Source: Pininfarina via Bloomberg

A Visual History of Pininfarina, the Design House That Helped Shape Ferrari

Indian carmaker Mahindra & Mahindra has agreed to buy Italian auto design house Pininfarina. The firm has endured several recent bumps in the road, from the death of its modern patriarch, Sergio Pininfarina, in 2012, to a failure to meet restructuring goals established in 2008. As the company known for iconic midcentury designs for Ferrari, Fiat, and Alfa Romeo—as well as modern designs for Bentley, BMW, and Maserati—prepares for the future, here is a look at its gorgeous, storied past.

  1. Pinin Farina

    Pinin Farina

    Born Battista Farina in 1893 and officially renamed Battista Pininfarina in 1961, "Pinin" formed his eponymous company, Carozzeria Pininfarina, in 1930 to focus on the body design and detailing of high-priced, limited-run cars. His initial clients were members of European and Asian royalty, celebrities, and land-rich aristocrats; his most famous work was done for Ferrari, starting in 1952. He died in 1966 at the age of 73 after passing control of the firm to his son, Sergio, and his son-in-law, Renzo Carli.

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  2. Hispano Suiza Coupe

    Hispano Suiza Coupe

    This was among the first cars Pininfarina made. (The car's name means “Hispanic Swiss.”) Its limited numbers and unique design—including the negligible rear windows—made it even rarer than most high-end cars in the early 1930s. It is extremely coveted on the auction block.

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  3. Fiat 518 Ardita

    Fiat 518 Ardita

    This is the other preliminary design Pininfarina completed in the early 1930s. Roughly 8,000 of them were produced in Italy before a Polish version came out. Farina officially changed his name to Battista Pininfarina in 1961, so his born surname and the name of his business “sanctioned a usage which was already predominant everywhere.”

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  4. Alfa Romeo 6C

    Alfa Romeo 6C

    Pininfarina showed this car at the 1935 Milan Motor Show. (The name refers to the straight six cylinders in its engine.) It was one of the first he created to show that aerodynamics were the most natural way of differentiating cars and finding new forms. The alert front and tapered end of this car influenced the Lancia Astura Cabriolet, which emerged the following year.

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  5. Lancia Aprilia Aerodinamica

    Lancia Aprilia Aerodinamica

    Pininfarina famously said that aerodynamics was the “form of speed.” He was first to build a wind tunnel to test F1 cars in the Sigma Grand Prix. This was one of the first cars developed after wind tunnel testing by Pininfarina himself. He achieved then-record aerodynamic levels on this model, forcing other carmakers to improve their efficiency standards. The Aprilia Aerodinamica was first shown in 1936.

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  6. Cisitalia


    Unveiled in 1947, the Cisitalia 202 eventually became the first car in the world to be permanently displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was labeled “one of the eight outstanding cars of our time,” with a shape that influenced dozens of auto designs for decades. The car was built on an aluminum body with a steel skeleton. Pininfarina called it a decisive turning point for automotive style: “I knew that the old shapes were out,” he said. “Cars had to have pure, smooth, essential lines, too.”

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  7. Nash Healey

    Nash Healey

    This model was first made for the U.S. market from 1951 to 1954 and was touted as America’s first postwar sports car. It was produced by the Nash company to attract attention to its other, less-expensive models. It wasn’t until the later years that Pininfarina was hired to restyle its subtle curves to make it look more like the rest of the cars in Nash's portfolio and to add such things as a new grill with embedded headlights. At that point, the Healey also began undergoing preliminary assembly in Italy.

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  8. Maserati A6 1500 Berlinetta Speciale

    Maserati A6 1500 Berlinetta Speciale

    The A6 family of Maserati cars included sports cars and sedans made in the late 1940s and early '50s. They are named after Alfieri Maserati and the fact that their engines comprise 6 cylinders. This particular coupe was first shown in Geneva in 1947.

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  9. Ferrari 212

    Ferrari 212

    Unveiled in Brussels in 1951, this model was the first Ferrari that Pininfarina created himself. Testers recorded its top speed as more than 115mph, with a 0-60mph spring of 10.5 seconds. The numbers were considered very good at the time. The smooth lines and distinctive headlights of the 212 set the tone for multiple Ferraris afterward.

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  10. Alfa Romeo 1600 Duetto

    Alfa Romeo 1600 Duetto

    The original version of the famous car from the Dustin Hoffman hit movie, The Graduate, was produced from 1966 until 1993, with a small run of cars sold in North America for 1994. In all, 140,000 were made. The Duetto was the last project with which founder Pininfarina was personally associated, but it didn’t last long. After 1967, the original version of the car was replaced by other, upgraded Alfa Romeo Spiders.

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  11. Lancia Aurelia B245

    Lancia Aurelia B245

    This car is a descendant of the Astura and is among the first mass-produced Pininfarina-designed cars. Considered especially adept at cruising California highways, 761 of them were sold in the United States. That small—but notable—demand helped spur a more regular flow of Italian car exports to North America.

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  12. Lancia Astura Bocca

    Lancia Astura Bocca

    The word “Astura” refers to a river south of Rome at which the last battle took place between Romans and Latins. The area was later populated by wealthy Romans wanting to live closer to nature, and the car developed for them fittingly bore the name of their rural retreat. The Lancia Astura Bocca was smoother-running than its predecessors, with a V8 engine and a four-speed manual gearbox that drove the rear wheels.

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  13. Lancia Florida II

    Lancia Florida II

    This Lancia was built on the sedan chassis of the Aurelia as a way to keep the curves and roofline of the sedan on a coupe body. The delicate shape of the car’s body and especially its rear windows were extremely influential; the iconic Lancia Flaminia Pininfarina Coupe is a direct descendant of the Florida design.

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  14. Fiat 124 Spider

    Fiat 124 Spider

    The little four-seat convertible made its debut at the Turin Motor Show in 1966. The man who designed it, Tom Tjaarda, had also designed earlier versions of the Corvette and Ferrari 275 GTS, and this car reflects some of that influence. It had 128 horsepower on a four-cylinder engine, and later versions were used as successful rally race cars.

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  15. Peugeot 504 Coupe

    Peugeot 504 Coupe

    This was the original Peugeot flagship, with four cylinders, a four-speed manual transmission on a nearly 100-hp engine, and a sunroof. (The four-door version first appeared in 1968, while the coupe followed suit in 1969.) Main production stopped in 1983, but licensed manufacturing of variants continued into the early 2000s.

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  16. Sigma Grand Prix –

    Sigma Grand Prix –

    Called “Sigma” for short, this was a special test Formula 1 car built by Pininfarina in 1969. It had a prototype V12 engine with 436hp and a Ferrari five-speed transmission. The original car was touted for progressive safety features and its novel body shell. It is stored at Pininfarina headquarters in Italy.

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  17. Dino Berlinetta Speciale

    Dino Berlinetta Speciale

    Dino is the name for the mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive cars Ferrari made from 1968 to 1976. They were created as a way for Ferrari to make lower-cost sports cars without sullying the esteemed Ferrari name. (They were made by Ferrari but called Dino, after Enzo's son.) The Berlinetta name signifies the especially sporty nature of this coupe; it means “little saloon” in Italian.

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  18. Cadillac Allante

    Cadillac Allante

    Cadillac made the V8 Allante from 1986 to 1993, producing more than 21,000 in total. It was a two-door, two-seat convertible with the world’s first retractable radio antenna. In 1990 you could buy one for about $53,000.

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  19. Sergio Farina with the Tesstarossa

    Sergio Farina with the Tesstarossa

    Sergio inherited the Pininfarina company upon his father’s death in 1966. He is responsible for many of the most famous Pininfarina Ferraris ever produced, including the entire Dino line (and especially the Ferrari Dino Berlinette Speciale). Today Pininfarina’s best designs (mid-century Ferraris) fetch millions of dollars at auction. Its modern work remains relevant: Bentley, Cadillac, Maserati, BMW, and Ferrari have each launched modern Pininfarina successes. Sergio died in Turin in 2012.

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