The car I identify the most with would have to be my 1972 DeTomaso Pantera. I loved that car, and it is immensely missed. Although selling it at the time made a lot of sense, on reflection, it was probably a mistake as I can’t afford to repurchase it or one similar to it now. But it pleases me that these prized vehicles have advanced in terms of enthusiast and market respect, value, and desirability.
My greatest pleasures that arose from owning this car were meeting and befriending the DeTomaso family and visiting DeTomaso’s small yet orderly home base with offices, museum area, design studio, vehicle assembly line, parts, and the usual car factory stuff, in Modena, Italy.
Whenever I was in Italy (my initial stay there for an enormous car club event/convention in 1990), I would visit the family, discover what was new, play with some old automobiles, and kick around.
The De Tomasso factory was an industrially impressive property, lying not a mile west of the Emilia Romagna region’s A1 Autostrada. I could locate it in the dark without a map or headlight.
The car company had its ups and downs over the years, and after Allessandro DeTomaso’s passing in 2003, the business’s output declined to a crawl. Vehicle production and revenue also dried up, and ultimately the business fell into receivership.
One tragic consequence of the liquidation process was that this very family business had to let go of the property and factory, as it included the final assets of De Tomaso Modena SpA.
Consequently, the cars and the employees left, and Viale Virgilio 9 was shuttered. The intention would be that the Italian courts would resell the property to a different and most likely viable company.
Recently I was in Italy and chose to drive by the factory for a nostalgic trip down exotic automobile memory lane. I was sickened by what I saw.
For whatever reason it may be, a fresh buyer or tenant did not take over the property. This surprised me as its location is great – it’s placed in a vibrant area with a multistory office building belonging to the area’s largest grocery company, and it is near the freeway.
The former DeTomaso property displayed no clues to show that it is for lease, sale, or otherwise available. Conceivably, this is just the court system’s inefficiency to liquidate the property aggressively.
Graffiti covered the once immaculate buildings. Nearly all windows are broken out. The glorious tree orchard, lawns, and other beautiful landscaping (which Isabelle DeTomaso maintained herself) are just a distant memory, with nature taking back the property.
The DeTomaso trading signage was dismantled many years ago, making it impossible for people passing by to know this property’s previous life was an exotic automobile assembly facility. Seeing the changes did not quite bring tears to my eyes, but I would have to admit that my chest tightened tremendously.
Don’t get me wrong- abandoned automobile factories aren’t new; Middle America is packed with them. Having now worked in the automotive space for three decades, I know that everything comes and go -people, locations, and brands are constantly evolving.
But this area in Italy was special. It was a breeding ground for small independent race and road car manufacturers (Lamborghini and Maserati are located within 10 miles, Ferrari in Maranello is possibly 25 miles).
With time, the raised costs required to develop and build vehicles to meet today’s safety, technology, and emissions specs make it challenging for tinier companies to get a foothold, much less become prosperous.
Though to drive by Viale Virgilio 9 (at Emilia Ovest 1250) in Modena produces fabulous memories, even if the present pains me to see the changes.