There are many well-known styling firms in the automotive arena: Zagato, Bertone, Italdesign Giugiaro and Ghia among them, but none are more famous than Pininfarina. The company’s history stretches back nearly a hundred years to when Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina founded Carrozzeria Pininfarina in Turin, Italy.
As was commonplace at the time, small-scale carrozzeria, or body shops, built customised car bodies for individual customers. Pinin’s work quickly earned a reputation among Europe’s elite, which was helped, in no small part, by some of his creations displayed at the Paris Motor Show in 1932.
However, it was not until Farina met another famous Italian automotive doyen that his fame would spread worldwide. That person was Enzo Ferrari. Many believed the two head-strong characters would not be able to forge an amicable working relationship, but as it turned out, these people were wrong. The two men respected and admired each other’s talent, and the partnership between Ferrari and Pininfarina now stretches more than 60 years. The cars produced from this long-standing collaboration are considered the embodiments of power, speed and luxury.
Countless desirable shapes were conceived by the designers in Turin and built in Maranello during the fruitful relationship. Among these are the famous Ferrari 365 GTB/4, better known as the Daytona, the 512 BB (named after French model Brigitte Bardot), the ‘Magnum, P.I.’ 308 GTS, the iconic F40, the Testarossa and the infamous 458. Fittingly, the Ferrari Enzo was also designed by Pininfarina.
On 3 April 1966, Battista passed away, but not before handing the reins to his son Sergio. Incidentally, Battista had his surname officially changed to Pininfarina to align the family closely to the creations that bore the name of the carrozzeria.
It was business as usual with Sergio at the helm. There were brief forays into the burgeoning US market, but Pininfarina concentrated its efforts closer to home and applied its special touch to new models of European brands. The famous Alfa Romeo “Duetto” Spider, immortalised as Dustin Hoffman’s mode of transport in The Graduate, debuted the same year Battista passed away.
Peugeot, Bentley, Citroën, Maserati and many others have produced cars that were styled by the independent atelier. From the unlikely Peugeot 404 to the breath-taking Maserati GranTurismo and countless models in between, you’ve inadvertently set your eyes on a Pininfarina creation at some point in your life.
Pininfarina has evolved over the last 90 odd years from a simple automotive design studio to a fully-fledged member of the automotive landscape. Today’s activities include non-automotive design (yachts, appliances, furniture and timepieces to name a few) and automotive engineering services. Keeping with tradition, it also offers production facilities for limited-edition series or exclusive high-end cars.
In 2018, the company announced that it would build its first-ever standalone product, which was to fittingly be called the Battista. Paolo Pininfarina, now chairman of the company, said, “This is genuinely a dream come true. My grandfather always had the vision that one day there would be a stand-alone range of Pininfarina-branded cars. For me, we simply had to call it Battista.”
The jaw-dropping Battista features extensive use of lightweight carbon-fibre. Under that provocative shape is an extremely powerful, all-electric drivetrain delivering 1 400kW and a massive 2 340N.m of torque. The EV hypercar can blast from rest to 100km/h in under two seconds and has a top speed of 350km/h. Just 150 of these will be built.
A few weeks ago, sister company Automobili Pininfarina, the new car maker behind the Battista, unveiled two new models. The B95 is a speedster that is based on the Battista and boasts the same powertrain, with only 10 units scheduled to be built. The name is a nod to the company’s upcoming 95th anniversary. The other, an SUV, is called the Pura Vision, and will offer a look into the future of the marque’s line up.
Three generations of Pininfarina, aided by countless talented designers who cut their teeth in Turin, have captured the imaginations of auto enthusiasts the world over. As we enter a new age of motoring and electrification, Pininfarina is proving that it is more than up to the task of producing evocative shapes, just as it has for almost a hundred years.