The 1969 Italia Spider was made by American enthusiast Frank Reisner, who began combining burly Detroit V-8s with lithe Latin bodywork in the late Sixties at his Intermeccanica company in Turin. In the late Seventies, the firm relocated to Los Angeles, and switched to making a very good replica of the classic Porsche 356 Speedster as well as Mustang convertible conversions for a small number of nostalgia-hungry buyers. But it is the Italian hybrids like the one you see here that continue to attract the greatest collector interest.
Reisner called his version of this basic design the Italia. An outgrowth of the earlier Omega and Apollo efforts, it was produced from 1967 through 1973 in limited numbers, a total of 270 coupes and 430 convertibles. The fiberglass body was styled by Bob Cumberford and built by Intermeccanica. Our 1969 feature car runs the Ford 302 V-8 fitted to most examples, hooked to a heavy-duty four-speed manual gearbox. Owner Ron Robinson of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, says the Italia isn't a car you just warm up to: "I fell in love with it the first time I saw it."
It's easy to see why. More than anything else, the Italia is a driver's car. Once buckled in the leather bucket seat, you assume the traditional "arms out" driving position. The quick-ratio rack-and-pinion steering responds instantly. So does the V-8. The four-wheel disc brakes are by Girling and the wire wheels come from Dayton, but the aura of this car is pure Italian. The headlamp covers here are not original, but they blend in beautifully with the sleek fender lines
Three decades have passed since the last Italia was built, and you can now expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars for one, depending on condition. The hard part, of course, will be finding one -- and an owner willing to part with what surely qualifies as one of the best hybrid sports cars ever.