The Rare Apollo GT, an “American Ferrari,” Is Finally Getting Its Due
An Italian-built body with a Buick V8? No, you’re not dreaming.
In the year 2023, if I told you about a Frankensteinian vehicle that crossed a Buick with a Ferrari, you’d probably do a spit take (or, depending on how you feel about the Prancing Horse’s SUV, point to the Purosangue). But in the year 1963, what feels like an impossibility was a reality, albeit briefly.
That’s the model year for the Apollo 3500 GT that’s set to be auctioned off Thursday at RM Sotheby’s Arizona sale. There’s a modern sports car brand known as Apollo Automobili, but this Apollo was started in 1962 in the U.S. by engineer Milt Brown of California. As the auction house puts it, Brown “[sought] to create an American grand tourer to compete with the likes of Aston Martin, Ferrari and Jaguar.”
To do so, Brown took a bunch of American components (some taken from the Buick Special, some from Chevrolet, as well as a BorgWarner transmission and most importantly a Buick V8 engine) and wrapped them in an Italian-built body. The body design was originally conceived by an art student friend of Brown, Ron Plescia, but was finished by Italian automotive designer Franco Scaglione (who was really ahead of his time), and the coachwork was constructed by Intermeccanica in Turin, Italy.
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The final product had a lot of appeal for U.S. buyers. The use of American components meant the Apollo GT was much easier to work on stateside than its Italian counterparts, and then there were the performance upgrades, like the lightweight build (RM Sotheby’s notes that, at 2,300 pounds, the Apollo GT was 500 pounds lighter than a Jaguar E-Type).
According to the auction house, only 41 examples of the Apollo GT were built by Brown’s company, International Motor Cars (though other entities tried to pick up the mantle afterwards, pushing total production into the 80s). This 1963 Apollo 3500 GT set to be auctioned off is just the second one ever built, chassis number 1004, and features a numbers-matching engine (all-aluminum Buick 3.5-liter V8) and chassis.
As Ben Branch explains at Silodrome, “The difficulties of keeping a low-volume car in production were many, and the Apollo GT had the additional complications of an international supply chain,” which led to the end of the car’s life with International Motor Cars.
But just because the Apollo brand never lived up to the nickname “the American Ferrari” doesn’t mean that the cars themselves haven’t. The curiosities are apparently picking up steam in the collector market, with this example expected to sell for up to $200,000.
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