Hooniverse Bookcase: Intermeccanica, The Story of the Prancing Bull

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Intermeccanica is one name that I occasionally glimpse on the prow of a parked exotic, and wish I knew more about. Finally, armed with a copy of Intermeccanica by Veloce Publishing, a week’s camping holiday gave me a chance to get to grips with this most intriguing of marques.
That I hungrily devoured each of its information-packed 186 pages is a strong hint towards my final verdict in this review.

 
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There are few marques that could be chronicled in quite the manner as this one. Intermeccanica was very much the childhood dream made real of one man, Hungarian-born, Canadian-raised Frank Reisner. Behind every great man, etc, and his wife Paula lived up to this maxim as an indispensable provider of administrative assistance, drive and determination.
And hope, too, when things went wrong. As we find as we journey through the book, written by Andrew McCredie from notes and stories told by Paula Reisner who worked alongside Frank in dealing with every single little nuance of Intermeccanica’s chequered existence, up to and beyond her husband’s death.
This is way more than your typical gearheads book of chrome and grease. This is also a book about the failings of the human condition.
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I had no idea of Intermeccanica’s inception, though it struck a chord with me as I sat in my folding camping chair. Frank and Paula’s company was first intellectually incorporated while the two holidayed in a tent in Turin that the brand name was born, as a company providing tuning parts for European cars. The catalogue was compiled under canvas and promotion was via a small advert in the cheaper, back pages of Road and Track, with correspondence via a PO Box in Turin.
To say that the business blossomed was an understatement. Better still, it provided finance for the Reisners to do what they always wanted. To build cars.
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Marketing is made much easier when you can identify an emerging trend, and the first Intermeccanica car took advantage of changes afoot in the world of open-wheel motorsport – creating the first Formula Junior car with a rear mounted engine. Alas, though the one prototype built was campaigned successfully after being sold, it didn’t lead to large-scale production.
However, it served well as a proof that the Reisners had what it took to conceive, design and build cars. If not to market them effectively.
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The cars that everybody remembers Intermeccanica for are without a doubt the beautiful Apollo, Italia and Indra, fusing unmistakable lines by Scaglietti with American powertrains of descriptions, includinf the 215ci Buick and the 327ci Corvette V8s, with the odd 428ci Cobra for good measure.
That the cars were good goes without saying. The big difficulties that Reisner faced were ones of trust and the ability to sort out a reliable distribution network. Even allowing for any impartiality that Paula Reisner may harbour, the operation did seem to encounter more than its fair share of villains, some of them individuals, and some of them multinational organisations. Neither Fiat nor GM are painted in the most positive of lights.
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Intermeccanica as a European concern was driven out of business in the early ’70s, leading the Reisners to gather everything up and return to Canada, where they met several decades earlier. There they would regroup and eventually become known for what seems to have become regarded as one of the finest Porsche 356 replicas ever seen. I won’t go on – you need to read the book.
It’s quite unlike any other car title I’ve read before, being as much about heart and soul as technical insight – of which there is plenty. It works as a coffee table book that you can dip in and out of, or as a nourishing work of reference that you has you hanging on every page turn. The photography is both lushly illustrative and technically interesting, coming directly from the records of the great Frank Reisner himself. Finally there’s a comprehensive build list of all of every Apollo, Italia and Indra ever built, complete with specific variations.
I think of myself as quite demanding when it comes to books, but this one satisfied every one of my criteria. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
(All images are of Intermeccanica, The Story of the Prancing Bull, published by Veloce. ISBN 978-1-845842-49-9. It was bought and paid for, and worth every penny)

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  1. Van_Sarockin Avatar
    Van_Sarockin

    Very nice. I’ve always had a very large soft spot for the many Italian Etceterini (as should we all). This makes me want to know a great deal more about Intermeccanica.

    1. Batshitbox Avatar
      Batshitbox

      The Apollo was largely a San Francisco Bay Area effort, designed by an Art Center of Pasadena grad and assembled in Oakland.

    1. Van_Sarockin Avatar
      Van_Sarockin

      One beetle is pretty much the same as another.

      1. Batshitbox Avatar
        Batshitbox

        Until you paint one in Gulf Livery!

  2. desmo Avatar
    desmo

    Any manufacturer of Volkswagen-based replicas did bite the dust in the seventies, when Porsche ordered VW to disallow registration of cars based on “shortened chassis” of the Beetle. In other words these cars could no longer become street legal. AFAIK there were only three survivors:
    Meyers Manx USA ( Not in service anymore).
    Apal P.G.O of France: http://www.pgo.fr/en
    Scheib Ansbach of Germany: http://www.automobil-scheib-ltd.de
    Other manufacturers had to use the “long chassis” of the Beetle, which made their cars look dull and somehow stupid. I really like P.G.O beause they still use the shortened chassis and combine it with modern engines.

    1. Batshitbox Avatar
      Batshitbox

      Aha! See? That’s where Intermeccanica’s subtle cunning wins out! They make replicas of Volkswagens. True, they are, in concept, based on Volkswagens, but somehow the Teutonic propensity for literalism gives that a pass.

      1. desmo Avatar
        desmo

        I must admit that I have never seen a Porsche replica by Intermeccanica live. But I pretty much doubt that it will look good. Beetle chassis means Beetle chassis. You cannot overlook it. It is the redheaded daywalker of automobile bodies.

        1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

          The Intermeccanica effort didn’t use a Beetle chassis. It was bespoke for their replica, which was anything but a ‘kit car’.

        2. Alff Avatar
          Alff

          Don’t sell them short. They are very well done.

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