This will be quite a year for movie cars at Pebble Beach. On top of the James Bond Aston Martin V8 we covered earlier, the anti-hero of an even more car-oriented film will also cross the block. We learned of it via Silodrome, and it’s being auctioned by Bonhams: it’s a 1965 Apollo GT that appeared in “The Love Bug” as the “Thorndyke Special.”
The black-and-yellow sports car actually appears in the film even before we see Herbie the VW Beetle. Human protagonist Jim Douglas drops into a hoity-toity European import car dealer and starts lusting after the Apollo until the dealer owner and antagonist Peter Thorndyke appears to try selling Douglas on the car. Douglas says he’s looking for something closer to $75, some “cheap, honest transportation,” which Thorndyke is repulsed by, but an interruption from Herbie sets the rest of the movie in motion.
It’s far from the last time in the movie that the Special appears. As Douglas and Herbie humiliate Thorndyke and his high-end European sports cars on the race track, Thorndyke tries using the Special against Douglas a couple of times. He has love interest and fellow car and racing enthusiast Carole Bennett borrow the car and tempt Douglas with a test drive, and then eventually Thorndyke takes the wheel in the grand finale race to try and defeat the little Beetle. As such, the car is nearly as big a star as the eponymous Love Bug.
Of course, while never referred to as such in the film, the Thorndyke Special is a 1965 Apollo GT. According to Bonhams, it’s lived quite a life. It was one of two used for filming, and it’s believed this was the car used for more of the driving and stunt work. Part of this was due to damage found during restoration, and reports that the other car was cut up for various camera angles. The car began a full restoration starting in 2004 when it was just a roller in primer. The process ended up taking 9 years, and in addition to matching up some of the damage with film footage, documentation from the film was found to go with the car. It’s been finished just like it was in the movie with the vivid yellow paint and striking black stripes and racing numbers.
For those unfamiliar, the Apollo GT itself is a sweet ’60s sports car developed in the U.S. This is a later 5000GT version with a 4.9-liter Buick V8 under the hood, replacing the earlier models’ 3.5-liter Buick V8. Power was around 250 horsepower, and it sent it through a manual transmission to the rear wheels. Funny enough, this all means that the specs Douglas rattles off at the dealer are wrong. It’s 300 cubic inches, not 400, and it doesn’t appear to have dual four-barrel carburetors. The sub-5-second 0-60 time also would seem unlikely. But the real specs would put it right on par with a contemporary Jaguar E-Type. It also packed fully independent suspension under the aluminum alloy body that is classic GT through and through. Inside it has a business-like black cabin stuffed with Jaeger gauges to match the sporty exterior.
According to Hagerty, a “#3 Good Condition” Apollo GT like this would go for around $162,000. That’s just under the low end of what Bonhams is anticipating for this example. The auction house estimates it will go for between $175,000 to $250,000, which seems reasonable considering the provenance and condition of the movie car. Now if you’ll excuse me, your resident Love Bug enthusiast, I need to figure out how to raise a couple hundred grand in a couple weeks. Anyone interested in some organs?