My Car Quest

March 17, 2018

The Apollo GT – Italian Craftsmanship With American Power & Engineering

by Mike –

The Apollo project was the dream of Americans Milt Brown and Newt Davis, who wanted to build an American car to compete with Aston Martin and Ferrari. They did not intend to compete on the racetrack but as a street sports GT car.

Apollo GT Prototype

Apollo GT Prototype in Monterey, California – 2013

In this article I found the first owner of a rare Apollo GT (see the photo below) and decades after the original owner let it go I was able to help with the sale of this very same Apollo GT to a new owner who has now started the restoration process.

Unfinished Apollo GT

Unfinished Apollo GT – 1966

Text by Robert Northrup

While the Apollo GT was one of the best marriages of Italian style with American muscle, many enthusiasts are unaware of this Ferrari contender, built by hand in Italy and assembled in Oakland, California during 1963-65.

Apollo GT Prototype In Italy

Apollo GT Prototype In Italy

Apollo GT Model

Fiberglass Model – November 19, 1961

Its saga began in 1960, when a trio of Northern California twenty-somethings saw that imported sports cars had a major deficiency: while they were admired by enthusiasts for their exotic styling and high performance, foreign cars had also developed a nasty reputation for unreliability. Indeed it was a brave man who’d drive his Jag or Alfa in five o’clock traffic. And never on a cross-country trip.

Apollo GT

Prototype Construction

So, Milt Brown, Ron Plescia, and Ned Davis combined their resources to create a fast, powerful gran turismo in the tradition and style of Ferrari and Maserati, but with the room, reliability, and serviceability of a Buick. The result: The Apollo GT.

Apollo GT

Two Coupes At Concorso Italiano

Brown had designed race cars for Emeryson while living in England, so he had no trouble laying out a simple-but-strong ladder frame onto which he grafted the suspension of the highly successful (and European sized) Buick Special. For motivation, he installed that car’s lightweight aluminum V8, tuned to produce up to 225-horsepower and backed by the Borg Warner T-10 four-speed gearbox with Corvette ratios.

Meanwhile, Art Center graduate Ron Plescia penned a flowing design of Italian influence for the body. And little Carrozzeria Intermeccanica of Turin, Italy agreed to produce the bodies in steel and called in famed stylist Franco Scaglione to tweak the design and prepare it for production.

When the Apollo GT debuted at Phil Hall Buick in Hollywood in the spring of 1963, the public reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Yes, Brown, Plescia and Davis were going to build real GTs.

Apollo GT Spider

Apollo GT Spider

Production was just two cars per month and the trio priced the car at nearly $7,000, right between Jaguar and Ferrari and a niche where the Apollo was the only competitor.

Initial reaction from the press was extremely positive: “Workmanship is of the highest quality,” declared Hot Rod. “Panels fit well, doors close with authority, and the interiors are comparable to cars costing twice that of the Apollo.”

Buick Engine

Buick Engine

Denise McCluggage, writing for Science and Mechanics (and a racing driver to boot) was pleasantly surprised to find “…the Apollo handles as well or better than a 2+2 Ferrari, an Aston Martin DB4, or a Sting Ray Corvette.” High praise indeed!

Scaglione was again called in during the summer of 1963 to design a convertible version and his efforts created a true masterpiece of automotive design. And in an effort to increase performance, later cars (beginning with car number 12) featured the Buick 300 cu. in. V8, good for over 250 horses. To control the new power, front disc brakes were added. These later versions could smoke contemporary 250 Ferraris.

Apollo GT Spider Interior

Apollo GT Spider Interior

Lack of the operating capital eventually forced the company to close its doors. A total of 88 Apollos (76 coupes, 11 convertibles, and one 2+2) were built during a two year run. “It was a winner because we could never make enough to satisfy the demand,” laments Milt Brown. It’s just that they didn’t have the money with which to do it.

A sad ending, perhaps, but not the last word. When filming the original Love Bug movie in 1969, Disney used an Apollo as the “Thorndyke Special.” And a decade later, the Apollo was given milestone status by the Milestone Car Society. Even so, the Apollo has only recently been “discovered” by collectors, and the car is once again receiving the recognition it deserves.

Apollo GT Spider With The Top Up

Apollo GT Spider With The Top Up

Today, with over 50 cars identified with owners, every Apollo is highly coveted. And according to Milt Brown, there’s even an Apollo under construction with contemporary mechanicals including independent rear suspension.

So the saga continues…

Apollo GT Sketch

Prototype Sketch By Plescia

Robert Northrup is the president of the Apollo Owners Registry

Let us know what you think about the Apollo GT and what you are now searching for – in the Comments.

Apollo GT - Road & Track

Apollo GT – Road & Track

Sell your Apollo GT on My Car Quest – click here.

Below are two slide shows from the Apollo gathering at Concorso Italiano in August 2013 in Monterey, California.

The Apollo GT - Italian Craftsmanship With American Power & Engineering
Article Name
The Apollo GT - Italian Craftsmanship With American Power & Engineering
The rare Apollo GT is good to find, if you can.


  1. J. H. Clark says:


    I also fancy the Apollo Verona, which one hears even less about than the GT. Would you devote some future time to that Ron Brown endeavor too.
    It is a shame Ron Brown’s automotive artistic sense has been so capital limited.

    Jim Clark

  2. Great car a real sleeper in the sports car world.

  3. Ray lancaster says:

    I have an Apollo Verona, I think they are well designed and constructed. Would love to get a copy of the assembly manual if anyone has one.

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