Intermeccanica, The Story of the Prancing Bull
by Andrew McCredie & Paula Reisner
Founded in 1959 as Construzione Automobili Intermeccanica in Turin, Italy by a Hungarian-born Canadian ex-pat this firm built sports cars with sexy Italian coachwork and solid European and American mechanicals. Half a century later it still turns out high-quality hand-built vehicles (Intermeccanica International in Vancouver, Canada) but unlike the highly original early cars in the Italian supercar idiom, today’s are better-than-original replica Porsches and a re-issue VW Type 82 Kübelwagen built from the original blueprints which the firm owns.
Aside from its obvious car theme this book, a three-year effort, is a really nice story in terms of what Karl Ludvigsen calls in his Foreword “a life well lived,” of love, emotion, and adventure. All these things would make this a worthwhile read even if Frank Reisner (1932–2001) had never built a car company from scratch. It is also told in an exceedingly smooth, flowing, engaging style and you can see the deft touch of the newspaper reporter, which is just what author McCredie is. He specializes in automotive subjects, both as commentator and in his private life.
And that there is a story to tell at all is thanks to Reisner’s wife Paula who worked side by side with him through all the Intermeccanica years and is now eager to record their firm’s history while there are still people around to tell it. Such as Italian journalist Gianni Rogliatti, who wrote the second Foreword and knew the Reisners during their two decades in Italy. In what is often called a David and Goliath story Reisner succeeded where many had tried and failed. On all counts, then, this unusual story is not just a cookie-cutter connect-the dots biography.
Partly this is so because there is not much that is linear in the Reisners’ story. Fate—or whatever you want to call that which cannot be planned—and being in the right place at the right time as well as able to recognize opportunity when it comes knocking are the propelling forces here. But these words have an unfortunate connotation of passivity which would be entirely inapplicable to Reisner. The book picks up the thread in war-torn Hungary and subsequent emigration to Canada, describing a plethora of odd jobs—with an unplanned but common denominator: cars—, professional schooling (chemical engineer), meeting—over a car-related episode—the Czech émigré who would become his wife, and building his first car. Just reading about all these formative events leaves us breathless! The life lessons learned so far would become absolutely crucial to subsequent endeavors: going to Europe for an extended holiday, meeting contacts of his father-in-law’s in the car industry, and hatching the idea to stay in Europe and build speed equipment full-time. Settling in “the Detroit of Italy”—Turin—he found all the industrial-size manufacturing that the likes of Fiat and Lancia needed alongside hole-in-the-wall craftsman’s shops. In short order he branched out into Formula Junior racing cars, followed by the first road car, the Imp. Although impishly small, this is short for Intermeccanica Puch because it was built on a Steyr-Daimler-Puch 500cc chassis (which the book calls a Fiat 500). The book describes all the models in good detail, including the current ones. While it does talk about design, construction, finance etc. it is not an engineering or business history but a biography or, in a more generic sense, a story ofenterprise. There are, for instance, no car data tables or technical illustrations. Most of the photos are period ones; augmented by facsimiles of brochures, correspondence, ads and several coachwork drawings. Appended are tables of the entire 1959–1975 output listing cars by serial number, date, type, customer, color, specs, along with notes. Index.
Signed copies of the book are available through Intermeccanica.
Copyright 2010, Sabu Advani (speedreaders.info)