Intermeccanica: A Porsche replica, and yet so much more

Brendan McAleer

For 40 years, Vancouver was home to a small family company that made practical the dream of classic motoring. More affordable Porsche replicas certainly exist, but with Intermeccanica, you got quality and attention to detail. Today, as the last handful of the marque’s cars near completion, the production run is ending. It’s the end of an era.

The car here is one of the breed. A 2010 Intermeccanica Roadster, it’s a replica of a Porsche 356, or rather, an homage to the idea that a mid-Sixties Porsche represents. Under the rear deck, tuned for a torquey 170 hp, is a 2.3-liter, air-cooled Volkswagen flat-four. The rear wheels are eight inches wide, the suspension holds the body low, and Wilwood brakes offer modern stopping power. This car is quicker, safer, and more practical than a real 356, but it also looks, sounds, and even smells right, reminiscent of the real thing.

The Roadster’s owners, John and Marcia Hinde, are the kind of people you love to meet. This is their second Intermeccanica, built to their specifications. John has added his own tweaks over the years, including a 15-gallon fuel tank for additional range.

“I’ve slowed down a bit these days,” he says. Then he shows me his elbow, scraped up from riding dirtbikes with his son.

The Hindes didn’t buy this thing just to look at it. Their Roadster currently has around 94,000 kilometers on the odometer and some 30 Hagerty classic-car touring events under its belt. When the Intermeccanica was brand new, John and Marcia drove it to California. It has been driven across Canada to Toronto, 2700 miles one-way. It has shrugged off a deer strike near Spences Bridge, survived countless vicious potholes, and been drifted over miles of gravel roads.

Brendan McAleer

That’s use, not abuse. The beauty of a car like this is not simply in the improvements made for a more pleasant drive in modern traffic, but in the way it simply disassociates from badge snobbery. Flinging a classic 356 down gravel would be a delightful way to shock Porsche purists, but you’d also be risking a considerable investment. With the Intermeccanica, the return is a great story.

Brendan McAleer

Intermeccanica is Canadian, but the marque’s origins are Italian. Founded in Turin in 1959, the brand was originally a supplier of tuning parts—think Abarth, just less well-known. With certain coincidences: Carlo Abarth was from Austria-Hungary, and Intermeccanica founder Frank Reisner was a Hungarian-born Canadian. In fact, the two companies were early competitors—Abarth successfully used his ties with Fiat to block and hurt Intermeccanica’s business.

North America met Reisner’s marque through the Apollo, Griffith, Indra, and Italia sports cars. Produced in the 1960s in partnership with various stateside companies, those machines married Italian styling to American powertrains. Reisner endured various financial ups and downs but endured. In 1975, he and his family moved to California, where he set up a partnership building replicas of Porsche’s 356 Speedster. In 1982, the family returned to Canada, the company relocating to a workshop in Vancouver’s False Creek area.

Rather than trying to rush product out the door, Reisner capped production at a couple dozen cars per year. He engineered for his cars a box frame, with wider track than a real Speedster, simultaneously moving the rear-mounted engine forward for better weight distribution and increasing cabin room. Build time from order to completion was around six months, with each car created around a basic guideline but otherwise customizable.

2010 Intermeccanica Roadster Porsche 356 replica rear
Brendan McAleer

Intermeccanica’s reputation grew. From Japan came the request to build a replica of the VW Kubelwagen. A few were built, alongside those 356 replicas; they were the last project in which Frank Reisner was personally involved. Henry Reisner, Frank’s son, joined the business while still in college, working on the assembly line. When Frank died in 2001, Harry had already advanced to running the business. He co-founded ElectraMeccanica, an EV-focused offshoot, in 2015. Intermeccanica became a subsidiary of ElectraMeccanica two years later, and Henry retired from the company in January of 2022.

The last few Intermeccanicas built wear chassis numbers in the low 600s. Two of those cars are bound for the U.S. market, for Michigan, where they will have their engines installed, a production quirk that makes the cars legal for American import. Those machines will receive Subaru engines, while the last car for a Canadian customer will live in Calgary with air-cooled power.

Time marches on. ElectraMeccanica’s current project is a single-seat EV commuter called the Solo. Whether the coachbuilding/replica-car business will continue is unclear. But on the 40th anniversary of the founding of the company’s Vancouver operation, the legacy bears reflection. It’s a heritage of perseverance. It’s in the tales of owners like the Hindes. It’s not merely a desire to recreate the past. Intermeccanica offered a blank slate, ready for you to write your own story. We’ll miss it.

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    Awesome story! When I was 17 I worked at my uncle’s shop a block from their shop. I used to always see these in partial states of build through the bay door as I walked to work. Now in my current job we’ve actually shipped sound deadening materials to them through the years.
    I feel almost famous…

    As a guy who has always coveted and lusted after a real 356, I’m gonna state right here that I’d be willing to accept one of these as a substitute. Outstanding!

    These Vancouver Intermeccanicas are a replica of the 1959 Porsche ‘Convertible D’ model. The Convertible D was different than the original Speedsters in as they had roll-up windows, nicer, more comfortable seats, and a more usable top. The body itself was the same as the Speedster. I had a new ‘89 Intermeccanica and have a couple original Convertible D’s now. All great cars!

    Henry built my IM 356 in 2006. Powered by a 3.2 Porsche/ 915 transaxel, it the MOST fun, reliable sports car I have owned, and STILL DO!

    Henry and his team are the best. I now own my third Intermeccanica. The first was a Roadster in 1989. Then his advanced Speedster in 2008. My current Speedster is silver with navy blue interior and top. It has 170 hp, a Magnafow exhaust, air conditioning and Rudge wheel replicas built by Coddington. I live near the great Smoky Mountains National Park so we welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors here. When I drive through Gatlinburg people stop in their tracks, yell compliments and thumbs up. Everyone from 8 to 80. Henry has worked hard to hand build the ultimate replica. I wish him all the best in retirement, fine fellow.

    In 2017 I visited Henry’s storefront in Vancouver where I saw the first 356 EV, powder blue. Chris let me drive it around the city. Also, sitting on the show room floor was a white Solo EV. Sale price $11k ca. A few months later I found out it was being shown/driven at some of the larger malls in Oregon, Washington and Calif. I visited Henry at his shop in Burnaby, BC where he was working on the 356 EV. Hoping I could test drive the Solo since the 356 was selling for $150k usa. In June of 2022 I bought the Solo in Raven Black. $20k. By June of 2023 I had put 4000miles on the car with NO problems. Then, with no logical explanation, the company bought it back. They are no longer selling either car. They are totally out of the car business Unless they plan to resale the 451 Solo cars sitting on their factory lot in Mesa, Az. The Solo should have sold for $30k on the USA market. I think its all about the money now that Henry isn’t involved. Who would have known that 356 would be so much in demand now…..he did. There are several here in San Luis Obispo, Ca.

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