DeTomaso Factory in 1990

Time Changes All – R.I.P. De Tomaso Modena

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. 

De Tamso Factory modena
New Pantera in 1990 at the DeTomaso factory

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. 

Viale Virgilio 9

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.

abandoned De Tamaso factory
graffiti on De Tamaso factory
nature growing over abandoned De Tamaso factory

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.

factory front
gardens lost

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. 

rubish at abandoned De Tamaso factory
neglected proprty

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.

Show Comments (13)

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  1. It saddens us too. My aunt would not allow us to drive by. I personally watered many of the plants when I was there for the summer, picked tomatoes from the garden and planted many of the poplars so the horses had shade.

  2. I totally agree with all your points in the article. I too had a Pantera (1976 GTS) before they sprouted wings and too wide (for me) wheel arches etc. Also sold it when I should have kept it but that’s an often heard story. Hard to believe, looking at one, it’s 50 years old, the best aspects were the SOUND and the flamed coming out of the exhaust pipes on overrun!

  3. Moving, somber, images. In some ways that space not turned into Apartments or a strip mall punctuates the passage of time. And putting a finer point on keeping my 73 Pantera fit and running.

    Standing there late at night, when all is quite, I’ll bet you can still hear engines rev and tires squeal.

    Thank you

  4. Thank you Matt Stone for opening up memory lane.
    Tom Tjaarda would tell me so many times about Sig DeTomaso’s overwhelming and exhausting mental energies, wild stories, fantastic construction ideas of cars and engines and how unbelievably well the DeTomaso cars did when you consider how small of a factory it really was. Such a company that produced such sexy cars as the Vallelunga and Mangusta then to the sharp masculine lines of Tom’s Pantera and the cars that followed.
    So very unique! I
    I drove my Mangusta today for the first time in many months, been too cold and too busy.
    Boy, did I miss it and what a joy to drive.
    Thank you again, sir. Thank

  5. The vision to see what once was will forever live on, Long live the memories of De Tomaso Modena.

    Thank you for sharing the article and the pictures.

  6. Not quite so derelict, but sad nevertheless, the Alfa Romeo complex in Arese. At least FIAT have maintained the Alfa Romeo Museum but the rest is now unused “parking lot.”

  7. It makes me sad to see the state of the factory as you tell in your most interresting article and pictures. Remember driving down to the factory from Oslo, Norway, to Modena with my Pantera GT5 in summer 1990 for the convention. Remember how the De Tomaso staff – superviced by the son of Alejandro De Tomaso – made it to be a memorable experience for participants from all over the world. We were received by the factory staff with an endless hospitality. Seeing your picture of the 1990 Pantera at the factory I remember the outdoor lunch in the factory garden, when this car sudenly apestreker from inside the factory building and was presented for the first time. Remember all the De Tomaso cars driving together into the city centre of Modena. Remember the «De Tomaso Grand Prix» at a near by race track. Yes, it’s sad to see that this important part of the automobile history now probably is just that: History.

  8. Matt, it is great reading your article evoking good old days of De Tomaso cars. Just like you I am drawn to the place everytime I am in Modena and it was not easy to watch how the factory crumbled down as time passed by. I made a lot of pictures along the years myself and according to local car people, the lot was sold in 2018. In the middle of 2020 the building was broken down to give way for a commercial center. As of late last year, there is not a trace of the factory remaining at all in the site!

    Marcel Schaub, Switzerland

  9. As time goes one there are lots of bittersweet memories. This is definitely one of them!