My Car Quest

June 12, 2024

A Rare Apollo GT for Auction in Monterey

This is not just any Apollo GT but a ‘Thorndyke Special’ from the Disney movie The Love Bug.

by Mike Gulett –

The owner of this Apollo GT, John Barron, sent me an email recently letting me know his Apollo would be at the Bonhams Auction at The Quail in Carmel, CA after a short stint on display at The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles along with one of the Herbie VWs from The Love Bug movie of 1968.

Thorndyke Special

I saw this Thorndyke Special at Concorso Italiano in 2013 when there was a special display of Apollo GTs.

Thorndyke Special

What I did not know when I first saw the Disney movie, was that the Thorndyke Special race car was really an Apollo GT. Well, I did not know what an Apollo GT was when I was that age and maybe this is the reason Disney chose the Apollo to be the Thorndyke Special.

I also did not know there was a Bizzarrini GT 5300 featured in this movie. I should have guessed because Carey Loftin was in charge of the stunt driving and he usually took one of his Bizzarrini GT 5300s to the movie set he was working on and parked them so they were within camera range. See both the Apollo and Bizzarrini lined up for the race in the photo below.

The Thorndyke Special - Apollo GT and Bizzarrini GT 5300

The Thorndyke Special (Apollo GT) and Bizzarrini GT 5300 In “The Love Bug” – Disney

As I said Carey Loftin loved to take his own cars to the movie set he was working on and make them either an extra in the background or put them right in the middle of the action. He put Bizzarrini No. 0258 in the middle of the action in this Disney movie.

This Bizzarrini was the No. 35 racecar lined up on the front row next to the yellow Thorndyke Special, No. 14. If you look closely at the still image above from the movie you can see an unusual one-off bumper on the front of the Bizzarrini No. 35 racecar. Read more here.

Thorndyke Special

1965 Apollo GT Chassis no. 1052

The auction estimate is US$175,000 – US$250,000.

Bonhams writes,

– 300ci OHV Buick V-8 Engine

– 250bhp at 4,800rpm

– Single 4-Barrel Carburetor

– 4-Speed Manual Transmission

– Front Disc-Rear Drum Brakes

– 4-Wheel Independent Suspension

– One of two original ‘Thorndyke Special’ cars from 1968 The Love Bug movie

– Modified and prepped for screen by Max Balchowsky – Hollywood Motors

– Extensively researched and ground up restored in current ownership

– A world of possibilities from tours to shows

– A prominent movie car

Thorndyke Special

The chassis tag (shown below) on the Thorndyke Special indicates this is actually a Vetta Ventura manufactured by Vanguard Motors Corp. of Dallas, Texas.

Thorndyke Special chassis tag

Altogether 76 coupes, 11 convertibles and the prototype 2+2 were made for a total of 88 Apollos built between 1961 and 1965 when because of financial distress 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.

Thorndyke Special - Apollo GT

Thorndyke Special – Apollo GT at Concorso Italiano – 2013 – photo by Mike Gulett

Notice something seems to be missing in the photo above from Concorso Italiano in 2013? Read this to know for sure what it is.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Apollo logo

Unless otherwise indicated all photos compliments of Bonhams.

A Rare Apollo GT for Auction in Monterey
Article Name
A Rare Apollo GT for Auction in Monterey
Max Balchowsky, owner of Hollywood Motors and noted expert at race prep also worked on a variety of movie cars and in 1968 he provided cars for both The Love Bug and Bullitt.


  1. Mike: Just a couple of clarifications on the Apollo:

    It does not have 4-wheel independent suspension. The rear utilizes the unique Buick Special 4-link live axle suspension, modified by Milt Brown. A similar set up was used on the British Vauxhall Viva, which was then used on the Jensen Healey.

    The company was NOT sold to Vanguard Industries, who produced the Vetta Ventura. Rather, an agreement was made between International Motor Cars and Vanguard to allow that company to purchase excess body/chassis units from the contractor, Intermeccanica, until IMC obtained new funding. The Robert Stevens/Apollo International was that funding when Stevens bought the rights and design from IMC. So, Vanguard was NOT a takeover.

    Lastly, Disney bought two Apollos for the movie. Both were used in the racing sequences but later, one was cut up for the interior close-up shots. Indeed, if you look closely, the interior scenes the involve the Jag E Type, Ferrari 250 and the Apollo — that don’t show any exterior body work — all used the Apollo cut up.

    Robb Northrup
    Former president, Apollo Owners Registry
    Author of Apollo GT: The American Ferrari

  2. L’Apollo est une très belle auto. Selon moi elle présente un intérêt égal aux GT sixties dont les marques sont plus connues du public telles que Ferrari, Aston, Jaguar, Maserati, Lamborghini, etc.
    Je ne sais pourquoi dans le film “Love Bug” elle ne dévoile pas son identité mais s’appelle Thorndyke Spécial; l’explication tient probablement des accords passés entre Disney et le constructeur. D’ailleurs, peut-être n’y a-t-il eu aucun accord et les Studio Disney ont acheté deux Apollo au tarif catalogue, se voyant par le fait libéré de toute publicité???
    Je vis en France et suis propriétaire d’une 3500GT (il semble qu’elle soit unique dans ce pays). J’aurai plaisir à échanger des informations historiques et techniques avec d’autres propriétaires passionnés.
    Sportivement. C.

    Google Translate:

    The Apollo is a very nice car. In my opinion it is of equal interest to the GT sixties whose brands are better known to the public such as Ferrari, Aston, Jaguar, Maserati, Lamborghini, etc.
    I don’t know why in the film “Love Bug” she doesn’t reveal her identity but is called Thorndyke Special; the explanation probably comes from agreements between Disney and the manufacturer. Besides, perhaps there was no agreement and Disney Studios bought two Apollo at list price, thereby freeing themselves from all advertising???
    I live in France and own a 3500GT (it seems to be unique in this country). I will enjoy exchanging historical and technical information with other passionate owners.
    Sportingly. vs.

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