The 1964 Apollo GT was one of a number of small-batch sports cars that quickly faded into obscurity. But this latest episode of "Jay Leno's Garage" provides the full story, with commentary from Kurt Brakhage, owner of the car shown in the video, and Robb Northrup, author of the book "Apollo GT: The American Ferrari."
The Apollo GT was the brainchild of Milton Brown who, despite being only in his early 20s, decided to start a car company. An investor initially suggested that the company build a commuter car, but after touring Italian car factories on his honeymoon, Brown declared that he would build "the American Ferrari," Northup explains in the video. Perhaps that's why the Apollo GT has a strong resemblance to period Ferraris.
1964 Apollo GT on Jay Leno's Garage
Brown combined a 225-hp aluminum 215-cubic inch Buick V-8 with coachbuilt bodywork, giving the Apollo GT European style with the ease of maintenance of an American powertrain. It was similar to the formula used for the Shelby Cobra, and some European-built cars like the Monteverdi High Speed 375S and Bizzarrini 5300 GT.
Brown, who had an engineering degree and worked briefly as a draftsmen and test driver for race car builder Emeryson, designed the frame himself. He used some off-the-shelf parts in addition to the engine, including Buick finned drum brakes and a Borg-Warner 4-speed manual transmission.
Bodies were built in Italy through a convoluted business arrangement. Apollo contracted with Intermeccanica, which subcontracted the job to a coachbuilder, which in turn distributed the work to individual craftspeople.
Two aluminum-bodied prototypes—one two-seater and one 2+2—were built, followed by a production run of 76 coupes and 11 convertibles. Pricing started at about $6,500 for the coupe and $7,400 for the convertible. Those were considerable sums at the time, but not enough to make the Apollo GT profitable. That, combined with Apollo's lack of initial funding, meant the company didn't last long. About 55 cars are thought to survive today.
That means you're unlikely to see an Apollo GT on the road today. So it's definitely worth watching the full video to see this example on the streets of Los Angeles, and hear the Buick V-8 doing its best Ferrari V-12 impression.