History

A history of Pininfarina in three cars

Written by Laura | 22nd May 2020

For almost a century, the distinctive designs of Pininfarina have led and dominated the automobile industry. With an extraordinary portfolio that includes more than 1,200 cars, Pininfarina has dabbled in everything from coach design to Ferrari collaborations. Here to tell us more is classic car expert Franco Vigorito.


In 1928, Battista “Pinin” Farina broke away from his family’s coach-building business and founded the Carrozzeria Pinin Farina. Relying on financial support from his wife (yet another wife supporting her husband’s engineering dreams) and Vincenzo Lancia (yes, the Lancia), Farina would go on to design some of the most beloved classic cars of all time. “It is impossible to list all the masterpieces designed by Battista Farina”, Franco explains. “Starting from a small artisan workshop to an international brand symbol of Italian excellence,the history of Pininfarina really is the history of Italy”.

The Pininfarina logo

Cisitalia 202 Coupé

“The postwar period was a renaissance for many coachbuilders”, Franco tells us. “And it’s not surprising that this was also the period Pininfarina created the Cisitalia 202 Coupé”. Designed in 1946, the Cisitalia brought Pininfarina international acclaim and cemented the brand’s position as a leader in automobile design. “The Cisitalia 202 is full of charm and elegance. It’s probably the most famous postwar Pininfarina car. Only around 70 units were manufactured – including the convertibles – and the two-seater, tubular frame represented a leap forward in body design”. 

Franco’s earlier use of the word “renaissance” is deliberate, as few other cars have been given as many artistic honours as the Cisitalia 202. This charming, elegant model was described by Arthur Drexler as a “moving sculpture” and ever since 1951, the Cisitalia 202 has made its home in the MoMA, where it is on display as “one of the eight wonders of the world”.

A Giulietta Spider on display at International Exhibition InterClassics & Topmobiel in Maastrict

Giulietta Spider

In the early 1950s, Alfa Romeo U.S. importer Max Hoffman made an intriguing request to the Alfa Romeo board. Franco explains: “Hoffman wanted a spider version of the Alfa Giulietta Sprint and he pledged to immediately purchase several models”. This was a serious proposition and it sparked a race between two legendary design companies: Bertone and Pininfarina. Pininfarina ultimately won the race and the Giulietta Spider was born. An open two-seater with (for the time) aerodynamic bodywork, the Giulietta Spider is a classic example of Pininfarina’s early interest and success in reducing drag. And Alfa Romeo was the perfect company to indulge this interest, as the 50s and 60s saw them continue to dominate the racing circuit.

A Ferrari F40 at the Catawiki stand at Automotoretro in Turin

Ferrari F40

The Ferrari F40 was engineered by Nicola Materazzi, designed by Pininfarina and, in case the people working on it weren’t already impressive enough, was the last car personally approved by Enzo Ferrari. Built in 1987 – to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Ferrari – the F40 quickly became “the holy grail of supercars”, according to Franco. “No other car can thrill and make the hearts of all passionate and collectors around the world beat. The bodywork designed by Pininfarina—where only the essential parts of the interior were included— made it a true sports car, not least because of its V8 biturbo engine that generated 478 horsepower and that it could reach speeds of 324 km/h. And all this in 1987!”

“It was a major success right away and from the 400 cars initially forecast to be built, 1,311 units came out from the prancing horse production line. In short, the Ferrari F40 is not a simple car, but it is an icon of style and performance, sought after by every collector around the world”.


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