Sergio Pininfarina was a fundamental figure for the development of the Italian automobile and cars around the world. He ran the company that still carries his surname, supervising the design of models that have become legend. From his famous “pen” have come authentic Ferrari masterpieces such as the 250 GT of 1963, the Dino 206 GT of 1967, the iconic Testarossa of 1984, the 456 GT (1992) and the Enzo (2002).
Pininfarina was born on September 8, 1926 in Turin, four years before his father Battista founded the auto body works “Carrozzeria Pinin Farina”. Growing up amongst cars, it seemed only natural that Sergio would follow in his father’s footsteps. He studied Mechanical Engineering at the Turin Polytechnic and graduated in 1950, the same year in which his cousin Giuseppe Farina became the first Formula 1 World Champion.
By the late 1950s, Sergio was already fully involved in the firm and in charge of the design and construction of the new plant in the Turin suburb of Grugliasco. He was also engaged in many projects for Ferrari. In 1961 he was nominated managing director, and, in honour of his father Battista, whose Piedmontese nickname was Pinin, asked the President of the Republic permission to change the family surname to Pininfarina to match that of the company. The President granted his request. In 1966, upon this father’s death, he became chairman, and inaugurated the new Centre for Studies and Research. Six years later Sergio invested in the field of aerodynamics and developed the first wind tunnel in Italy. From 1974 to 1977 he taught Car body styling at the Polytechnic of Turin, in 1976 he was appointed Cavaliere del Lavoro (Order of Merit for Labour). In 1979 he stood as a candidate for the European Parliament representing the Italian Liberal Party, and was elected: he tried again (and would succeed) in 1984.
Between 1987 and 1989 Sergio Pininfarina was President of the International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers. He was also president of the Federation of Italian Employers, a role he left in 1992. He then handed over the family-run business to his eldest son, Andrea (who would lose his life in a car accident in 2008,) and in 2005 he was nominated as Senator for Life. He passed away after a long battle with illness on July 3, 2012.
The history of Pininfarina begins with the Battista “Pinin” Farina, who was born in Turin on November 2, 1893. Already, at the age of 11, he began working in the car body shop, “Stabilimenti Farina”, founded by his older brother, Giovanni. A precocious talent, given that after supervising the construction of the Aviatic trainer planes, Battista, finds himself in the United States in the presence of “his majesty” Henry Ford. But Battista refuses the Detroit job offered to him and returns to Italy where he marries Rosa Copasso, with whom he has two children: Gianna, born in 1922, and Sergio, in 1926.
Farina’s plan included the study and construction of special car bodies, but he also aimed to establish a business on an industrial scale. And so the “legend” was born. He produced a limited series of cars and, after the Second World War, his first absolute masterpiece: the Cisitalia in 1946, still in the Museum of Modern Art in New York today, and considered the “best expression of simplicity and beauty of design in the automobile industry.”
Battista began a collaboration with the American car manufacturer Nash, now American Motors Corporation of Detroit. And, when in 1952 he returned to the United States to attend the official unveiling of the “Ambassador” which he had designed, and the “Nash-Healey”, the restyled, 2-seat sports car built in the Turin plant, Farina was welcomed triumphantly. For the first time in the history of the American automobile industry the name of the designer was made public. In the years that followed many car manufacturers turned to Farina for help in designing new models suited to assembly-line production.
In 1958, a new plant was constructed, which covered an area of 75,000 square metres. In the meantime, the most spectacular Ferraris were born and in 1961, after 50 years of activity, Battista handed over the management of the firm to his son Sergio and to son-in-law Renzo Carli, who ensured the continuation of his work.
Battista’s son Sergio, who inherited his father’s passion, was responsible for bringing together the two great masters of the day: his father and Enzo Ferrari.
Thanks to this perfect working relationship, Pininfarina managed to design cars that were highly personalised, unique, and linking the two businesses in an indestructible way. And the rest, is modern history.