This is the first Apollo 3500 GT Spider that was ever built, just 5 Spider versions of the Apollo 3500 GT would be made in total, and this is the only one with the all-aluminum Buick V8.
The Apollo 3500 GT
The story of the Apollo GT is a tale of determination with a sprinkling of luck. Young automobile engineer Milt Brown was living in England in the early 1960s and working as a race car designer for Emeryson.
Along with friends Ron Plescia and Ned Davis, Brown dreamed of starting a sports car marque in the United States that would be able to compete with the best European GT cars, but using far more affordable American engines, transmission, and running gear. An idea shared by the likes of Carroll Shelby, Alejandro de Tomaso, and Giotto Bizzarrini – to name just a few.
A chance meeting at the 1961 Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix would see Brown talking to Frank Reisner – the founder of Construzione Automobili Intermeccanica, a company that could build sports car bodies in Italy using the country’s expert craftsmen.
This kicked off a series of events that resulted in the Ron Plescia-designed Apollo 3500 GT entering production, with a chassis developed by Brown, built by Intermeccanica in Italy, and fitted with Buick engines, transmissions, and running gear.
Image: The 1963 San Francisco Imported Car Show, with the Apollo 3500 GT in the foreground and the 3500 GT Spider in the background to the left. This is the same Spider shown here.
Interestingly the team behind the Apollo opted to use the then-new Buick 215 cu. in. all-aluminum V8. It was the lightest production V8 in the world at the time, tipping the scales at just 318 lbs (144 kgs). Although this engine would only be in production with Buick for a few years in the early 1960s it would have a significant impact on the motoring world.
It would be a (very, very) highly modified Buick 215 V8 that would propel Jack Brabham to the Formula 1 world championship in the back of his Brabham-Repco in 1966, making him the first and only man in history to win the championship driving one of his own cars.
Once the engine left production with Buick the rights and tooling were bought by Rover in Britain, they modified the engine somewhat and it became the most popular V8 engine in the country for decades. The complete list of cars fitted with a Rover V8 is far too long to list here, but it includes names like Morgan, Land Rover, MG, TVR, Range Rover, Triumph, Ginetta, Rover, Leyland, and more. Remarkably, the engine is still in production with specialist manufacturers today.
As far as we can tell, the team behind the Apollo 3500 GT were the first low-capacity automobile marque to recognise the potential for the the engine and fit it to their vehicles.
The beautifully proportioned 3500 GT proved immediately popular, demand was strong and they were selling just as fast as they could build them. The biggest issue facing the company was the complexities of an international supply chain and a lack of capital to do large scale production runs.
By 1964 these difficulties became insurmountable and the company shut down after 88 Apollos had been built. A couple of other companies tried to keep the car in production and succeeded in producing a few dozen additional vehicles.
The surviving Apollos are now in great demand with collectors and enthusiasts, unlike their Italian and British contemporaries the Apollos are easy and cheap to maintain, further adding to their appeal.
The 1963 Apollo 3500 GT Spider Shown Here
The Apollo you see here is the first and one of only 5 convertibles ever built, it was the car displayed at the 1963 San Francisco Imported Car Show to drum up interest in the new convertible version.
This is doubtless one of the most historically significant Apollos, it was sold new to Dr. Hayden Gorden, a nuclear physicist in the Livermore Radiation Lab at the University of California, Berkeley. Later in its life it was restored personally by Milt Brown, its original chassis designer and the co-founder of the company that built it originally.
After its restoration the car was shown at the 1995 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance where it placed Second in Class, it was later shown at Apollo reunion gatherings as part of Concorso Italiano in Monterey in California.
The car is now due to roll across the auction block with Worldwide Auctioneers on the 5th of October, there’s no reserve price and you can click here if you’d like to read more about it or register to bid.
Images courtesy of Worldwide Auctioneers
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