Monday, June 6, 2011

Apollo GT - Why Wasn't This Car A Big Success?

by Mike - 

The Apollo GT was an American made sports car produced from 1962 to 1964 in Oakland, California. The Apollo project was the dream of Milt Brown and Newt Davis, who wanted to build an American car to compete with Aston Martins and Ferraris. Not compete on the racetrack but as a street sports car.

Engineered by Milt Brown, with styling by Ron Plescia, the prototype featured Italian handmade aluminum bodywork by Corno Coachworks in Turin, Italy. A 215 cid or a 300 cid Buick engine powered the Apollo. The top speed was claimed to be 150 mph.

After the prototype Intermeccanica of Turin, Italy built all Apollos with steel bodies. The original design had a few problems; the nose was too long and the rear vision limited, so former Bertone stylist Franco Scaglione was hired to revise it.

In the beginning it seemed like the Apollo was going to be a big success. However, Brown and Davis were losing money and needed to sell the company. Ironically, the more Apollo GTs they sold, the more money they lost. Neither Milt Brown nor Newt Davis had ever done a cost analysis on the production and marketing of the Apollo. At $6,000, the selling price was too low.

Altogether 76 coupes, 11 convertibles and the prototype 2+2 were made for a total of 88 Apollos built between 1961 and 1965 when Apollo was sold to Vanguard Industries, an aftermarket supplier of auto air conditioners in Dallas, Texas. Vanguard sold the Apollo as the Vetta Ventura and built only 11 cars.

A third attempt to produce the Apollo was by attorney Robert Stevens. His Apollo International Company of Pasadena, California completed only 14 cars, with foreman Otto Becker finishing another six.

This 1964 Apollo GT was at the Marin Sonoma Concours d'Elegance in May 2011.

The automotive press loved the Apollo GT:

In November 1963 Road & Track wrote: "Our experience in the Apollo has been both brief and pleasant. The car is quite comfortable (even for extra tall occupants) and well finished. In general, the Apollo is a very appealing automobile, put together with loving care under the supervision of Brown and Davis in this country, and Frank Reisner, head of Intermeccanica, in Italy. The whole conception is basically sound and the company directors have proven to R&T that they are interested in producing a quality automobile and have the interest of the customer at heart."

Click on the images for a larger view.

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  1. I attended a car show in Baltimore several weeks ago and there was a 1965 Apollo Convertible, #9 If you want the pictures let me know how to get them to you. I didn't see a way to post them here.

  2. I would love those pictures. I have not seen an Apollo convertible, there were only 11 made.

    You can email them to me at:

    Thank you

  3. Thank you, I got them. It is interesting that this convertible looks like the same color combination as the coupe in this post.

  4. Don't know if those were the original colors. The flyer mentioned that the car had been restored "under the supervision of Milt Brown", the original engineer.

  5. Gabriele,

    Thank you - I love compliments - please share with your friends who also may like My Car Quest.

  6. Hey Mike:

    Thanks for the article on the Apollo GT. But for historical accuracy, you must state that body/chassis units were sold to Fred Ricketts of Vanguard in Dallas, Texas. The agreement (I've got a copy) was to sell Intermeccanica's inventory of body/chassis units to keep them going while Ned Davis found new financing. That eventually ended up being the selling of the company's assets to Robert Stevens, city attorney for San Marina CA.

    He never fulfilled his obligations..

    The car featured on your site is Meg Eves' car, no. 1012. It is the first Buick 300 cu. in. engined car. And is the only car delivered with Halibrand mag wheels. All others had Boranni wires.

    The convertible -- pictures of which you just received -- is Jack Triplett's car, and was restored by Milt Brown himself in the 1990s.

    If you want more info, I'm happy to put together a more detailed history.

    Best regards,
    Robb Northrup
    President, Apollo Owners Registry

  7. Mike, just to follow up on my comment, the agreement between International Motor Cars (Apollo) and Vanguard stipulated that Vanguard's cars could not be called Apollos. In fact, Tom Johnson was finishing the Vanguard run of Vetta Venturas when Robert Stevens was assembling Apollos.

    Strange but true.

    Robb Northrup
    President, Apollo Owners Registry

  8. Robb,

    Thanks for the information. I always am looking to expand my knowledge of these wonderful cars.

    I would like more information, send to me at;

  9. I think that I may have the all time Apollo Conv. restoration story. About 12 years ago I purchased conv. #13 (with the help of Milt Brown.) Under his guidance my girlfriend and I purchased sight unseen the last car imported and sold at customs auction after Milt declared bankruptcy. The painted and upholstered car complete with P. tires, b. wire wheels, and all chrome was purchased and stored in L,A. from 1965 until my purchase in 1999. We completed the car as Milt told us all the details of the mechanics needed-300 engine (1965 only), avanti disc and chevy pick-up drums (looked more Italian thru the wires and so on. We trailered the car to Meadowbrook, won a AACA National First at Hersery, and enjoyed Amelia Is and the way back to Oregon. I enjoy the restoration process and having the builder of the car as my guide has been the high point of my many restorations over the years. We sold the car to a good home and when on to restore a 1961 Fiat Abarth 1000 GT twin cam factory race car. Cordially, Rob Phillips, 253-861-6066.

  10. Rob,

    Very interesting, please send me an email at