Tour the abandoned Italian factory that built Cadillac’s Allanté


Have you been down the urban exploration (aka “urbex”) wormhole on YouTube? There are plenty of faded monuments to retailing, manufacturing, and civil infrastructure for anyone to enjoy. Apparently, urbex is a bonafide career for YouTubers with a large following: These content creators are nothing like the looters, copper-wire thieves, and general miscreants that do terrible things to abandoned buildings. While Detroit, for well-documented reasons, is a hotspot for urbex adventurers, an abandoned Pininfarina factory in San Giorgio, Italy is indeed a rare treat.

Skip to the 0:50 mark if you’d prefer to avoid the contextual history lesson. This particular Pininfarina factory was built in 1986 as part of the GM/Pininfarina partnership to produce the star-crossed Cadillac Allanté. Like many buildings of the era, it was made in the brutalist style: poured concrete walls, often with small, decorative stones added to the mix.

Aside from the stylish and beneficial waffle ceiling in the cafeteria (go to the 9:00 mark), the building’s most eye-catching feature is the sheer volume of machinery that remains on the factory floor. More to the point, it appears that most of the assembly line remains intact, seemingly unable to find a new home at another factory.

Aside from the imagery of that factory floor, there’s nothing terribly outstanding about the building presented in this urbex adventure. Instead, consider it as a place of automotive dreams, one that once built the cars we aspired to own.

But it is one thing to discuss the starting point of a limited-production vehicle made by Pininfarina for Cadillac or for Ferrari. If you lived in Europe at the time of this factory’s heyday, and were shopping San Giorgio’s less exotic products, you might have fallen in love with another Pininfarina design: This achingly beautiful, two-door Peugeot.

Indeed, the Peugeot 406 Coupe is a whole ‘nother ballgame: The Italian design firm took a mundane French family sedan and made something absolutely beautiful in the process. At roughly $57,000 in today’s money, the 406 wasn’t cheap, but you would be wiser to spend that money on the Peugeot than on the majority of impractical, coupe-like CUVs currently available on the market. (I’m looking at you, BMW X4.)

Wikimedia | Marc Perrot

After the 406 Coupe, Pininfarina made the similarly approachable-yet-exotic Alfa Romeo Brera and Spider models. The party ended shortly after the subprime mortgage crisis between 2007 and 2010. While it is possible that modern CUVs and EVs could be made at this San Giorgio factory, they would have to be low-volume models—and even if a market for one-off creations could exist again, Italy may no longer be the place for it. Which is a shame, but history should never be sanitized: It should be documented, warts and all. We are lucky that urban exploration allowed us to see this lost era in automotive design.




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    I am a GM guy but this was a fiasco from the start.

    The car was never right. They did get the right engine by the end but it needed RWD.

    Second issue was this land bridge added to the cost so much the car was competing with models that really were not on the same plain.

    I liked this car but it was just too expensive for a FWD car with a bad engine from the start.

    It makes for a good collector car today if you can find a good example. Restoration is very difficult and expensive.

    It would be fun to fine a rough one and put it on a RWD platform with an LS engine.

    GM just never could get the 2 seat Cadillac right. Cadillac needed a two seat car that sold a a good price that was RWD and well tuned. It needed to be less than the Corvette too as the XLR was just a slower and more expensive Corvette. Resale wise they make a really good buy now.

    I didn’t exactly spend a lot of money for mine, and it is not exactly a concours example. I was having some transmission issues, and if you don’t know (a) the Allante transmission is Allante only, and (b) a lot of them were plundered for service in Fieros. I did get my issue straightened out, but a RWD conversion was on the table. I was thinking more along the lines of a 3800 up front and a Porsche/Corvette style transaxle in the back

    I find it mind boggling and sad that this building was first built with vision and dreams,only to be closed in a few decades .what a waste of time,money, resources and vision. To think all the material,machines etc was just abandoned and eventually destroyed!

    Blah blah blah, all these comments from people who probably have never owned one, let alone driven one. Nobody talks about the fact that they got it right for 1989, just look at the car and drive a review and it beat out the 89 560 sl. Rear drive, smear drive. The cars have no torque steer, I don’t see why it matters. Everybody talks about how they weren’t good looking, but when’s the last time you actually looked at a nice example, in person? Mine is an award winner, in the original, correct red on Ferrari Brown and saddle interior. Out of all my cars, it’s the nicest one I have. Don’t buy the stories. Except for this story, which I’m glad hagerty published

    My dad had an Infiniti G37 convertible two seater. When he died by brother got it and we both loved it. I always felt it was similar to the Alante. Both understated, comfortable, good driving two seaters that were not sports cars. When the Infiniti got rear ended the carrier immediately wrote it off as, since it was in production for a short time, there were no available parts and repair body costs outstripped its value. Sadly we let it go. I think the same has befallen many of the caddies. I would be glad (in my old age, which should be here any day) to live with either one.

    I was the only tech to work on the Allante at my dealership back when they were new. We sold quite a few of them. Fortunately, we had very few mechanical issues with the drivetrain. Water leaks and problems with the convertible and hard tops kept me very busy. They had a retrofit kit to replace all of the weatherstrips on the early models. I think it paid 21 hours to do the job. I enjoyed working on them.

    Mine has been through a few hands and has 150K miles on it. I drive it regularly, and aside from a few electrical gremlins and a radiator has been problem free (my above transmission problem was an electrical gremlin). The much maligned mechanical top takes about 2 minutes to put up or take down. Everyone who sees it says cool car – particularly those who haven’t been trained by the collector world to hate it

    Totally agree. The Buick Reatta has a similar theme and execution but the V8 Allante’ just has that certain “thing” that made it exceptional.

    All that for the most anonymous flagship ever designed for a brand.

    Buick tail lights and a Chevy Corsica grille, unremarkable shape, so totally unmemorable for the price…

    You are entering the no styling zone….

    And people mocked the Maserati TC….

    Even Pininfarina gets it wrong sometimes.

    A shame they discontinued the 1985 1/2 Pininfarina Azzurra for this Caddy. When they made the improvements (larger front brakes, rack and pinion steering ,etc) to the Azzurra mid year, it became a different car than what the Fiats were. I currently own one of the last 85 1/2 Azzurras and it has proven to be a reliable car to own. And in my opinion, a much better looking car than the Allante.

    Automodello made a 1:24 scale model of the Allante which even retractors of the Allante like the model, even if they were lukewarm to the real car.

    I saw where an LS swap with rear drive was mentioned, but there is a much easier LS swap using the 5.3 motor from one of the now discontinued FWD GM W-body cars.
    The LS4 used in these cars had an accessory drive that was designed for transverse-mount FWD applications and the bellhousing mount area was revised to the GM “Corporate” (read: Buick-Olds-Pontiac) bolt pattern to fit the transmissions used in these cars.
    I would imagine that there would still be some mechanical (and electrical) fabrication required but the payoff would be quite rewarding.

    Semi-off topic, but my company builds the assembly lines for all the major auto manufacturers in North America. I don’t know if this group did a dive into the Lordstown plant that GM shutdown semi-abruptly during the 2008/2009 financial crisis, but that would have been a heyday for them.. When we walked in 2019 to begin re-tooling for the electric truck company Lordstown Motors, it was super creepy. It literally looked like everyone went home one shift and never came back. 1/4 to 1/2 built cars still sitting on the line, tooling, stampings, etc. It was a planned shutdown for 4 months, so you’d think they would have cleaned it out, but I guess sometimes it’s cheaper to leave it as is than clean it out?

    Matters of style and taste are, of course, opinions and opinions often vary. I looked at the Allante when it was new and decided to buy a Porsche 911 instead. They weren’t really competitors except in price and I decided I wanted high performance and sports instead of high style and sporty. It was a great decision, resale wise. A couple of years ago, still owning a 911 (I am on my third in 39 years, an’06 911 S Cabrio), I decided I wanted an “old” Allante as well. I chose a one owner, low mileage ’89, deftly avoiding the original Cadillac 4100 engine which is not well respected. It is still not a sports car and it still has an unwieldy top mechanism, but what a joy to drive. It has that V8 growl, it’s handsome Italian looks have aged well in my view, and its now a really reasonable collectible car. Good ones bring $9,000 to $12,000 (a steal), more for the one year Northstar ’93s. It is relatively reliable, easy to live with and a great way to enjoy a luxe convertible without breaking the bank. There are probably some parts that are hard to get, but so far finding service has not been bad.

    Used to operate commercially in Detroit’s Metro Airport. The Cadillac operation was along side 03/21 Center. Watching personnel load/unload Cadillacs on the 747 was sort of a clown act. Why spend $$$ to fly an automobile from Detroit to Rome (or wherever the plant was) and back? Build it here or build it there. The car wasn’t good enough to warrant the effort to bring it to market. It just didn’t make sense in 1988 and it doesn’t make sense today. For being the manufacturer’s Flagship it can’t seem to find its identity. Now, GM wants the world to think of Cadillac as a race car. Better watch out Enzo, their at it again!

    Under new ownership by a company in India…. the qustion remains is there still a Pininfarina presence in Italy? I see quite a few high-level Italian people names under the new Mahindra ownership…..but is it all being”done” now solely out of India..or eleswhere?

    I own a 93. where can you travel in a two seat convertible, two sets of golf clubs, pack for two weeks and travel with the top down. They were high priced and had some issues as every model car does, but they are still fun to drive and draw a lot of attention

    Unfortunately the Allanté was a gigantic miss. I thought I might like one in the day and drove one. Sorry but it wasn’t for me. I bought a Continental instead then a Corvette after that and got burned on both anyway. That was a tough time for American cars and dumb ideas are still dumb ideas. I hope I can afford to buy gasoline as it slowly get phased out of production. As a mater of fact I hope I still want to buy gasoline as we move forward…

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