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Pininfarina 90 anni / 90 years: the official book

The volume describes over 600 models that, from 1930 to today, have dictated the history of the motor car and spread Italian style around the world

Five hundred and twenty-eight pages, more than 800 colour and black and white photographs accompanied by short descriptive texts documenting, model by model, Pininfarina’s production during these “first” ninety years of its history. This, in extreme synthesis, describes Pininfarina 90 anni/90 years, the official book that is being published on the occasion of the ninetieth anniversary of the historic Turin design studio under the imprint of Giorgio Nada Editore, in close collaboration with Pininfarina.

Ninety years is a highly significant milestone and marks a journey on which Pininfarina – founded in Turin in 1930 by Battista “Pinin” Farina – has shown itself able on more than one occasion to innovate Italian car design and more. In the light of evolving taste and stylistic horizons, it has managed at the same time to introduce solutions that target the future. In almost a century, this intriguingly unique path has seen the historic Italian brand sign one-off models, models that end up on the assembly line for high volume production, but also futuristic concept cars that in many cases have become authentic icons of Italian design in the world.

This striving to innovate was the hallmark of Pinin Farina – at the time still written in two separate words – from its very beginnings. In the Thirties, for example, the coachbuilder was acclaimed for its de luxe creations of particular sobriety and elegance, tackling the first problems related to aerodynamics with models like the “Tipo Bocca” aerodynamic cabriolet of 1936, the same year as the Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 Pescara berlinetta aerodinamica.

The 1940s were the decade in which mudguards were progressively integrated into the seamless surface of the sides, but this was above all the decade in which Pinin Farina designed the Cisitalia 202 berlinetta (1947), an authentic “moving sculpture” and icon of automotive design.

Real success, however, arrived in the Fifties when Pinin Farina, which had by now entered a more industrial dimension, though without ever losing sight of its craftsmanship origins, opened the door to new partnerships, most importantly with Ferrari and Peugeot. In that period Pinin Farina put its name to a series of masterpieces: the Alfa Romeo Giulietta spider (1954), the Lancia Aurelia B24 S and the Aurelia Florida, both from 1955, without forgetting the various Ferrari 250 GTs that would find their crown jewel in the short wheelbase 250 GT berlinetta at the end of the decade.

This leitmotif of excellence continued in the Sixties – which also saw the death of the founder Battista, “Pinin” in 1966 – marked by other landmarks in car design like the Ferrari 250 LM (1963), the Alfa Romeo 1600 Spider, alias “Duetto” (1966), the Dino 206 GT (1967) or the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 “Daytona” of 1968, to which we might add prototypes of great appeal and charm such as the Dino berlinetta speciale (1965) or the “triptych” Sigma Grand Prix, Alfa Romeo 33 and Ferrari 512. These three concepts from 1969, passed the metaphorical baton on to the sensational Modulo, at the dawn of the 1970s, which in their turn were distinguished by other iconic Ferraris but also by models later produced on an industrial scale for Peugeot – another historic Pininfarina client – and Lancia.

The Eighties turned out to be just as lively with the debut of the iconic Testarossa, the 8-cylinder Ferrari family that continued to acquire new members (the iconic GTO of 1984, the F40 of 1987 and the 348 of 1989), and the partnership with Peugeot that generated the unforgettable 205 (1983), while the collaboration with General Motors led to the creation of the sumptuous Allanté, offspring of the longest assembly line in the world: the bodies were built by Pininfarina and shipped to Detroit to be assembled with the mechanicals.

Multiple collaboration agreements were also a feature of the Nineties: the one with Ferrari that led to the birth of the 456 GT (1992); new 8 cylinder models, the F355 (1994) and the 360 Modena (1999); and the sensational F50 of 1995. But this was also the decade of the Fiat Coupé (1994), the Alfa Romeo Spider and the GTV, both dated 1995, and the Peugeot 406 coupé (1997).

So here we are in the first two decades of the new millennium, twenty years during which Pininfarina has continued to contribute to the Ferrari product range by designing and collaborating in the creation of new models, while for Maserati it has designed the Birdcage 75th concept car as well as a family of vehicles of undoubted appeal like the Quattroporte of 2003, the GranTurismo of 2007 and the GranCabrio of 2009, and has given life to sensational environmentally-friendly concepts and hybrids such as the Nido, Sintesi and Blue Car, the last two presented during the chairmanship of Andrea Pininfarina, who died prematurely in 2008. But there is more: in these same years the company signed up to a series of collaboration agreements in China, confirming its status as an unparalleled exporter of Italian design in the world. Also noteworthy in 2013, the Ferrari Sergio, dedicated to the memory of Sergio Pininfarina, who passed away in 2012, and the BMW Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupé.

The book closes with the Pininfarina Battista concept (2019) and the Battista Anniversario (2020), two evocative concepts designed for the new company “Automobili Pininfarina“, which contain the moniker Battista in their name, a tribute to the founder of this extraordinary and unrepeatable story of style, art and industry.

“Pininfarina 90 anni/90 years”, which describes 632 models produced from 1930 to 2020, dedicates a specific record for each car containing a short descriptive text and accompanied by one or more images, depending on the importance of the car. A reference book and, at the same time, a precious tool for car history lovers to consult but also for the neophyte eager to learn about a long, exciting history.

This book is an important moment in the celebrations for the Company’s 90th anniversary”, explains Chairman Paolo Pininfarina. “Underlying it was the desire to be able to review all our automotive projects so as to weigh up their merits and defects too, years later: an enthralling, passionate operation for me and, I hope, also of interest to the reader”.

Published by Giorgio Nada Editore, the book is available online here

Pininfarina 90 Anni/90 Years
Preface by Paolo Pininfarina
Published by Giorgio Nada Editore
Format: 26 x 28.5 cm
528 pages, bound with dust jacket
approx. 800 colour and B/W images
Bilingual text: Italian/English
EAN: 9788879118095
Europe: October 2020
€ 90 / £ 90.00 / US$ 150.00

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In the late 1800s, the Farina family, hailing from Cortanze d’Asti, embarked on a journey that would reshape the automotive landscape in Turin. Their story is one of passion, innovation, and resilience—a narrative that laid the foundation for the renowned Società Anonima Stabilimenti Industriali Giovanni Farina.

Trained at the prestigious Alessio body shop, the Farina brothers, with also Pinin (Giovanni Battista), decided to forge their own path in the automotive industry. In 1906, amidst a backdrop of economic uncertainties, they established the Giovanni Farina Industrial Plants in Corso Tortona 12 in Turin — a venture that would soon become synonymous with quality craftsmanship.

The initial focus of the Stabilimenti Farina was on the assembly of seats, or “baquets.” However, the turning point came during the economic crisis of 1908-1909, when Fiat sought a dependable partner for the construction of car bodies. Despite Fiat’s inclination to internalize all aspects of car manufacturing, they chose the Farina Plants, recognizing their stellar reputation in the face of economic adversity.

The Farina legacy, born out of resilience, became intertwined with the evolution of Turin’s automotive industry. The craftsmanship exhibited by Stabilimenti Farina went beyond mere production—it became an art form. Their commitment to excellence elevated them to a position of trust, distinguishing them as a reliable supplier in the competitive world of automobile manufacturing.

Simultaneously, Stabilimenti Farina were not only meeting industry demands but also crafting frames for the elite clientele of Turin. Their dedication to precision and attention to detail garnered admiration, setting them apart from contemporaries struggling in the aftermath of economic upheaval.

As the automotive landscape continued to evolve, the Farina name became synonymous with innovation and reliability. Their journey from apprenticeship at Alessio to establishing an industry giant speaks volumes about the entrepreneurial spirit that defines the Farina family.

The Dawn of Excellence: Farina's Triumph with the Zero

In 1912, having earned the trust of Senator Agnelli, Giovanni’s younger brother, Battista Farina, affectionately known as “Pinin,” designed the front end of Italy’s first mass-produced car: the 12/15 Hp Zero. Senator Agnelli entrusted the construction of the car body to the Stabilimenti Farina and even gifted one to Pinin himself. This marked one of the earliest instances of a coachbuilder functioning as a stylist for third parties without engaging in the mass production of the vehicle.

In 1913, Stabilimenti Farina continued their work for private clients, customizing cars to meet individual specifications. Business was booming, and the workshop on Corso Tortona found itself accumulating chassis, with work even extending into Sundays. The following year, in 1914, Stabilimenti Farina began assembling the first ALFA’s, further solidifying their reputation as skilled craftsmen in the automotive industry.

Giovanni Farina emerged as a figure of immense stature, cherished by his employees and actively involved in various social initiatives within the city of Turin. His company swiftly became one of the most significant and esteemed in Italy.

Giovanni Farina’s commitment to excellence and innovation, coupled with the artistic flair brought by Pinin, propelled Società Anonima Stabilimenti Industriali Giovanni Farina to the forefront of the automotive world. Their legacy continued to flourish, shaping not only the trajectory of their company but also leaving an indelible mark on the history of Italian automotive design. As the roaring twenties approached, the Farina family’s influence would play a pivotal role in defining the golden era of Italian automobile craftsmanship.

Forging Innovation: Farina's Journey from War to International Acclaim

During the First World War, in addition to assembling the Fiat 18BL trucks, Stabilimenti Farina also ventured into the aeronautical sector, where they acquired advanced aluminum processing techniques. After the war, they attempted to apply these techniques to automobiles, albeit unsuccessfully due to the still exorbitant costs involved. Meanwhile, Battista Pinin embarked on a study trip to the United States, where he visited Ford to learn about mass production systems.

Simultaneously, Giovanni, drawn to innovation, shifted his focus to steel sheet stamping. The installation of a press in his plant between 1920 and 1921 marked a pioneering initiative. This allowed him to organize standardized mass production, such as constructing bodies for the Temperino in several thousand units. Alongside luxury bodywork, this standardized sheet metal production prompted Giovanni Farina to acquire a specialized company, IPLA, to develop it further.

These were also the years when Stabilimenti Farina diverged from Fiat to outfit more Lancia vehicles, a decision driven more by political factors.

stabilimenti farina
Trade union demonstration during the fascist ventennio by the workers of the Stabilimenti Farina

In the 1920s, Stabilimenti Farina emerged as the leading Italian industry in the sector and became one of the most renowned Italian coachbuilders abroad. They showcased their creations at exhibitions in Paris, Berlin, and Geneva, catering to royal families and wealthy industrialists worldwide, including those in Italy. They crafted exquisite bodies for models such as the Lancia Lambda and Dilambda, Itala Tipo 61 and Tipo 65, Mercedes-Benz 630K, Isotta-Fraschini Tipo 8, Fiat 519, 520, 521, and 525, Rolls-Royce 20 Hp, Hispano-Suiza H6, SPA Tipo 25, and Alfa Romeo 6C 1750, solidifying their reputation for craftsmanship and innovation on an international scale.

In the interwar years, Farina continued to be a key player in the Italian coachbuilding scene, not only in terms of size but also as a prolific source of talent and ideas. They collaborated with the leading stylists of the time, such as Mario Revelli di Beaumont, making significant contributions to the evolution of automobiles, both aesthetically and technically. Their innovations were showcased at various national and international Concours d’Elegance, where Stabilimenti Farina consistently earned numerous awards. One notable achievement was at the 1927 Monaco Concours d’Elegance, where they secured two first prizes with a SPA 25 Landaulet and a Hispano-Suiza H6 torpedo.

Harmony and Tensions: The Evolution of Farina's Design Legacy in the 1930s

In 1928, Pietro Frua joined the design department, bringing his significant expertise to the team. By 1930, Giovanni’s younger brother, Battista, ventured out on his own. This decision was fueled by ambition, as he sought to apply what he had learned during his journey in the United States. During these years, Stabilimenti Farina continued to benefit from the expertise of Mario Revelli di Beaumont, with whom they clinched victory at the second Concorso d’Eleganza del Lago di Como, precisely at Villa d’Este, showcasing a Lancia Dilambda Faux Cabriolet.

In addition to crafting bodies, the Stabilimenti Farina pioneered innovative systems, such as the hydraulically operated convertible roof presented at the 1933 Paris Motor Show on a Lancia Astura. They also developed a dual independent hydraulic brake system, showcasing a commitment to advancing both style and engineering in the automotive realm.

The Farina legacy continued to thrive through these years, with each creation serving as a testament to their dedication to excellence and their pivotal role in shaping the automotive industry’s future.

stabilimenti farina

Thanks to the innovative drive led by Mario Revelli di Beaumont, Stabilimenti Farina became key players in the Italian “aerodynamic revolution” alongside Viotti and Touring. Around the mid-1930s, they played a pivotal role in radically transforming the style of cars. Stunning examples, ranging from sporty sedans to cabriolets, adorned the finest chassis of the time, including Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 and 8C 2900, Fiat 1500 and 2800, and Lancia Aprilia, Augusta, and Astura.

Meanwhile, relations between Pietro Frua and the Farina family weren’t at their best. Giovanni Farina, in his efforts to accommodate all customer requests, frequently clashed with Pietro, who had to alter designs multiple times. Tensions rose, witnessed even by a young Giovanni Michelotti, who joined as an apprentice in 1937. The turning point came in 1939 when Pietro Frua provoked his own dismissal, almost out of spite. He parked his car in front of the entrance gate of the Corso Tortona facilities, blocking the entry and exit of vehicles from the factory courtyard. 

Pietro Frua left the Stabilimenti Farina for Officine Viberti before establishing his own firm. This event marked the ascension of Giovanni Michelotti as the head of the design department, also gaining the renowned designer Mario Revelli di Beaumont. The collaboration between Michelotti and Revelli resulted in several projects, with Michelotti handling the aesthetics of the bodywork in some cases, while Revelli focused on the interiors.

In 1939, Stabilimenti Farina introduced variable travel shock absorbers, adjustable directly from the dashboard. Other sophisticated and innovative solutions, including retractable headlights, were realized on various bodies mounted on Fiat, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo chassis. One notable example was a sleek Coupe crafted for Nino Farina, showcasing the ingenuity and creativity fostered by the collaboration between Michelotti and Revelli.

Resilience Amidst Conflict: Farina's Revival and Creative Flourish Post-WWII

During the Second World War, the company was repurposed for wartime production, focusing on mechanical components—particularly braking systems—and even aircraft engines. However, the bombings heavily damaged the Corso Tortona 12 plant. Giovanni Farina, now elderly, decided to step back and leave the management of the bodywork to his sons: Attilio, who handled administration, and Nino, initially tasked with overseeing technical aspects but who ultimately gained fame as a Formula 1 champion.

stabilimenti farina

With the help of their employees, including a young Alfredo Vignale, the Stabilimenti Farina rebuilt the factory and resumed the production of custom-bodied cars, primarily using the familiar Lancia Aprilia, Fiat 1100, and 1500 chassis. They also crafted numerous unique pieces on various chassis, showcasing remarkable creative vitality, thanks in part to the collaboration with Giovanni Michelotti, who was heading the design department during that period.

Post-War Renaissance: Farina's Diverse Styles and Creative Triumphs

The post-war era was a time of stylistic confusion but also marked by significant experimentation in Italian car bodywork. This was evident in the creations showcased at the first true post-war automobile exhibition in Italy: the Italian Car Bodywork Exhibition in 1947 in Milan. Thanks to Michelotti’s versatility and creativity, Stabilimenti Farina produced series of bodies in various styles, including the flamboyant designs inspired by the French school, the controversial Tank-Style bodies based on Fiat and Lancia platforms, and the more modern and aerodynamic ones.

Despite the challenges of the post-war period, Stabilimenti Farina, under the guidance of the Farina family and with the creative brilliance of Giovanni Michelotti, continued to thrive, leaving an indelible mark on the automotive industry with their innovative designs and unwavering commitment to craftsmanship.

End of an Era

In 1947, Stabilimenti Farina faced the departure of their chief designer, Michelotti, who went on to work for Carrozzeria Allemano before eventually establishing his own design studio. The previous year, the company had also lost another key figure, Alfredo Vignale, who started his own coachbuilder workshop but continued collaborating with the Stabilimenti Farina, particularly on the Cisitalia project, contributing to the creation of the 202 CMM aerodynamic models and later, part of the 202 B series.

With Michelotti and Vignale no longer part of the company, the financial situation soon became untenable. Some of the projects during these years included collaborations with Ferrari (several 166 Inter and 212 Inter models) and, notably, Siata. For Ambrosini’s Siata, Farina crafted numerous special bodies based on the Fiat 1400 chassis, ranging from the sporty Daina grand tourers to long-wheelbase limousine versions.

However, this period proved challenging for luxury cars as the economic crisis took its toll. A glimmer of hope came with the contract for the Lancia Aurelia 50 Coupé, a model that found its way into Lancia’s lineup but, unfortunately, due to its high cost, did not achieve commercial success.

During this time, Franco Martinengo took charge of the design department, and although Michelotti’s stylistic influences were still apparent in his creations, the decline of Stabilimenti Farina was not solely attributed to a design issue.

Stabilimenti Farina continued to produce some bodies for the Cisitalia 303 DF and the Siata 208 CS, including unique specimens based on Jaguar, Fiat 1100 / 1400 and Lancia Aurelia chassis. However, in 1952, they were compelled to suspend operations. Subsequently, in the following year, the company underwent a name change to SAIO (Società per Azioni Industriale Oropa). Many workers, including Franco Martinengo, found employment at Pininfarina. Having lost key technicians and a significant portion of their skilled workforce, the ownership failed to adjust production to meet the evolving market demands. This gradual decline ultimately led to the company’s closure due to bankruptcy in 1953. Today, the Stabilimenti Farina building endures, albeit in a reduced form that includes only a fraction of its original structure, specifically the facade. It stands as a poignant testament to an extraordinary chapter in the history of coachbuilding.

Conclusions

The journey of Società Anonima Stabilimenti Industriali Giovanni Farina, from its roots in Cortanze d’Asti to becoming a powerhouse in Italian coachbuilding, is a tale of innovation and influence in the automotive world. Collaborations with design luminaries such as Revelli di Beaumont and Michelotti produced iconic creations. Despite economic challenges, Stabilimenti Farina continued to shape luxury automobile design. The company’s legacy lives on in rare and exquisite cars, serving as a reminder of an era where each vehicle was a unique work of art. The Farina story remains an inspiration, celebrating the enduring spirit of creativity and craftsmanship in Italian automotive excellence.