Pininfarina – 90 years of ‘la Bellezza’
April 14, 2020
Riley’s Automotive Editor TMA Howe pays tribute to Pininfarina, one of the world’s leading luxury car designers
You could say it’s 90 years overdue, but at long last there’s a luxury car worthy of the Pininfarina name.
Established in 1930, the Pininfarina moniker is associated with some of the best known car designs across the world. Examples today include such remarkable vehicles as the ‘eco-sustainable luxury sedan’, the H600, built in collaboration with Hong Kong-based Hybrid Kinetic Group. Also of note is the BMW Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupé, an interpretation of a luxurious BMW Coupé as translated by the Pininfarina car design group.
Battista Farina was born on November 2, 1893. The tenth of 11 children, his nickname was ‘Pinin’, meaning the youngest brother. From the age of 12, when working in his brother’s body shop, his love of cars was born. For the next 25 years he worked for his brother’s company and honed his skill with bodywork and the design of his own cars.
During this time he travelled to one of the best places at the time to learn about automobiles: America. While there, no less than Henry Ford himself asked him to stay to work for him. Battista was not only interested in the design of cars, he even enjoyed racing them, and won the Aosta-Gran San Bernardo race, setting the best time for all categories of vehicles in competition.
Pininfarina Revolutionizes Car Design
It was in 1930 that Pininfarina founded Carrozzeria Pinin Farina. With his interest in bettering the use of technology, Battista wanted to change car body manufacturing into a separate industry. Before the Second World War broke out – interrupting production – the company was producing car bodies that were way ahead of the time, giving a taste of automobile design of the future.
After the end of the war, Battista furthered the links with America that he had developed in the 20s. He worked with Nash Motor of Detroit Michigan (now the American Motors Co) and in 1952 launched the Nash Healey, which he designed, and which was built in Turin.
Over the coming years, Pinin Farina worked with many brands designing models for companies such as Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati, and Cadillac. However, following a meeting in a restaurant in 1951 with Enzo Ferrari, the best known relationship started, with the company designing many beautiful Ferraris right up until the Ferrari F12berlinetta, which was produced from 2012 to 2017. Also noteworthy is the spectacular Pininfarina Sergio, aka the Ferrari Sergio (named after Pinin’s son), an elegant concept car built on the Ferrari 458 Spider.
In 1956, Battista started planning the future of the company, preparing to hand over to his son Sergio and his son-in-law Renzo Carli. In 1961, Battista handed the company over, and Giovanni Gronchi, the President of Italy approved the change of Farina’s last name to Pininfarina so the company that we know and love today was born. Battista himself died in April, 1966.
A Pedigree of Iconic Cars
Since 1947, the Pininfarina name has been associated with a plethora of wonderful prototypes launched at many motor shows around the world, including brands such as Alfa Romeo and Lancia in the early years. But soon companies from the USA, England, and France commissioned the company to develop prototypes. Whilst not all were the most beautiful cars ever seen (such as the BMC 1800 Berlina-Aerodinamica of 1967, and the MG EX.234 Roadster of 1968 that looked like a bad marriage between a Fiat coupe and an MGB), some gorgeous prototypes showed the skills of the many designers in the company.
In 1980, to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary, the Ferrari Pinin was commissioned. It was to have become a production model, but it sadly never made it, but can claim to be the first four-door Ferrari ever made. In 2010, as a tribute to mark the 80th anniversary of Pininfarina and the centenary of Alfa Romeo, the studio designed the Alfa Romeo 2uettottanta as a tribute to the Duetto Spider.
A couple of my personal favourite prototypes that sadly never made it into production were the Lancia Stratos concept. This beauty was developed and built for German businessman Michael Stoschek, who commissioned it, asking the company to design and build a modern interpretation of his favourite car, the legendary Lancia Stratos. And at the 2005 Geneva Motor show, the studio showed its interpretation of the future Maserati – the Maserati Birdcage 75th – which carried off the elite Louis Vuitton Award.
A Tradition of Luxury and Excellence
Not all of the company’s designs were prototypes. In fact, many of the designs were production cars, starting post-war with the marvellous Cisitalia 202, which was the first car to be permanently on display in a Museum of Modern Art(MoMA) in New York. It was manufactured on a limited basis, and unveiled in 1947 at the exhibition of Coachbuilders at the Milan Triennale. It won the first prize at the Villa d’Este Concours d’Elegance (Cernobbio, Como).
In addition to the numerous elegant Ferraris the company designed, from the 1962 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso through to the 2011 Ferrari FF and the aforementioned 2012 Ferrari F12berlinetta, many well-known models around the world originated in the Pininfarina design studios. These included such notable classic cars such as the simple 1956 Austin A40 Farina (a starter car for many in the UK!) and a number of Peugeots, starting with the 1960 Peugeot 404, and including the classic 1985 Peugeot 205.
And now, to return to Battista Farina. Automobili Pininfarina, the new sustainable luxury car brand controlled by Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, have launched the electric hypercar known as ‘The Battista’. Designed to be the world’s first luxury electric hyper performance GT, The Battista will accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 2 seconds and will have a potential zero-emissions range of up to 450 kilometres.
As Chairman Paolo Pininfarina says: “This is genuinely a dream come true. My grandfather always had the vision that one day there would be a stand-alone range of Pininfarina-branded cars. This hypercar will boast world-beating performance, technological innovation and of course elegant styling. For me, we simply had to call it Battista. His dream becomes reality today as we link our glorious past with the future of motoring.”
To learn more about the spectacular Pininfarina Battista, visit the company’s website at https://automobili-pininfarina.com.
TMA Howe is Riley’s Automotive Editor. He likes flashy cars and shiny objects.