04 July 2012

Pininfarina, Giant of Car Design, Dead at 85

Sergio Pininfarina, who designed some of the world’s most glamorous cars, died last night in Turin, Italy. He was 85.

The son of a carriage maker, Pininfarina put his name on such iconic cars as the Ferrari Testarossa, the Alfa Romeo Spider, the Fiat 124 Spider, the Maserati Quattroporte and the Ferrari Scaglietti.

Pininfarina also did significant work for Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Peugeot, Rolls-Royce and Volvo.

Even the American-made 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Rondine and 1986 Cadillac Allante bore his name. But his legend was developed most intimately with Ferrari, where he served on the board of directors for 42 years.

“Calling his relation with Ferrari legendary is insufficient,” Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo says. “First with Enzo and then with me, he designed some of the most iconic models, such as the Testarossa or the Enzo, just to name two.”

In fact, every single GT serial model issued from Maranello since the 1952 Ferrari 212 Inter Cabriolet have been designed by Pininfarina.

It’s no surprise. His father, Battista Farina, founded the design house (under the name Carrozzeria Pinin Farina) in the 1930s, and the boy was groomed to join the family business after he graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from Turin Polytechnic University in 1950. Pininfarina became chief executive of the company in 1961 and chairman in 1966.

Initial success came with a unique coupĂ© that Battista built on a Cisitalia chassis in 1946–the car was considered so perfect it earned a spot in the Museum of Modern Art. Six years later, Farina bodywork appeared to rave reviews on the Ferrari 212 Inter Cabriolet.

In 1954 Roberto Rossellini was the first notable person to commission something special: He ordered a Ferrari 375MM as a gift for Ingrid Bergman.

In 1961 its status was great enough to earn a presidential decree allowing a name change to “Pininfarina” from the original Farina. (Battista’s nickname was Pinin, which means “the little one” in Piedmont.)

Throughout his life Pininfarina served on many esteemed boards including a seat in European parliament for the Italian Liberal party from 1979 to 1988. He stepped down as CEO of Pininfarina in 2001, handing the reins to his son, Andrea, but remained as chairman. In 2008 Andrea Pininfarina died in a road accident while riding his Vespa scooter to work and was succeeded by his brother, Paolo, who continues as chairman. In 2005 the Italian president named Pininfarina a senator for life.

Pininfarina died at home with his wife, Giorgia, and children Lorenza and Paolo nearby.

Sources: forbes, wsj

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