectible and welcome at shows, tours and events.
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