Firstly, a bit of background for those less familiar with Pininfarina. As a quick prod of any search engine will reveal, the Pininfarina name is firmly linked to iconic car designs with waves upon waves of exotic and desirable machinery. There are examples from seemingly every decade since the internal combustion engine first sparked into life. Indeed, this highly coveted coachbuilding firm was founded by Italian coachbuilding pioneer Battista Farina over 85 years ago as Carrozzeria ‘Pinin’ Farina, and has stayed in the family ever since.
Records show that due to Farina’s achievements in social and industrial activity, he was authorised by the President of the Italian Republic in 1961 to change his own surname and that of his family, and he did so to reflect his nickname ‘Pinin’. At the time the word pinin was a cheeky little moniker meaning small, some say it was because he was short, some say it was simply because he was the youngest boy in his family. Either way a bespoke surname was born and with it a new legend – after all, his nephew won the inaugural F1 World Championship and so the Farina name was already a legend in its own right.
Pininfarina became the design house of choice for some of the big names of the time, including most famously Ferrari in 1952, and I could quite happily post oodles of pics of incredibly exotic car-porn, but what I think makes Pininfarina even more special is that this great Italian design firm has not only penned those iconic supercars and concepts but also stamped its mark on much more accessible cars, allowing us less-distinguished proles the chance to have that iconic badge on the flank of our daily driver or, at the very least, give us something to try and spot on a neighbour’s driveway.
Let me take you back to my schooldays in Walpole Highway. Back in the time when I was unaware of algebra or Newton’s laws Pininfarina badges could be found on the flanks of Cadillacs, Lancias, Bentleys and much more, but they all seemed a bit exotic to a Norfolk boy like me and – no offence Peugeot – seeing that beautiful eleven-character word written on the flanks of that most everyday brand is what excited a young me in the same way seeing an Autobot symbol on a car would have excited my schoolmates.
In those days Pininfarina mainly meant Ferrari – Testarossas and 348s. But I wasn’t too keen on Ferrari as they were the enemy of my childhood F1 faves, McLaren. So to see Pininfarina written on Peugeot 205 soft-tops was acceptably tantalising. And soon afterwards, whilst the Pininfarina ship was ably steered by Battista’s son (and lead designer of Ferrari F40), Sergio, a pubescent me was joyed to see Fiat Coupés and then Pug 406 Coupés and more joining in.
Let’s be honest, the Pininfarina-robed examples of Fiats and Pugs (and not forgetting Volvos, Mitsubishis and the rest) are not the brands’ humdrum load-lugging super-sellers, they tend to be something a lil bit more rare and special, a nicer aesthetic, a facelift, maybe a convertible version of an existing car, a low-slung sportster, or just something a bit outside of their comfort zone. That, after all, is the reason those manufacturers brought Pininfarina into the equation and what gets accessible Pininfarinas onto our’s and our neighbours’ driveways.
Bravo to both Sergio and, following his retirement in 2001 after 35 years in charge, his son Andrea, for bringing the iconic Pininfarina name to the likes of me.
Nowadays the brand is under the stewardship of Paolo, Andrea’s younger brother, after Andrea passed away in 2008 following a collision with a car whilst riding a Vespa near the Pininfarina HQ.
So what does the future hold?
With this emerging Chinese market we can be sure that Pininfarina will continue to be present on everyday cars as well as super-expensive mad-mobiles – but has it gone too far? Should this iconic name be associated with such ordinary vehicles? Or are these vehicles less ordinary simply by having Pininfarina input? I’m happy that more people will be exposed to the brand, as long as the passionate designs continue, regardless of whether that’s on a red €1m Italian plaything or a triple-A rated device for getting from A to B (and back to A) five times a week.
Let me know what you think.