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.)
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.