One of the most famous dream cars of all time: The Ferrari 512 Pininfarina Modulo

The Ferrari 512 Pininfarina Modulo, on display at the 1971 edition of the Salon international de l’Auto de Montréal, Montréal, Québec. Jean D. Legault, “Une première mondiale et 12 continentales.” La Patrie, 17 January 1971, 31.

Yours truly must admit that I am not fascinated by automobiles. I have never been. This being said (typed?), I must admit that I was struck by the elegance of the Ferrari 512 Pininfarina Modulo.

The history of this unique vehicle apparently began with the Ferrari 512 racing car, designed around 1968-69 to compete in the World Sportscar Championships races organised by the Fédération internationale de l’automobile and the Fédération international du sport automobile. After a somewhat difficult start, in 1970, this vehicle was very successful. Just think of the successes known by the famous Italian racing driver Mario Gabriele Andretti.

In any event, failing to sell all 512s manufactured to complete the regulatory homologation testing, Auto Costruzioni Ferrari / Società Esercizio Fabbriche Automobili e Corse, one of the world’s most famous car makers, handed over one of these vehicles to Carrozzeria Pininfarina Società per Azioni, arguably the Leonardo da Vinci of automobile body design and a world-renowned Italian automotive firm mentioned in October 2018 and March 2019 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee.

The vehicle in question was apparently a 512 converted into a Ferrari 612 Can Am, a type of car designed to compete in the races of the Canadian-American Challenge Cup, organised by the Canadian Automobile Sports Clubs and the Sports Car Club of America.

A designer from Carrozzeria Pininfarina used the chassis of the 512 to create an unusual looking and futuristic, if not revolutionary, 2-seat concept car, the aforementioned Modulo.

Some suggested / suggest that said designer drew on some designs from the very famous American neo-futurist industrial designer Sydney Jay “Syd” Mead.

Would you believe that the Modulo was / is accessed by pushing forward the windshield and front roof? One therefore had / has to be a wee bit agile to get on board – an exercise which could potentially be a little, uh, embarrassing for a female Homo sapiens wearing a miniskirt - or a male Homo sapiens wearing a kilt.

Interestingly, all the controls a driver needed were arranged on an easy to reach half sphere with multiple push buttons the size of a bowling ball.

The Modulo was / is so low (less than 95 centimetres / less than 37.5 inches) that it makes one wonder if it could slide under a tractor trailer without scratching its paintjob.

To this end, it should be noted that while the Modulo had an engine, it was not a vehicle capable of driving.

A less powerful 4-seat version of the Modulo may have been considered at some point.

First presented in March 1970, at the Salon international de l’automobile de Genève in Geneva, Switzerland, the Modulo was all the rage. In fact, over the years, this dream car, one of the most extreme and exciting of the 20th century, won over 20 international design awards.

It should be noted that the Modulo may have been be presented in Geneva without its engine, which was put in subsequently.

Note also that this dream car was displayed in at least one cultural institution of international level, namely the Musée du Louvre in Paris, France.

It went / goes without saying that the Modulo was frequently requested by the organising committees of various automobile shows. And yes, it was presented for the first time in North America in Montréal, Québec, during the 1971 edition of the Salon international de l’Auto de Montréal which took place from 14 to 21 January, at Place Bonaventure. Said edition actually had 11 other North American premieres, mainly from Japan and Italy.

Among these premieres was the Italian Alfa Romeo Montreal sports car. Yes, yes, Montreal. Responding to a request from the committee involved in the organisation of the Man the Producer pavilion at the Exposition internationale et universelle de Montréal, or Expo 67, the famous automaker Alfa Romeo Automobiles Società per Azioni designed a concept car which aroused a lot of interest. Apparently known internally as the Montrealine, this unnamed vehicle was quickly dubbed Alfa Romeo Montreal by many Montrealers.

Noting the interest of many North American commentators (and dealers?), Alfa Romeo Automobiles turned its concept car into a production car, known as, as you now known, the Montreal – seemingly without an accent.

Would you believe that this automobile was presented for the first time in March 1970, at the Salon international de l’automobile de Genève?

In breach of the anti-pollution regulations in force in North America, the Montreal was unfortunately not available in Montréal. Pity, but back to the 1971 edition of the Salon international de l’Auto de Montréal.

Another automobile presented for the first time in North America was the British Triumph Spitfire IV sports car, whose example present in Montréal was painted in the colours of a British Second World War Supermarine Spitfire fighter aircraft. And yes, the fabulous, yes, yes, fabulous collection of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum includes 3 (!) Spitfires.

It should be noted that the Modulo on display in Montreal was unfortunately poorly located, near a column and, for all intent and purposes, in a dark corner.

The Ferrari 512 Pininfarina Modulo on display at the Museo Ferrari, Maranello, Italy, February 2013. Wikipedia.

The Ferrari 512 Pininfarina Modulo on display at the Museo Ferrari, Maranello, Italy, February 2013. Wikipedia.

Preserved at the Museo Pininfarina in Cambiano, Italy, the Modulo was sold in September 2014 to a wealthy American film producer / financier / collector of classic automobiles.

The reasons for this sale were / are somewhat unclear. To make a long story short, Carrozzeria Pininfarina was then experiencing serious financial difficulties which would lead to its purchase, in 2015, by an Indian industrial giant (150 firms in 22 sectors), Group Mahindra. The sale of certain items before this date gave it some oxygen.

In any event, James Glickenhaus committed himself to transforming the Modulo into a car capable of driving. The Italian team taking on the task, apparently employed by Manifattura Automobili Torino, a firm with which the American had been doing business for some time, completed it brilliantly in May 2018.

Staff from the American firm Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus Limited Liability Company and the Italian firm Podium Advanced Technologies Società a responsilità limitata may also have been involved in the project.

Glickenhaus registered the Modulo in the state of New York even before the end of 2018. Not sure how to classify this unique vehicle, the staff of the Department of Motor Vehicles decided to turn it into a sedan.

Damaged by fire in June 2019, while driving near Monaco, the Modulo was quickly repaired. It was still in working order at the start of 2021.


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Rénald Fortier