Something about this car strikes the eye wrong. It’s not that it doesn’t have a roof; many vehicles don’t have tops. Perhaps the starkly contrasting black front fenders with cutouts that look like weird little eyes. Maybe it’s the lack of a proper windshield, just the hint of a screen harkening back to racers from yesteryear. Road & Track called it a “duck-billed platypus” and a “smiling shoe.” Whatever the case, something is just off.
The iconic red paint job should be a dead giveaway, but without the familiar Prancing Horse logo on the body to reveal its true heritage, the truth still evades. Only when you peer inside and see Ferrari’s badge in the middle of the steering wheel do you understand this vehicle came from the famed Italian car maker. Welcome to the Conciso, a concept car first shown at the 1993 Frankfurt Motor Show (via RM Sotheby’s).
The Italian word “conciso” translates to “concise” in English, which means giving only the minimum necessary, to be brief, or removing anything superfluous. That’s precisely what the German coach builder Bernd Michalak (of Michalak Design) envisioned with the Conciso, based on the underpinnings of a 1989 Ferrari 328 GTS (the car is considered an ’89 because of this). This one-off weighed 800 pounds less because it dropped on an all-new aluminum alloy body, removed all the weatherproofing (i.e., the roof and windshield), and didn’t have any doors (via The Drive).
The Ferrari of a thousand logos
Before diving into more details, the stories behind concept cars are often as interesting as the vehicles, and the Conciso is no different. When scouring the Internet, you’ll find pictures and videos showing this car with an array of branding, both with and without the quintessential Prancing Horse logos.
A video from TheCaraf back in 2015 shows it bedazzled with badges from Ferrari to Michilak’s original Conciso graphics and the words “Francorchamps Motors” emblazoned on the sides. Yet, in photos from RM Sotheby’s auction in May 2018, it only had the Michalak graphics, no “Francorchamps Motors” vocabulary, and just the one lone Ferrari horse on the steering wheel.
In July 2019, it showed up on “Jay Leno’s Garage” alongside owner Franco Valobra (President and owner of Valobra Jewelry), who bought it at the RM Sotheby’s auction for only €109,250. During that episode, the Michalak graphics were gone, but it had so many horses on the shell that they could cause a stampede, so Valobra presumably made some changes. Interestingly, around three minutes in, Leno starts talking about the Ferrari badging on the car, despite the company’s notoriety for not putting badges on everything. Valobra remains oddly silent, and maybe he did so as not to admit guilt and incur the wrath of the Italian carmaker.
Get in the saddle of this Italian horse and ride
As for the car itself, Michalak kept the mid-mounted, transversally set, 3.2-liter, 270 horsepower V8 engine and signature gated five-speed manual transmission of the 328 GTS. Since it weighed 30% less than the GTS, it could get from zero to sixty in 5 seconds at a top speed of 173 mph, while the GTS time was 5.9 seconds with a ten-mile-per-hour slower top speed of 173 (via The Drive). The car is very agile on the road and feels “like a go-kart,” according to Jay Leno in his “Garage” episode.
The minimal interior features two bucket seats, four-point safety harnesses, and just enough of the 328’s instrumentation to get the job done. Cutouts on the interior of each “door” hold a helmet. This Ferrari was meant to be raced, not used as a daily driver, although Valobra claims he drives it to work as much as he can. Another unique feature is that both the front and rear sections open clamshell style, which makes it easy for the engine to be worked on. According to Autoweek, after Valobra purchased the car, he rebuilt the engine.
It’s ironic that to get into the car, one must lift a leg over the “door” and step inside, much the same way one might get into the saddle on a horse. It’s a very fitting touch on this genuine Italian horse.