5 Pininfarina pinups and 5 humdrum heroes
The Pininfarina Battista is the first vehicle in the Italian styling house’s 75-year history to be produced fully under its own name. As the Battista edges closer to customer driveways, it provides an opportunity to reflect on Pininfarina perfection—not only the stunners, but also the everyday heroes that don’t always get their fair share of the limelight.
Though many superstar cars have been shaped by Pininfarina for the likes of Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and Ferrari, it’s the more humble cars, sculpted for mainstream manufacturers including Peugeot, BMC, and Austin, whose influence reaches the furthest.
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Along the way were there have been a few misfires—the Ford Focus Coupe Cabriolet and Mitsubishi Colt CZC probably won’t be featuring in any classic design books, and the Cadillac Allanté will always be, er, divisive—but we won’t dwell on those.
Here, then, are ten of our top Pininfarina pinups and humdrum heroes.
Pininfarina has been under the ownership of India’s Mahindra Group since 2015, but it was to Croatia that the company turned for the underpinnings of its first own-brand hypercar. Beneath the Italian lines of the Battista is Rimac technology. With four electric motors and 1900 hp it’s said to be faster than a Formula 1 car, accelerating from 0–62 mph in less than two seconds, yet still able to cover more than 300 miles on a charge. Only 150 Battistas are to be built, priced at $2M apiece.
Lancia Aurelia Spyder
Long before Lancias were seen flying through forests of the world’s rally stages, Pininfarina was tasked with crafting a convertible version of the 1954 Aurelia. Just 240 examples were made, with wonderful wraparound windshields and cute quarter bumpers.
Alfa Romeo Spider
Pininfarina first helped Alfa Romeo to be roofless back in 1947 with the 6C Super Cabriolet, and then in the mid-1950s along came the original Spider based on the Giulietta platform. However, it’s the beautiful boat-tail, Dustin Hoffman-driven Duetto of 1966 that everyone immediately thinks of when you say “Spider.” Amazingly the car stayed in production until 1993, albeit with numerous updates which could never improve on the original.
Ferrari 250 GT SWB
Pininfarina’s relationship with Ferrari began in 1952 with the 212 Inter and ended with the last F12. As front-engined Ferraris go, the short-wheelbase 250 GT of 1959 has to be one of the best Pininfarinas ever created. Just 176 bodies were made in both steel and alloy, and today even recreations are worth a fortune.
Prancing horses with engines amidships also made fine fodder for Pininfarina, with the curvaceous Berlinetta Boxer and 308 GTB starting the trend by looking sexy in the ’70s. The 1980s required something a little more showy, however. The Testarossa of 1984 did not disappoint and its sensational side strakes literally defined the decade in automotive design.
Austin A40 Farina
Post-war Britain was an austere place. Food rationing only ended in 1954, so it’s not surprising that the first British car to be styled by Pininfarina was rather less flamboyant than its continental counterparts. Still, the 1956 Austin A40 Farina was a smart-looking sedan, even available as a hatchback. It proved hugely popular with Brits hoping to add a dash of Italian flair to their gray lives.
The British Motor Corporation certainly made the most of Pininfarina’s “Landcrab” ADO16 design. From 1962 it was available as an Austin, MG, Riley, Morris, Wolseley, and Vanden Plas. With so many different versions available, it’s no wonder this became one of Britain’s best-selling cars of the 1960s.
The first Pininfarina Peugeot was the 403 of 1956, but it’s the 1968 504 that provided the most work for the Italians. Having first penned a stylish sedan and estate station wagon, Pininfarina then created a pretty coupe and cabriolet. The design was a timeless classic and lasted into the early 1980s.
The Peugeot 205 was the most chic city car to drive in Europe in the 1980s. Pininfarina’s 1983 design was so simple and pure that even the base models cut quite a dashing figure on the streets of Paris, Milan, and London. When the GTi arrived, it became the hottest hatch available.
Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin
We’ll end on an oddity. Apart from a brief dalliance with Honda for the Beat of 1991, Mitsubishi has been the only Japanese carmaker to call upon Pininfarina’s services for cars such as the 2017 Lancer and the best-forgotten Colt CZC of 2006. However, we do rather like the peculiar Shogun Pinin, which was essentially a shrunken version of Mitsubishi’s swanky Shogun 4×4. Rugged, cute, and posh all at the same time.