1962-1965 Apollo GT Origins
The early finished prototype shows the original style grille and the absence of rear quarter windows.
"We were a couple of pretty unconventional guys," recalls Brown. "I drove an MG TD and Ron tooled around in a Crosley Hot Shot. The Crosley had an aluminum body that looked like a squashed tin can," says Plescia, "but it gave us a great idea. Build a new body for it!"
Brown recalls that they had figured to build the new Crosley body in about a week's time. "It ended up taking us months," he says, "but we learned a lot from the Crosley, things that would help us design the Apollo years later."
In college, Brown continued to tinker with cars, in the process building America's first Formula Junior racing car. When he graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, he headed for Europe in search of a job as a designer. He landed one at Emeryson Race Cars as a designer/draftsman.
While Brown may have daydreamed about building his own sports car, it wasn't until he met a Canadian coachbuilder named Frank Reisner, at the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix, that Brown realized it could actually be done.
"I asked Reisner what he did, and he said he built bodies for cars. I didn't quite understand until he pulled out a picture of the Intermeccanica Imp, and explained that his company in Turin, Italy, built hand-made bodies and complete cars."
Milt Brown and Ron Plescia set the aluminum panels on the chassis for their first prototype in May 1962.
Brown's mind was already abuzz with a plan when Reisner told him that he had figured out a way to build bodies for less money than Brown could imagine. What had started out as a casual conversation led Brown to visit Intermeccanica after the race.
The rest, as they say, is history. The two formulated a plan to have bodies and interiors built in Turin, by Carrozzeria Intermeccanica, and then have them shipped to an assembly plant in the United States, where they would be mated with an American-built chassis and driveline.
Brown quit his job and returned to Oakland, California. Once home, he looked up an old friend, Newton Davis, who agreed to put up the money to start Apollo. Plescia, who had graduated from the Art Center School in Los Angeles, came on board as chief designer, and the whole company started out of Davis's Oakland garage.
What sounds more like the plotline for a "Let's go build us a car" movie script resulted instead in the Apollo GT coupe, one of the most trenchant sports car designs of the 1960s.
Recalls Brown: "The E-Type Jaguar had just come out, about six months before we started on the Apollo, and we wanted to have that same kind of look, with the long hoodline and low profile. That's what we had as an image when we started to design the car."
Learn about the Apollo GT's other design influences on the next page.
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