The Fiat - Pininfarina Papers: the history of
of a creative, industrial and human collaboration
- part 2 -
You can also listen to the text of this story with the original
Fiat voice-over. Just click on the ( thin ) outlined photographs.
That was in 1911 and the young Pinin
(who was only 18 at the time) was already revealing his natural talent as a creative designer and
engineer, his pronounced sense of balance and harmonious proportions. He was asked to design one part
of the Zero, a component both technical and ornamental which was of enormous importance at the time:
the radiator. He invented one with clean, simple lines that was taken with a dozen others to the
Fiat factory on Corso Dante. There Pinin encountered the Senator, the usual stub of Tuscan cigar in
his mouth, the usual mixture of Italian and Piedmontese dialect on his lips.
Senator Giovanni Agnelli
His was the final say on
the choice of the most beautiful radiator. In the end only two radiators remained in contention, one
created by Fiat itself, the other by Battista Farina. The Senator turned to him: "Which would you
choose?" And the boy, finding the courage to express his true feelings, replied: "I like this one
best because I made it myself'. The Senator glanced at him. And then he nodded. "Right, that's it
then. Settled. Cerea (Piedmontese expression meaning "Goodbye")".
The 1957 Fiat 500 Abarth Speciale
Pinin tells that story in his memoirs, "Born With The Automobile". That probably was his first success
also because the Zero radiator was followed by the Zero body and then by other commissions: he became
head of the design and engineering team in the Stabilimenti Farina until he set up his own Company in
1930. "Ours was born as a craftsman factory" says Sergio Pininfarina today. "Set up with a capital of
just I,000,000 lire, it employed 90 people and produced just 42 cars in its first year.
Until the Forties, the Company only designed and built special bodies of a high esthetical and
technical content, for individual clients or in small production runs. It was only in the Fifties
that we began to develop an industrial structure and to move into the manufacture of low runs for
automotive manufacturers in Italy and abroad".
In Geneva Pinin Farina presents Count Camerana with a customised version
of the production: the Fiat 600 ( 1955 ).
Pinin and Sergio Farina ( left ) with the 1956 Fiat 600 Multipla Eden Rock:
just two were ever made, one for Gianni Agnelli, the other for Henry Ford.
More than 140 saloons, coupé's, spiders, cabriolets and research prototypes have come out of the
Fiat-Pininfarina co-operation that was born in the Thirties when Pininfarina began building one-off
models or mini-series deriving from Fiat models for clients who wanted to stand out from the crowd.
That was the case of the Fiat 525 SS, a lively two-color sports coupe dating from 1931 that marks
the start of the relationship between Pinin's new Company and a Fiat model.
The 1956 Fiat 1100 TV Speciale, the forerunner of today's Sports Wagons
The Fiat 1200 Cabriolet
The Fiat 1500 Coupé
The Fiat 1600 S Coupé
The examples of this happy marriage between the innovative creativity of Pininfarina and sturdy Fiat
chassis have become part of Italy's automotive history. The numerous, innovatively elegant "greyhounds"
built in the Thirties ( noteworthy are the raked grilles, the faired headlights, the aerodynamic
bodies ) were followed in the late Forties by models like the Fiat 6C 1500 Cabriolet of 1947 with its
monocoque body ( "greyhound into bulldog" maintaining the same elegance ) and the 1949 Fiat 1100 S
Berlinetta Sport ( Pininfarina's very first example of small production runs for Fiat ).
In 1953 the
1100 TV Coupé, an elegant, perfectly balanced sports car, was displayed as a prototype at the Paris
Motor Show. Later mass produced by Pinin Farina, the car was marketed in 1954 to 57 by a network of
Fiat-approved independent dealers.
In Pininfarina's own words: "That Coupé incorporated advanced
technical solutions developed by my brother-in-law Renzo Carli. I myself took charge of the sales
network and it was one of my first big jobs in the Company. Luciano Ciolli won the Italian Touring
Car Championship in an 1100 TV and Umberto Agnelli raced it several times as well". Also from the
Fifties were the 1100/103 TV Break, the first modern example of the GT "Giardinettas Granturismo"
which came out in 1955, and the 1200 Coupe and Sport Wagon of 1957.
Fiat's top management inspecting the new Pinin Farina factory at Grugliasco
in 1958. Left to right: Gaudenzio Bono, Pinin Farina, Giovanni Nasi,
Gianni Agnelli, Vittorio Valletta, Sergio Farina.
1960 saw the relationship become even stronger and marked the start of a particularly fecund period
of work together. In that period the 1200, 1500 and 1600 Cabriolet and Coupé made their debut:
Pininfarina manufactured over 20,000 units of these models up to 1966. The 1500 Coupe was actually
marketed directly by Pininfarina through its own sales network and some units were equipped with an
OSCA engine and characterized by an air intake on the bonnet. "These events", says Pininfarina, "show
how good the Fiat people could be at getting it right. It was Vincenzo Bono, Fiat's General Manager
at the time who asked us to make those cars: "You do the small scale production", he told us. "we
will concentrate on the large scale output". You could call it an early form of today's outsourcing".
Sergio Farina and his brother-in-law Renzo Carli during the trials of the
Fiat X research prototype in 1960.
In 1963 at the Turin Motor Show a Coupe appeared that Sergio Pininfarina still gets emotional about
( it was the 2300 Lausanne, one of the most elegant models in our entire history but which sadly never
made it into production" ). On the other hand the two cars that made their debut at the Turin Show
three years later had a particular success: the Fiat Dino Spider and the Fiat 124 Sport Spider. The
first, built on a Fiat floorpan with a modified Ferrari 6-cylinder engine, previewed in the stubby
tail these circular lights that were to typify the Ferrari cars of the Eighties.
In its various evolutions, including the 1982 Spider Europa, the 124 was for Pininfarina a
"big issue' model with over 200,000 units produced, of which 180,000 were sold in the USA. The Dino
and the 124 were both mass produced in the Pininfarina factories. The Spider Europa was the first
model to be manufactured and distributed, above all in the USA, with the Pininfarina badge on the
The 1963 Fiat 2300 Lausanne Coupé Speciale
The 1966 Fiat 124 Sport Spider designed by Tom Tjaarda ( at that time
working at the Pininfarina Studio's ) and produced in several successive
versions for nearly 20 years.
The 1972 Fiat 124 Sport Rally, winner of the European Championship.
The 1974 124 Sport Spider bodies.
Sergio Pininfarina and a 1982 Fiat 124 Sport Spider.
1982: body-in-white assembly live of the 124 Sport Spider in the Industry
Pininfarina plant in Grugliasco.
The 1984 Spider Europa Pininfarina, built as a complete car and marketed
by Pininfarina under its own trademark.