It has long been thought by many that the age of legends is passing into myth. The death of Sergio Pininfarina reminds us of this notion. In years to come we do not know if today’s designers will themselves become legends, but what we do know is that the car world lost another one recently.
Early Life and Carrozzeria Pininfarina
Pininfarina was born in Turin in 1926, he was the son of famous car designer Battista Farina, who is best known for designing the 1600 Duetto for Alpha Romeo. Sergio first joined his father’s company after graduating as an engineer from the Polytechnic University of Turin. Carrozzeria Pininfarina was first founded when Battista broke away from the family’s Stabilimenti Farina company in 1930.
The name of Battista’s company means ‘body styling’ in Italian and this is what Sergio Pininfarina has become most famous for. In the post-war era he helped rescue the company from disastrous bombing campaigns that had destroyed its coach making and body forming facilities. As Battista faded, his son took over the running of the company and became Managing Director in 1961.
In a time of economic resurgence following the war, Sergio, along with Batista’s son-in-law, Renzo Carli, began built the company back up by producing bodies for companies such as Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia. This included the Florida body on the 1955 Lancia and body work on a 1952 Ferrari.
In time, Pininfarina’s work became synonymous with elegant bodywork and design. None more stand out than his design of the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta PF 840. This was his first big hit with the company and remains a defining body style. Meaning ‘little saloon’ the Berlinetta series were first introduced in the 1930s and first popularized by Ferrari in the 1950s with Pininfarina’s help.
One of the first GTO Ferraris to be built in 1960 sold for an eye bulging $35 million a few years ago, which goes to show the enduring appeal of Sergio Pininfarina’s designs. The less powerful version of the original 250 GTO, the 250 GTE became one of Ferrari’s most successful cars of the era. He then went on to design Ferraris such as the Dino series and the Enzo, named after Ferrari’s son.
In Britain, Pininfarina went on to help design some of the most elegant and memorable cars to be produced in the country. He can be credited with helping to give British cars a new wind in terms of style and development. Fans of his luxurious Ferrari designs were lining up in droves to get car finance for the new designs for the Austin A40 in 1958 on behalf of the British Motor Corporation (BMC). He also helped to design the Morris 1100, which went on to become one of the best selling British cars of all time. He also worked on a Spider based on the Jaguar XJS and reinvented the XJ series.
There is simply not enough space on this article to talk in-depth about all of the Pininfarina amazing designs from the second half of the twentieth century. We are left to wonder what he might have made for the British public had Donald Stokes not cancelled his contract in 1968 or if his wondrous Berlina Aerodinamica design had not been rejected by British Leyland, though it did help to found the Citroen GS and CX series, and other cars.
In 2006, Pininfarina handed control of the Pininfarina Group over to his eldest son, Andrea. Instead he took up the role of honorary chairman for the duration of his life. By then the company employed around 3,000 people, had two factories in Turin plus operations in France and Germany, various design and manufacturing contracts with car companies around the globe and strong ties to companies such as Alfa Romeo, Ford and Mitsubishi. Andrea died in a traffic accident in 2008 and the company is now run by Sergio’s second son Pablo.
Outside of car manufacturing, Sergio Pininfarina served as both an elected member of the European parliament (1979-88) and as a senator for life for the Liberal Party. His abstention vote in 2007 led to the fall of the Romano Prodi government and the return of Silvio Berlusconi. He never voted again despite retaining his position. He also won a range of awards including the position of an honorary royal designer at the Royal Society of Arts. Although he lived an enriching life and made a substantial and lasting mark on automotive design, unfortunately he passed away Tuesday July 3rd 2012 at the age of 85.
Some Examples of his work: