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Pure Pinin: Master of Design

96 years ago this month, Sergio Pininfarina was born in Turin. Under his stewardship, the company he inherited from his father as a young man went on to design the most memorable Ferraris in history.
Words: Tim Bradley

Pininfarina’s partnership with Ferrari began in 1951 with a meeting between the great Enzo Ferrari and the founder of a noted car design and coachbuilding firm, Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina. The summit to discuss a possible collaboration was held at a neutral venue – a small restaurant in a town named Tortona – which was halfway between Modena and Turin, where the two companies were based respectively.


It was Battista’s son Sergio, aged just 25, who arranged the meeting, unaware of how the resulting decision would affect his own life. 

Battista Farina and son Sergio Pininfarina sit either side of Enzo Ferrari at a dinner in 1962. Sergio had taken over the family company the previous year

The neutrality of the venue was required because neither man wanted to cede ‘home advantage’ as it were, but this was not a meeting with any animosity at play; both were very respectful of each other’s achievements and potential. 


The meeting went so well that an historic agreement was made that would see Pininfarina in charge of all design aspects of Ferrari from that point on. Sergio himself remembers being told in the car on the way back from the meeting what was to happen. 


He said: “There was Enzo Ferrari, Mr Gardini from Ferrari, my father and myself.  My father told me, “You will take care of Ferrari. And I said, ‘what?’ and he said, ‘you will take care of everything, design, planning, cost, production.’ I was a young man. I had graduated.”


Sergio eventually inherited the company from his father in 1961, and few people would have dreamt what a run of truly iconic vehicles would be about to come thanks to the immense engineering prowess of Ferrari and the sensuous lines that emerged from Pininfarina. 

The 250 GT Berlinetta is now one of the most expensive and sought after cars in the world  

Toward the end of the 1950s the astonishing 250 GT Berlinetta was unveiled, and It’s almost hard to imagine the impact of seeing the design when it emerged - suffice to say it must have been like witnessing the arrival of a car from outer space. 

Under the hood was a 3 litre V12 Colombo-designed engine that put out some 280 horsepower and would send the car to 62mph in just seven seconds. In 1959. 


Another huge leap forward came in 1968 with the unveiling of the 365 GTB/4 Daytona at the Paris Motor Show, a car that by all accounts revolutionised Ferrari design. Gone was the famous oval grille that had become a hallmark of the Prancing Horse, instead Pininfarina focused on aerodynamics, with the headlights placed under rectangular covers. 

As time progressed it was possible to see the design language evolve with each stunning model; seen here is the 365 GTB4 Daytona, the 512 BB and the 550 Maranello

The 1970s saw more technical innovations in terms of Pininfarina design and Ferrari engineering, and 1976’s 512 BB was no exception. Notable for being the first time the now-iconic rear headlight arrangement of two round lenses either side of the car was seen on a Ferrari, the fibreglass bottom panel was often painted black, contrasting with the classic rosso of the upper section. 


It was in the next decade however, that a model was launched that genuinely changed the idea of what a sports car could look like. There is iconic, and then there is the Ferrari Testarossa. One of Pininfarina’s most recognisable designs, it was a car that adults wanted to buy and children wanted to have on their bedroom walls. Iit went on to become the most successful Ferrari ever made. 


In 1997 the 550 Maranello became Ferrari’s flagship performance car, and it is a design that has aged so well that many cite it as one of the most beautiful Pininfarina-helmed cars even 25 years on.

The beautiful F12berlinetta was another truly innovative design, using LED headlights for the first time on a Ferrari

And the hits kept coming into the 2000s - the F430 for instance was a truly gorgeous car, taking design cues from the Ferrari Enzo with the taillights and engine cover and elements of the classic F1 racing models of the 60s. 


A real leap forward came with 2012’s F12berlinetta, an incredible-looking machine with a new front-mounted V12 engine, a 6.3 litre powerhouse putting out a colossal 730 horsepower. Designed by Pininfarina in tandem with Ferrari’s Style Centre and was at the time the most aerodynamically efficient car to ever come out of Maranello.