By Marina Orhei
90 years ago in Turin Battista Farina called “Pinin” decided to exit from the “Stabilimenti Farina” family company. His dream was to design outstanding cars. On May 22, 1930 the “Società anonima Carrozzeria Pinin Farina” was founded by Pinin with Gaspare Bona, Giovanni Battista Devalle, Pietro Monateri,and Arrigo De Angeli. Pinin had the financial help from his wife’s Miglietti family and from Vincenzo Lancia, an Italian racing driver, engineer and founder the “Lancia” Brand. During the 1930s, the company built bodies for Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Isotta Fraschini, Hispano-Suiza, Fiat, Cadillac, and Rolls-Royce.
With its close relationship with Lancia, the pioneer of the monocoque in automobile design, Farina became the first coachbuilder to build bodies for the new technique also known as unibody construction. This development happened in the mid-1930s when others saw the frameless construction as the end of the independent coachbuilder. In 1939, World War II ended automobile production, but the company had 400 employees building 150 bodies a month. The war effort against the Allies brought work making ambulances and searchlight carriages. The Pinin Farina factory was destroyed by Allied bombers ending the firm’s operations. After the war, Pinin Farina and his son Sergio defied the ban Italy had from the 1946 Paris Motor Show droving two of their cars (an “Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 S” and a “Lancia Aprilia cabriolet”) from Turin to Paris. There visitors’ queues stretched from the main gate all the way to the Seine. The Farinas found a place at the entrance to the exhibition to display the two new creations. The managers of the Grand Palais said of the display, “the devil Pinin Farina”, but to the press and the public it was the successful “Turin coachbuilder’s anti-salon”. At the end of 1945, the elegant “Cisitalia 202 Coupé” established Pinin Farina’s reputation. His design skill was honored in the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark presentation “Eight Automobiles” in 1951 and the exhibit publicity brought Pinin Farina to cooperate with Nash Motors, bringing an high-volume production of designs and provided a major entry into the United States market.
A total of 170 Coupés were produced by Pinin Farin. The Nash-Healey sports car body were completely designed and assembled in limited numbers from 1952 to 1954 at Pinin Farina’s Turin facilities. As a result of Nash’s million advertising campaign, Pinin Farina became well known in the U.S. Pinin Farina also built the bodies for the limited-series “Cadillac Eldorado Brougham” for General Motors in 1959 and 1960, assembled them and sent them back to the U.S. There were 99 Broughams built in 1959 and 101 in 1960. A similar arrangement was repeated in the late 1980s when Pininfarina designed (and partially assembled) the “Cadillac Allanté” at the San Giusto Canavese factory. The car bodies were assembled and painted in Italy before being flown from the Turin International Airport to Detroit for final vehicle assembly. In 1968 the President of Italy formally authorized the change of Farina’s last name to Pininfarina and the business took on the same name.
I remember very well that resolution, as at the time I was 24 years old and I was living and working in Turin. I also remember how proud the Turin citizens were when the Ferrari partnership started in 1951, with Sergio Farina, which was a good friend of my father, looking after Ferrari from A to Z. Design, engineering, technology, construction—the lot.
Since that decision, the only road-going production Ferraris not designed by Pininfarina are the 1973 “Dino 308 GT4” and 2013’s “LaFerrari”. Their relationship was so close that Pinin Farina became a partner of Ferrari in “Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC”, the organization that ran Ferrari’s race team from 1961–1989. Pinin was a vice president of Ferrari, and Sergio later sat on Ferrari’s board of directors. The last Ferrari penned by Pininfarina was the “Ferrari F12berlinetta” which was produced 2012–17. After the Ferrari partnership, in 1954 to 1955 Pinin Farina purchased land in Grugliasco, outside of Turin, for a new factory, where he designed the new °Giulietta Spide°r for Alfa Romeo. Also Alfa Romeo is celebrating in Milan an important anniversary this year, 110 years, therefore we can say that Italy had become a top producer worldwide, just few years after the WWII worldwide!
It was a huge success for both Companies, with a production in 1958 of 1025 units which then expanded to over 4,000 in 1959 the first full year of the new Grugliasco factory. In the meantime, in 1956 Farina started to groom his replacements–Sergio his son and Renzo Carli his son-in-law and in 1961 at the age of 68, “Pinin” Farina formally turned his firm over to them. Pininfarina was run by Battista’s grandson Andrea Pininfarina from 2001 until his death in a road accident in 2008. Andrea’s younger brother Paolo Pininfarina was then appointed as successor. Starting in the mid-1960s, Pininfarina started to make investments in the science of automotive design, a strategy to differentiate itself from the other Italian coachbuilders. In 1966, Pininfarina opened the “Studies and Research Centre” (Studi e Ricerche) in Grugliasco. The research centre occupied 8,000 sq. metres (2 acres) and employed 180 technicians capable of producing 25 prototypes a year. The “Calculation and Design Centre” was set up in 1967, the first step in a process of technological evolution which, during the 1970s, would take Pininfarina into the lead in automated bodywork design. Then in 1972 construction of a full-sized wind tunnel was completed. The project was started in 1966. When it opened, it not only was the first wind tunnel with the ability to test full-sized cars in Italy, but also one of the first in the world with this ability. To put this foresight in perspective, GM’s full-sized wind tunnel didn’t open until 1980. In 1982, the company moved “Pininfarina Studi e Ricerche” in Cambiano. It was separate from the factory and wind tunnel in Grugliasco, to keep design and research activities independent from manufacturing. On 14 October 2002, Pininfarina inaugurated a new engineering centre.
The new facility was built at the Cambiano campus to give greater visibility and independence to the engineering operations. In 1983, Pininfarina reached an agreement with General Motors to design and build the “Cadillac Allanté”. The Allanté project led to the building of the San Giorgio factory in 1985. In 1996, Mitsubishi entered talks for Pininfarina build their new compact SUV, the “Pajero”, in Italy. While Mitsubishi recognized Pininfarina’s expertise in design and engineering, the reason for choosing them was that manufacturing costs were half of those in Germany. After entering into an agreement in 1996, Pininfarina purchased an industrial site at Bairo Canavese near Turin, Italy. in April 1997, Bairo Canavese was dedicated to the production of the new “Mitsubishi Pajero Pinin”. Pininfarina Sverige AB in Uddevalla, Sweden, was established in 2003 as a joint venture (JV) between Volvo Cars and Pininfarina to produce a new Volvo convertible that will be sold in Europe and the United States. The JV is owned 60% by Pininfarina and 40% by Volvo.
The “C70” model designed by Volvo’s John Kinsey—was launched on 13 April 2006, sharing the Volvo P1 platform used in the “S40”. After the 2008 global economic crisis several moves took place to raise capital and restructure, until on 2013 the company reported an operating loss of 8.2 million euros and a net profit of 32.9 million euros. In 2015 the Mahindra Group, owner of Indian automobile company Mahindra & Mahindra agreed to buy Italian car designer Pininfarina SpA in a deal worth about 168 million euros. In May 2020, Pininfarina celebrated its 90th anniversary by introducing a limited-edition variant of the electric “Battista”, named “Anniversario”. The Mahindra-owned design house-turned-carmaker also revealed key details about how it plans to bring its electric hypercar to production and deliver the first examples in 2020.
Luca Borgogno, the company’s chief design officer, explained his team created the Anniversario’s two-tone livery after browsing Pininfarina’s vast catalogue of past designs. “It takes three weeks to complete the paint. It’s painted entirely by hand, even the blue pinstripe that separates the grey and the white,” he said. The Battista’s body notably needs to be disassembled after each coat of paint, which partially explains why Anniversario production is strictly limited to five not-inexpensive examples. Edition-specific logos add a finishing touch to the look. “We want our cars to be recognisable, to have kind of a trademark. You’re familiar with Apple computers; you’ve seen how the logo glows on the back. We wanted to offer something similar to our customers. The charging port lights up when the car is plugged in so you’ll be able to recognise a Pininfarina from a distance. This will be on every car we produce in the future,” Borgogno pointed out.
Good Anniversary, Pininfarina!
(Automobili Pininfarina’s ground-breaking Battista luxury electric hypercar. Ph. World Copyright: Patrick Gosling / Stan Papior Beadyeye)