The story of Intermeccanica is a long and roundabout tale of good ideas, roadblocks, hiccups, missteps and just a bit of success. The company was founded in Turin, Italy in 1959 by Frank and Paula Reisner; two enthusiasts who had a particular love for all things Italian. Frank had experience with designing racing cars for Giannini, and their new business, named Intermeccanica, initially focused on tuning parts such as carburetor kits and big-bore exhaust systems for Fiat, Peugeot, Simca and other smallbore European cars.
They soon tried their hands at building their own race cars in the form of a Peugeot-powered Formula Junior, soon shifting focus to road cars with a small, alloy bodied car based on the tiny 500cc Daimler-Styer-Puch. Much like what Carlo Abarth did with Fiat, the IMP (Intermeccanica-Puch) was based on a humble chassis, fitted a lightweight alloy body and tuned for rallying and circuit racing. The IMP managed moderate success including an upset class win at the Nurburgring. Flush with confidence, 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.
Following the failure of two partnerships (with Jack Griffith and Steve Wilder) in the attempt to get the project off the ground, Intermeccanica realized the only way to succeed with the new car, now called Italia, was to build it in-house. The car featured a chassis designed by ex-BRM designer John Crosthwaite, wrapped in a svelte steel body designed by Robert Cumberford, and tweaked by the legendary Bertone man Franco Scaglione, lending serious credibility to Intermeccanica. A deal was eventually 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. Today, these cars remain very collectible thanks to their proper Italian sports car style, reliable and powerful American drivetrain and very good build quality. These are proper, hand crafted and thoroughly engineered cars, not to be confused with a kit car or homebuilt special.
This 1972 Intermeccanica Italia Spyder is from the final year of production before the Opel-based Indra took the Italia’s place. It is a highly original example finished in silver over black with a black convertible top. A pretty and very correct car, it was recently shown at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance in Connecticut and has been shown and driven a great deal by its previous owners. The steel body is in very good order, with good, factory-appropriate panel fit and crisp body lines. Silver paint gives it an understated look, which is in attractive condition with deep gloss and only a few minor flaws that have come from regular enjoyment. The headlight “sugar scoops” are blacked out for an aggressive look and the car rides on a set of Cromadora Dino-style alloy wheels in place of the typical Magnum 500s. Chrome bumpers as well as lights and trim are all in very good order.
The interior is excellent, trimmed in original black upholstery on the seats and door cards. Black carpets are in fine condition and the black soft top fits taut and snug. The center console houses switches for the electric windows, a typically ornate Italian ash tray (for smoking in style, we assume) and controls for the HVAC. The dash is typical early 1970s Italian – austere, wrapped in black leather and with an aviation-like purposefulness to the layout. The original radio and instruments are in place and in excellent order.
Under the hood is Ford’s proven, reliable and incredibly stout 351-Cleveland V8, lending the Italia a serious turn of speed. The presentation under the hood is very respectable, the prior owners having resisted the urge to modify the car with modern speed parts. Ford blue paint on the engine, as well as the satin black engine bay is all in very tidy condition. Even the original Italian under-hood insulation remains intact and in excellent condition. The engine is backed by a four-speed manual Top Loader transmission, which is built to handle the torque of the big 351C. This Italia is a very attractive example that is ripe for enjoyment on the road, yet has been maintained in a show-worthy condition. Included in the sale is a copy of the original bill of sale, as well as the original owner’s manual. The Italia was one of the best of the Italian-American hybrids, a finely built car produced by a passionate enthusiast for the pure love of Italian machinery.
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