News : Sergio Pininfarina (1926-2012)

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Sergio Pininfarina, president of Pininfarina from 1966 has died at his home in Turin. He was the son of Pininfarina company founder Battista Farina, he was serving as honorary chairman of the the company at the time of his death. Although much of the design company’s greatest work with BMC was with his father, Battista Farina, Sergio’s era in charge of the company bore significant Anglo-Italian fruit.

Born in Turin in 1926, he studied mechanical engineering at university and rose to become General Manager of Pininfarina in 1960. In 1966, he became President on the death of his father and had been honorary chairman since 2006. He oversaw key developments at Pininfarina, such as the building of a new factory at Grugliasco, the opening of a computer design centre and a wind tunnel – and another new plant at San Giorgio Canavese.

Under his leadership, Pininfarina created some of the world’s most beatiful cars, most memorably launching the Fioravanti-styled Ferrari 288GTO and F40, as well as the Enzo. Pininfarina became Ferrari’s definitive design partner.

But Pininfarina also also worked with Jaguar during the development of the XJ40 throughout the 1970s, formulating a number of design concepts – but it was the company’s creation of the XJ-Spider concept in 1978 and its work on the masterful XJ Series III facelift, which clearly showed that the Italians understood what constituted fine British design. Also, the company specialised in a number of open-top conversions, most notably in designing the MGF‘s roof mechanism.

The Pininfarina-BMC alliance also delivered us the most promising 1100-based Aerodynamica, which was unveiled in 1967, just one year after Sergio became president. It was a downscaling of the famous 1800 concept of the previous year – and the company hoped it would be an alternative to what would go on to become the Allegro. It was never treated seriously by BMC, which was preoccupied by its upcoming takeover by Leyland Motors, and to this day, remains one of the industry’s most frustrating might-have-beens.

Pininfarina 1100 - should it have been the new Allegro?
Pininfarina 1100 – should it have been the new Allegro?

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11 Comments

  1. Another of the great designers who knew that cars were not just vehicles but works of art. I wonder what he thought of today’s Ferraris?

  2. RIP.

    The 1100 might not have been taken seriously by BMC, but Citroen did take note.
    PSA would later work with Paninfarina on the gorgeous 504 and 406 coupes.

  3. Not many people will leave as much of a mark on the world as he did. As a kid growing up in the 60s, his designs were the background to my childhood

  4. I’m sorry to hear the news. Sergio Pininfarina told me that he personally viewed the MGB GT coupe as one of the best designs that came out his company for the old BMC. And if you compare his prototype with the corresponding first BMC-built MGB GT – where the edict from Sir George Harriman was ‘change nothing’ you can see he was not the only one to believe this.

  5. For items that we are surrounded by on a daily basis and bring into our lives as means of personal independence and status, modern car designs miss the elegance, class and grace of Paninfarina designs of old in favour of germanic ‘in your face’ aggressiveness.

  6. A great designer, and one who truly understood the magic thing that transforms an engineered item into a work of art that begs to be touched, driven and most of all admired as an elegant piece of automotive art. Designers of Sergio Pininfarina’s calibre are scarce in the modern automotive industry, and are badly needed to inject some elegance back into motoring. RIP.

  7. for those whodidnt know he was related to Nino Farina (the guys that love F1 knows who)….his cars …all balanced elegant fast…milestones of design…..sergio i hope that you left us some of your good taste

  8. Quite simply the designer of the World’s most beautiful looking cars…sadly nothing these days compete. If nothing else he designed the Lancia Gamma Coupe, one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen…..

  9. That 1100 prototype was a masterpiece- beautifully simple lines and needing no adornment.

    It really strains my credulity that we ended up spending lots of money developing the awful Allegro when this was a fully realised styling proposal- the Allegro wasn’t a laughing stock purely based on its poor build quality, but also because of its dumpy looks.

    Would this have sold better than the Allegro? I think undoubtedly. And BL would not have gifted such a beautiful design to Citroen. An Austin GS would also have done away with some of the off-putting (to many) Citroenesque oddities such as the ‘spirit level’ speedo (a solution in search of a design issue to address), and other Dan Dare cabin designs. What it would have lacked, of course, would be the charismatic (if somewhat asthmatic) flat four engines, and adjustible suspension.

    Sergio Pininfarina- RIP.

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