The Wild Rebirth of the Ferrari Modulo, Now a Stamp for Pininfarina’s 90th Birthday

The Modulo is now the most stylish way to mail a letter since 1970. And its backstory is more interesting than you think.

byMáté Petrány|
Ferrari News photo

Pininfarina is arguably the most influential automotive design house in history. Battista Farina's pioneering work and Sergio Pininfarina's later vision built a legacy that's included some of the most beautiful cars of all time—the Alfa Romeo Spider "Duetto", the Ferrari Testarossa, the original Fiat 124 Spider, the list goes on and on. Its legacy reaches far beyond the automotive industry. And as the firm is celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2020, Italy decided to mark the occasion by issuing a stamp. A really desirable one depicting 1970's futuristic Ferrari Modulo concept in front of a white background.

Yes, that spaceship-looking thing is a Ferrari. In case you're not entirely up-to-date on the Modulo's history, here's a quick summary of its first fifty years:

Presented at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show, the Modulo is a one-off two-seater berlinetta designed by Paolo Martin, the father of the Fiat 130 Coupé arguably inspired by Syd Mead’s earlier concept art. 

Based on a Ferrari 512S chassis and characterized by two overlapping body shells, the concept was first presented in pearl light blue before getting resprayed black for a photoshoot, only to end up being white for its international tour. This Pininfarina first represented the Italian coachbuilders at Expo 1970 in Osaka, and then the whole of Italy in Mexico City in 1971. 

The Modulo is just 93 cm (36.6-inches) tall, featuring a sliding cupola and a rectilinear indentation on its waistline, highlighted in red. This pure yet curvy wedge exterior with the straight-up alien interior earned 22 international awards for the design house, with Pininfarina never explaining why most of the Modulo's controls were housed in a pair of rotating spherical elements.

The Modulo isn't just your average concept car, built to wow yet eventually forgotten. After 50 years, it's in fact healthier than ever.

Before Mahindra could take over the firm in 2015, Pininfarina pretty much went bankrupt, only to quickly sell off a few of its most significant concepts to trusted buyers before the debt collectors could seize their assets. Along with the 1967 Dino 206 Competizione, the Modulo landed in Pininfarina P4/5 commissioner James Glickenhaus' garage, who decided to rebuild the concept as a driving Ferrari registered for the road in New York. Well known in car circles as well as by fans of '80s and '90s B-movies , Glickenhaus has a fleet of significant and equally high-maintenance classics, plus a full racing team called Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, with self-designed cars campaigned to class wins at both the Nürburgring 24 and the Baja 1000.

As a pure concept kept in museums for decades, the Modulo wasn't exactly dead when Glickenhaus' Italian experts got it. However, since it was never supposed to work, Pininfarina's pride and joy came without a drivetrain, also missing all accessories. Even after collecting the relevant Ferrari parts for years, the Modulo took quite some engineering to get going, and following a small fire caused by a faulty muffler during a test drive in Monaco, SCG's Italian team went back to the drawing board. They finally sorted out the racing V12 that was born to be in the car, given how the Modulo was derived from a 612-spec 512S chassis.

The to-do list was extensive. In order for the Modulo to get its plates registered as a "1970 Ferrari sedan" due to there being no such category in U.S. law as a "single-door coupé," Glickenhaus' engineers also had to fix the electronically operated radiator doors that allow access to the fuel cap, add period “Sebring” mirrors, a wiper system that’s now asymmetrical and functional, fans in the air ducts for cabin ventilation, fresh yet period-correct BF Goodrich tires, and a completely re-engineered muffler system with internal flame arrestors and tips.

When this iconic concept was finally ready to be driven for the first time in 50 years, an ace photographer friend of mine flew with me to Italy to witness the miracle, only so that we could bring home enough images to show you every single detail of this fantastic Pininfarina spaceship. Without further ado, please enjoy the Ferrari that now can also accelerate your mail to air-freight speeds:

After Glickenhaus sent back his now-flawlessly working Modulo to Pininfarina's Cambiano headquarters for an extensive photo session, company chairman Paolo Pininfarina and CEO Silvio Angori couldn't be happier to announce that the Italian postal service, Poste Italiane has a webshop filled with the stamps they intend to issue in 400,000 copies.

Sadly, this is an Italian website that presumably runs on local electricity, so I've been unable to purchase any so far. The country code for my phone number can't be changed to complete the registration process. 

Better luck to you all, and happy birthday to both Pininfarina and its wild Modulo concept.

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