When someone dies people like to look over the individual’s life’s work and determine what kind of value it had. Contributions to society and legacies are big factors in this assessment. I remember vividly when the Ferrari Enzo came out back in 2002, when I first saw it I thought to myself, “Sweet Jesus that is hell fire on wheels!” I can only imagine it was the same way when the F-40 was released and the twin turbo monster 288 GTO before that. These cars were more than simply a means of conveyance, they were testament of Italian artistry. The man behind these and many other masterpieces though no longer among us lives on through his legacy of Italian craftsmanship. Sergio Pininfarina died at the age of 85, on July third, at his home in Turin, Italy. The name Pininfarina alone evokes images of low-slung, sleek Italian sports cars with roaring engines. However, what many fail to realize, it was Sergio Pininfarina who took his father’s small coach building business from less than 1,000 units per year in the mid – 1950′s to over 50,000 units annually less than half a century later.
Sergio Pininfarina was born in Turin, Italy on September 8, 1926. Only four years later in 1930 his father, Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina would go on to found Carrozzeria Pininfarina, a small custom coach building company in Cambiano, Italy. Before his official take over of his father’s company in 1966, Sergio was instrumental in the marketing of Pininfarina. With contemporaries like Carrozzeria Scaglietti, Bertone, Ghia, Zagato, Vignale and so on there was no shortage of extremely talented competition. Sergio saw the necessity for world-wide exposure of their product. For instance in 1946, Italy was excluded from the Paris Motor Show, for political reasons, so Sergio and his father drove an Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 S and a Lancia Aprilia Cabriolet from Turin and parked them right in front of the building hosting the show. The Pininfarinas were a huge success further catapulting the small Italian coach builders onto the world stage.
Following his father’s death, Sergio took over as chair of the company and ushered in a new era of car design. Most notably was the relationship Pininfarina developed with Enzo Ferrari. Pininfarina has been the one of Ferrari’s primary design and coach building firms since the late fifties. Some of their most notable cars include but are not limited to the: 1958 410 Super America, 1961 250 GT, 1984 Testarossa, and 360 Modena. In 1964 it was Sergio who persuaded Ferrari to develop a new mid-engined sports car for the discerning public. The result was the Dino Berlinette Especiale aka Ferrari Dino. The then new layout for production sports cars is still on the cutting edge today as seen in any number of modern super cars.
Sergio Pininfarina’s input was integral to every design that left his factory, “There is not one single drawing, one single design, one single style that goes out of the factory without my approval,” a quote from the Christian Science Monitor in 1981. It was this unrelenting attention to detail and passion for cars that made Pininfarina the icon of the automotive industry that it is today. The Ferrari 250 remains one of the most sought after cars in history, selling for many millions of dollars.
The modern day sports car generally speaking, lacks style, flash, dare I say emotion compared to sports cars of days gone by. In a 1977 speech Pininfarina said,”Frankly, I believe that those who try to minimize the importance of the aesthetic appearance of an automobile do it just because they cannot design beautiful cars.”. There are a few decent looking contemporary sports cars but by and large manufacturers are churning out hum-drum crap and in some cases revamped versions of sports cars from half a century ago. The ball is in your court boys, lets try to make the guys that invented sports cars proud.