Friday, April 20, 2012

1963 Apollo - Had I Known More About An Apollo 6 Years Ago, I Might Not Be Doing This Today...


Just a Car Geek might not exist had it not been for an Apollo. Seriously.
 
Back in 2006, I went to the Lime Rock Park Vintage Fall Festival with a friend. As we were leaving I spotted an Apollo on the hill in the parking area. I had to check it out before we left. My friend, who is now a full blown car geek, but was then a car geek in the making, asked me a bunch of questions about the car. I didn't have all the answers. 
 
A day or two later I did some research and emailed some links to her. Looking back on my email a little later, I sent her another one, apologizing for the first one being so dry and technical. She wrote back, saying she enjoyed reading it and that it was a nice "break" from her work routine. I started sending daily emails about unusual and obscure cars, titling them "Car Geek Break". (It was because of her I that acquired the "car geek" moniker.) Those emails - which went on for over a year - eventually led to me writing this blog. 
 
So there you have it. Without that first email, there would have been no "Car Geek Breaks". Without the "Car Geek Breaks", there would have been no Just a Car Geek blog... And it all started because I wasn't as knowledgeable about an Apollo as I should have been. (Knowledge definitely is power, but sometimes a little lack of knowledge can lead to good things, too...)
 

The Apollo was the idea of a man named Milt Brown. He wanted to build an American car that could compete with the European GTs. Brown met  Frank Reisner and struck a deal whereby Reisner's company, Intermeccanica, built and trimmed the steel bodies in Turin, Italy and then sent them to Oakland, California, where the drive train was installed. The finished cars were sold by Brown's International Motorcars of Oakland.
 
The Apollo's body was designed by Ron Plescia (a friend of Milt Brown) and Franco Scaglione. (Scaglione designed the Alfa Romeo B.A.T.s, the Giulietta Sprint and Sprint Speciale, among others.)  The engine was Buick's aluminum V8, the same engine that later - after being sold to Rover - went on to power Rovers, the Triumph TR8, Morgans, MGs and many more.  
 

According to most sources (and, as is typical with hand built Italian cars, there are varying numbers, depending on the source), 88 cars were built in total; 76 coupes, 11 convertibles, and a 2+2 coupe prototype. Most, if not all, were sold in the US. Many were later fitted with larger, usually Chevy, V8s. 
 
This one is interesting and has a unique history. The seller writes: "There were reported to have been seven cars that were sold off the boat directly and completed by their owners. This occurred when the company ran short of cash and needed a quick infusion. All except one of these cars were completed (five got small block Chevy motors, one got a small block Ford) and put on the road within a few months of being purchased. This is that car. It was reportedly sold to a sailor in the Merchant Marine, who trailered it to a small shed in a large industrial park outside of San Francisco. He started to disassemble the car in preparation to install the drivetrain, cooling system, steering, wiring harness, etc., when he apparently got a call to duty. He locked the shed and sailed off, never to be heard from again. The car remained in the locked shed where it stayed, without drivetrain, etc, from 1963 until 2004,when the industrial park came under new management. The new management company conducted an inventory, at which time the small shed was determined to have been abandoned and the lock was cut off the door. The Apollo was discovered sitting on jack stands, wheels in the corner and windows rolled up. The paint had suffered damage from the chemicals in the surrounding air, but the entire car was was just as it was left in 1963. The management company took possession of the car in payment for past rent on the building and through a series of coincidences, I bought the car from them a few months later.
 
The seller assembled this car with help from Apollo founder, Milt Brown. It has a Chevy 327 V8 in it with 3 two-barrel carbs. 
 
I realize that this is not your typical Just a Car Geek car, but the story of this car (and the Apollo's importance in  the history  - such as it is-  of the blog) made it too cool to pass up.
 
 
Located in Franklin, TN, click here to see the eBay listing.

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