Monday, January 11, 2010

Intermeccanica Torino / Italia Coupe on eBay

Being middle-age, I'm often asked if I wish I were younger. Nope. I'm pretty happy as I am. Anyway, age means nothing. It's a number. I've met cool old people and cool kids. I've met old fools and young fools.

If anything, I might wish I was a little older so I could have seen, driven and experienced cars like this when they were new.

This is not the usual JaCG type of car, but it's the type of story I love. It's a car that could only have happened "back in the day". Cars and stories like this will never happen again. The History Channel ought to do a series on cars like this one...

The story of the Italia / Torino goes something like this...

Jack Griffith, of TVR Griffith fame, was, for all intents and purposes, the car's creator. When Griffith could no longer get TVR bodies to drop Ford V8s into, he turned to Bob Cumberford to design a body for a new car. He then contracted with Turin, Italy, based Automobili Intermeccanica to produce a chassis and Cumberford's body.

The original plan called for Automobili Intermeccanica to build and ship approximately 2000 body-chassis units to Griffith in Long Island, where Griffith would then add a Ford V8 and Ford transmission and rear-end. The car was to be called a Griffith.

This all seemed like a great idea, until Griffith ran out of money and closed his business. To the best of my limited knowledge, no Griffith badged cars were built, with the possible exception of the one shown at the 1965 New York Auto Show. (Which means I probably saw this car, as I've been told that my dad started taking me to the New York Auto Show when I was a very young child. I only remember some of the later shows.)

A small number of bodies had already been shipped to the US. Engineer Steve Wilder bought the bodies and teamed up with the car's designer, Cumberford. They moved production of the car to Holman and Moody facilities in North Carolina. They changed the name of the car to "Omega". Around 80 Omegas were built before Wilder pulled the plug on the endeavor.

This left Automobili Intermeccanica with the very expensive tooling and some unfinished cars, but nowhere to ship them. They started importing Ford engines and built the car themselves. They set up a US distribution deal with a Triumph importer. By this time the car was called the Torino, but not for long. Ford was using that name on one of their cars and objected. The name was changed again. This time to Italia.

In stock form, the car was fast. It was able to hit 60 in 6.4 seconds. Most of the suspension was mix of Fiat and Ford parts. Like many of the 1960s / early 1970s European-American hybrids, the suspension was not 100% up to the task of handling so much power. Still, it's been said that it was a safe and fun car to drive once you mastered its tendency to oversteer.

The car being offered on eBay is interesting. It's a 1967, which means it's most likely an Intermeccanica built car. However, the seller states that he believes the car has a Holman and Moody 289 HiPo (high performance) engine in it, which makes this car a hybrid of two of the car's manufacturers. I assume, but don't really know, that the Holman and Moody engine did not originally come with this car.

Intermeccanica eventually brought in Franco Scaglione to create a spyder version, which far outsold the coupe. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 Griffith / Omega / Torino / Italia cars were built in total from 1965 - 1973. I've seen one or two spyders at cars shows, but never a coupe. This is a rare car.

The pictures in the eBay listing are not very good. The car is tucked away in a garage in Burlington CT, which I assume made taking full pictures of the car a chore. You can find the eBay listing here. As I write this (Sunday afternoon), the car has been on eBay for less than a day and has 23 bids on it by 9 separate bidders. It will be interesting to see what this car sells for.

Below is a picture of a restored Italia coupe, courtesy of the Intermeccanica Enthusiasts Club.

If anyone has more info about the Griffith / Omega / Torino / Italia cars, please post it in the comments section.


Anonymous said...

So what did it sell for?

Motorace said...

Correction - Only 33 "Omega" cars were built by Wilder at Holman & Moody, and three of those had to be destroyed in Federal Crash Safety Testing!!!

Thanks for posting these pictures - I missed the eBay listing. Wonder what it sold for???

Unknown said...

About 30 years ago I’ve driven and repaired an Italia Torino. I think the car was a 1969 or 1970. The power plant was a Ford 351ci Cleveland engine with a cracked exhaust manifold (Hence the repair). The brakes were Volvo, although they were never mentioned in your article. Sorry I don’t have any pictures.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I owned a 1967 GRiffith Back in 1969-70 it had a chrysler 273ci mated to a 3speed chrysler torqueflite.It was a coupe and I still have some pictures from back in the day.A very unique car for its day,John B Huntington NY

Anonymous said...

Brings back memories. I had the good fortune to actually drive a 351 powered italia coupe which was owned by a guy who also owned a 427 and a 289 cobra. I sold him a boss 351. He already owned a boss 429 and a boss 302. I am really pleased that I got to exercise these great cars when they were there to drive instead of admiring. Glorious times indeed. The italia was a bit front heavy with the 351 but with a 4 speed and the low look it was great. I have not seen any others I over 30 plus years. But a broad smile comes over my fce when I even look at the restored car in the picture h w attached. Thank you eve so much for the trip down memory lane. Ole. Sargent.

Anonymous said...

Back in 1967, my friends father, an affluent heart surgeon purchased what was called (perhaps erroneously) an "Italian Torino". It was a coupe with a HiPo 289 ford motor with a 4-speed. If I recall, it cost about $7,000 which was a LOT of money then! It had acceleration that would PIN the occupants to the back of the seats! I've only ever seen one other similar car and that one was a convertible.