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“The American Ferrari” – An Original Apollo 3500GT


The Apollo 3500GT is a rare American-Italian GT car from the 1960s that has been nicknamed “the American Ferrari,” and it’s been rapidly growing in popularity as more people learn of its existence.

The car has a beautiful Italian-built body fitted over an American V8-powered drivetrain, offering owners the best of both worlds – exotic styling but remarkably affordable maintenance costs.

Fast Facts – The Apollo GT3500

  • The Apollo GT3500 was released in 1962 and sold until 1964. Two models were offered in total starting with the GT3500 which was later joined by the GT5000.
  • The GT3500 had a body designed by American artist Ron Plescia which was then finalized by Italian stylist Franco Scaglione. The cars were fitted with American engines, transmissions, suspension, and brakes which made them an order of magnitude less expensive to maintain than their Italian GT counterparts.
  • The Apollo was released by International Motor Cars based in Oakland, California. The company was founded by Milt Brown who wanted to build an American answer to the luxurious GT cars coming out of Italy, Britain, and Germany at the time.
  • A total of 88 Apollo cars were produced before production ceased. For many years the cars were a historical curiosity but in recent times they’ve seen their values and fame increasing significantly.

Creating The Apollo GT

A young American engineer named Milt Brown had long wanted to create a sporting American GT car to truly challenge the best GTs coming out of Europe, cars like the Aston Martin DB4GT, the Ferrari 250 GT series, and the Jaguar E-Type.

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Image DescriptionThe Apollo 3500 is powered by the lightweight and all-aluminum Buick 215 cubic inch V8, an engine that would later go on to become the famous Rover V8.

Milt had designed an advanced chassis with coil sprung suspension on all four corners, the engine was mounted as far back as possible for optimal weight distribution, and the driver’s seat was positioned almost back to the rear axle line. With a strict focus on weight and handling, he had chosen the 215 cubic inch all-alloy Buick V8.

The Buick 215 V8 was only kept in production between 1961 and 1963 but it would go on to have a remarkably long production life as the Rover V8. British automaker Rover had licensed the engine design from Buick, they returned it to production as the Rover V8 and it remained in production until 2006.

The popularity of the engine was largely down to two linked factors, it was very lightweight and it had excellent horsepower and torque output for its mass. This is why Milt Brown chose it for his Apollo 3500GT, a car that’s still winning new fans today thanks to its beautifully balanced handling.

Designing The Body

Once he had the chassis and running gear designed Milt had his friend Ron Plescia design a sleek new body for the car, he then set off to Europe to find a coachbuilder who could build the bodies for the fledgling company. As luck would have it, Milt met Intermeccanica founder Frank Reisner at the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix, and Frank was exactly the right man to take on coachbuilding duties.

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Image DescriptionThe styling of the car was penned by American artist Ron Plescia, it was then given some minor changes for production by former Bertone stylist Franco Scaglione.

Frank had some minor design changes applied to the body by former Bertone stylist Franco Scaglione, he then had his metalworkers produce an all-alloy body in his workshop, which was shipped to Milt Brown in the United States to be fitted to the chassis.

The Apollo GT3500 + GT5000

Over the course of the Apollo GT series production a total of 88 cars would be made including both convertibles and coupes, with two major engine options – either the Buick 215 cubic inch (3.5 liter) all-alloy engine in the 3500GT or the Buick 307 cubic inch (5.0 liter) V8 with an iron block and alloy heads in the 5000GT.

The difficulties of keeping a low-volume car in production were many, and the Apollo GT had the additional complications of an international supply chain. The company would stay in business from 1962 until 1965, however deals were done to keep the cars in production through other means for a short while, including a limited production run as the Vetta Ventura.

The surviving Apollo GTs today have been seeing their values rise relatively rapidly as they’re discovered by more and more enthusiasts.

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Image DescriptionThe interior of the car is beautifully appointed, with leather upholstery, a wood-rimmed steering wheel, and plenty of room for luggage in the back.

The combination of classic 1960s GT styling and performance combined with the entirely affordable maintenance costs thanks to the American V8 under the hood has been understandably alluring to many.

The Apollo GT3500 Shown Here

The car you see here is an Apollo GT3500 from 1963, it’s chassis #1004 which makes it just the second example of its kind that was made.

This Apollo is believed to have been sold to its first owner by the Phil Hill Buick dealership of Hollywood, California. It’s finished in dark red paintwork and it inside you’ll find rich black upholstery.

The car has an older restoration which is still showing very well, with just a little patina. It still has its original aluminum hood, doors, and trunk – something that was only done with the earlier examples of the car.

Importantly the Buick 215 V8 is numbers-matching to the unit listed on the car’s chassis tag. It’s now being offered for sale by RM Sotheby’s on the 26th of January with a price guide of $150,000 – $200,000 USD.

If you’d like to read more about this unusual historic GT car or register to bid you can visit the listing here.

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Images: Nathan Leach-Proffer ©2022 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s



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