Wright Agency Car of the Week: 1971 Intermeccanica Italia Spyder

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When one thinks of a “hybrid” car, they typically envision a Toyota Prius, or another vehicle using a mix of fossil fuel and electric power. But before the electrical revolution, there was another kind of hybrid car, when European styling was combined with American power.

Enter Intermeccanica.

Founded by Frank and Paula Reisner in Turin, Italy, the company’s long, convoluted history started in the late 1950s making power kits for popular European cars.

They story of the Italia Spyder actually starts with Jack Griffith, a car builder from New York, who was stuffing Ford V8 engines into the small TVR chassis. When the English TVR chassis production ran dry, he turned to the Reisners and Intermeccanica to build a chassis and body for his next car.

Designed by Bob Cumberford, this new Griffith was more bespoke with a custom chassis and interior instead of using a standard design like that from TVR.

The first prototype – crowned the “Griffith GT” – appeared at the 1965 New York Auto show. Almost as fast as the 2,250-body order was made, Griffith’s company went belly-up, leaving Intermeccanica with expensive tooling and rigs, but nothing to build.

Intermeccanica had no choice but to produce the car in Italy.

By the time Ford had agreed and started shipping engines, transmissions, rear axles, and more (mostly borrowed from the Mustang) to Intermeccanica’s factory in Turin, Italy, the Reisners had changed the name of the car to Torino.

This move was overturned by Ford, who had the Gran Torino themselves, so the Reisners settled on Italia, and put added the script across the nose of the car to avoid further confusion.

The final product was not an instant classic, but a well-respected Italian-American hybrid. This example is owned by Chuck Reimel of Reimel Motor Cars in West Chester, where it is now for sale.

“This particular Spyder features new black leather seating and sisal floor mats, a new tonneau cover and Haartz Stayfast cloth top, Dayton knock-off wire wheels, and a beautiful Rosso Corsa exterior finish,” said Reimel, who came across the car via a local customer and waited patiently for the car to become available for sale.

The power from the Ford Windsor V8 has been bumped up to 400 horsepower, mated to the standard four-speed manual transmission and housed in a tubular chassis with a hand-shaped steel body.

“This chassis was shipped here in October 1970 to a company named IMI in Los Angeles.”

According to Reimel, it wasn’t an easy arrival.

“I was e-mailing with Intermeccanica co-founder Paula Reisner, who told me this was one of the shipment of cars that Frank Reisner had to fly to California to collect off the arrival wharf personally, because IMI had gone out of business between the time it ordered the cars and the date of landing,” said Reimel. “The cars from this shipment were subsequently sold by a company called Marv Tonkin in Portland, Oregon.

“I’ve enjoyed her all summer and am proud to be a custodian of the car while we search for her new owner.”

If you’d like to meet Chuck Reimel and see the Intermeccanica in person, join him at the Radnor Hunt Concours d’Elegance at the Radnor Hunt Club on Sunday, Sept. 9. Tickets are on sale here, and the event benefits Thorncroft Equestrian Center in Malvern.

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The Wright Agency, located at 1142 Horseshoe Pike in Downingtown and led by Jonathan Wright, is a family-owned, independent insurance agency that has been serving the individuals, families, and businesses of Chester County since 1977. Call Jonathan at 610-269-6115 for a fast, friendly, and free, no-obligation insurance quote. Click here for more information on The Wright Agency.

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