As Classic & Sports Car said in 1993: “The Italia may be one of the most gorgeously-styled cars ever made, but you may never have heard of it. The Italia is one of life’s great mysteries; it’s an especially beautiful car. It also looks curiously familiar... a touch of the Nembo Ferrari, or a NART Spyder, especially the grille. The only identification is two small badges, on the flanks, that say Carrozzeria IM and are adorned with rampant bull emblems. What is it? A Lamborghini? Nope. What you’re looking at is a genuine Intermeccanica Italia.”
It’s an Italian chassis with some modified Ford bits, and a steel body hand-formed in Turin. The Italia is a
descendent of the Griffith GT, whose chief engineer was a young engineering graduate named Mark Donohue. When Donohue and Jack Griffith couldn’t make a go of it, Steve Wilder, Sports Car Illustrated writer and MIT engineering graduate with honors, got Lee Holman of Holman and Moody to do more development of a high-performance Ital-American car, the Omega. This was followed by a few cars built under the name Torino until Ford objected. The final flowering
occurred when Frank Reisner’s Carrozzeria IM completely assembled a few hundred Italias in Turin, with excellent quality control and with the benefit of four years of engineering development.
Most early test reports were favorable. As David E. Davis said about the Omega in Car and Driver in 1967, “Everything about the design is clean. There’s an expensive feeling of quality about the whole vehicle, fit and finish are excellent. But enough looking—what about driving? The driving is, quite truthfully, a pure song, dyed in the wool, absolute gas... 150 good hard miles and from our standpoint the Omega was a complete success.” Sports Car Graphic said in 1970, “handling wasn’t bad, not too good, but not too bad... but it has the potential to be the FoMoCo version of the ’Vette. And it’s a lot more exciting.”
The vehicle pictured here had a ground-up restoration to a very high standard. The engine is brand-new, with four Weber carbs. The interior is black Connolly leather, stitched and piped in red, and the car is fitted with a black Haartz canvas top. Famous trumpeter Miles Davis once owned this stunning hybrid.
|Vehicle:||1971 Intermeccanica Italia|
|Number Produced:||Approx. 411 (354 conv., 57 coupes)|
|Original List Price:||$6,450 in 1968; $10,000 in 1971|
|Tune Up Cost:||$150|
|Chassis Number Location:||Plate on firewall ledge|
|Engine Number Location:||Under coil attaching bolt|
|Club Info:||Intermeccanica Owners Registry, Tim Marriott 303/752-2301|
|Alternatives:||Iso Grifo, Bizzarini, 450 Ghia SS, Sunbeam Tiger|
On January 19th, 2001, Barrett-Jackson sold this car for $48,600, including buyer’s premium. This price is 87% over SCM’s Price Guide high of $26,000. It’s the highest price paid at auction for an Italia I’ve been able to find. Close to the peak in 1991, B-J sold a 289/271hp version for $44,000. But in 1996, a very original Italia with 6,559 miles, from the John McCaw collection, didn’t sell at an $18,000 high bid. And at Brooks’s 2000 Hershey auction, a nicely restored Italia coupe went unsold at $24,000.
So why this high price? Was it the Barrett-Jackson magic? Well, this year’s B-J event was a record breaker in many ways, with more bidders than ever before, the highest sales—$27 million—in 11 years and a closing rate of 83%. Of the 3,200 registered bidders, it was rumored that 200 had lines of credit of $1 million or better.
So the venue was right. The car was beautifully done as well, with expensive Borrani wires, and a crowd gathered around it all week. The attentive seller’s agent was friendly and available, albeit somewhat vague about any questions of originality or history.
With its four downdraft Webers on a built 351 Cleveland, the engine gladdens the heart of any hot-rodder. The Italia had excellent paint and a new, if not to original spec, black interior with red piping. Ignoring originality (how many know or care what’s correct, anyway), it was a very attractive, deep black, 95-point street rod with a genuine but convoluted Italian pedigree. And as Craig Jackson said this year,“Muscle cars are hot, but street rods are even hotter.” Perhaps the price
reflects the attraction of the combination of the sinuous Italian styling and the brute-force American engine.
So for $46K, the new owner has a gorgeous, solidly restored, good-handling street rod with a genuine Italian chassis, body and provenance. Chances are this price is not repeatable outside Jackson’s Scottsdale arena, but even at $30,000, a well-done Italia offers eye-catching lines with tire-smoking American power, a potent combination.—John Apen
Caveat lector: The author, a long-time Ferrari owner, just finished a restoration on his 1971 Italia convertible, S/N 409, and is enjoying the combination of Ferrari-esque styling coupled with $150 tune-ups (that won’t even buy you one of the two distributor caps needed for a 275 GTS) to such a degree that the paragraphs above should not be construed as dispassionate investment advice.