Sergio Pininfarina dies at 85; designed classic Ferraris

Sergio Pininfarina, who headed a family company known for its designs of sleek Ferraris and other cars, has died. He was 85.

Pininfarina died Monday night at his home in Turin, the company announced Tuesday. No cause was given.

The company founded in 1930 designed cars for Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Cadillac, Rolls-Royce and Volvo but is most closely associated with Ferrari, designing nearly all of its models since the 1950s.

The design house was started by his father, Battista “Pinin” Farina, who later changed the family name to Pininfarina.


Sergio Pininfarina was born Sept. 8, 1926, in Turin and joined the family business after earning a degree in mechanical engineering from Turin Polytechnic in 1950. He became general manager in 1960, managing director in 1961 and president in 1966, the year his father died.

Pininfarina transformed the business from a boutique manufacturer of hand-crafted designs into a high-volume producer that maintained the aesthetics of Italian automotive design.

In the early 1950s the company was turning out fewer than 1,000 cars a year. Under Pininfarina’s tenure, production swelled to more than 50,000 annually.

Among the popular cars the company designed were the Fiat 124 Sport Spider and the Alfa Romeo Spider. It also was responsible for Ferrari’s low-slung, high-performance sports cars, including the 250 and 500, as well as the Dino, the Daytona, the 356 and the Modena.


Every car withstood the scrutiny of Pininfarina.

“There is not one single drawing, one single design, one single style that goes out of the factory without my approval,” he told the Christian Science Monitor in 1981.

And he considered design of utmost importance in auto manufacturing.

“Frankly, I believe that those who try to minimize the importance of the aesthetic appearance of an automobile do it just because they cannot design beautiful cars,” he said in a 1977 speech.


In an interview with The Times the next year, he explained, “You’re talking to a man who is in love with automobiles....

“The Ferrari 12-cylinder is, well, like a cathedral. You enter and pray. Instead of Brahms, you hear the vroom, vroom!”

Pininfarina stepped down to become his company’s honorary president in 2006 and was also named an Italian senator for life.

The company ceased making car bodies in 2010 to focus on its design and engineering businesses.


Pininfarina is survived by his wife, Giorgia; son Paolo, chairman of the company since 2008; and daughter Lorenza, who has served on the board of directors. Another son, Andrea, died when the Vespa scooter he was driving was hit by a car in 2008, two years after he had taken over from his father as chairman.