As with most endeavours, even Italian post-war coachbuilding, there is no failsafe recipe for success. Particularly when illustrious British marques are involved.
From today’s perspective, it’s all too easy to get misty-eyed when recalling rather more halcyon periods in the evolution of the bespoke luxury automobile. For today’s coachbuilt cars seem to offer rather less grace than the standard vehicles they are based upon, thus underlining that rarity is no quality in itself. Yet even in the autumn days of traditional coachbuilding, when the arrival of the monocoque body had already spelled the end of the industry as it had existed in its heyday, not every sheetmetal change was for the better.
Not even in the case of Pininfarina, whose reputation surely requires no further elaboration here. The Hanson Pininfarina-bodied Bentley T1 coupé, unveiled in 1968, should have been a delightful cocktail of Anglo-Saxon formal and Italianate casual elegance. Clearly, the intention behind its appearance was to Continue reading “Coach Class”
An interest in automotive design history can result in a fair bit of detective work, and occasionally, a surprise ending.
For three years, all the money in the world wouldn’t buy you a brand new Ferrari Gran Turismo. It may appear almost impossible to imagine from today’s perspective, but Maranello’s premier car maker wasn’t always the money printing machine it is nowadays, which would historically entail the odd glitch and hiccup in terms of production planning.
It was for this reason that certain models would outstay their welcome on a somewhat regular basis. But not offering a mainstay product for several years appeared very odd indeed, even before Ferrari evolved from being the maker of enthusiast’s cars to the status of luxury goods purveyors.
From 1989, when production of the long-serving 412i four-seater model finally ceased, until 1992, the year the 456 GT successor was unveiled, anyone looking for a Ferrari that could accommodate not just driver plus wife/mistress, but also the dog and/or kids, would need to go for the unloved Mondial. If this kind of customer was hellbent on a V12 engine under the bonnet, he’d have to Continue reading “Maranello Model Mystery”
At long last, Pininfarina has a new Chief Creative Officer.
The last ten months must have been a rather tumultuous period for those working at Pininfarina’s headquarters in Cambiano. First there were rumours of a fierce conflict with erstwhile loyal customer, Ferrari, over the design of Automobili Pininfarina’s Battista EV hyper car, in the wake of its unveiling at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. This was shortly followed by a facelift of Battista’s front end.
Much of the blame for these costly, distracting shenanigans was put at the feet of Pininfarina chief designer, Carlo Bonzanigo, who wasn’t seen or heard in public for months, until his resignation ‘for personal reasons‘ was unceremoniously announced in September. Since then, the post of chief designer has remained vacant. Not anymore however, as Kevin Rice has just been announced as Bonzanigo’s successor. Continue reading “Ritorno al Futuro”
A flawed masterpiece is still a work of art, as our German correspondent discovers in Maserati’s most comely of four-door models.
Sometimes, one can win the lottery without ever having to enter. As on the occasion of our recent trip to Antwerp, when we weren’t at the mercy of the Rental Car Lottery, but had, thanks to a generous friend, a confirmed reservation for the front seats of a car I’d always admired – the Maserati Quattroporte V, also known as Tipo M139 in marque parlance.
First unveiled in 2003, the Quattroporte V re-established the model at the luxurious end of the performance car market, after its immediate predecessor had gone for a more unusual/contrived positioning. As originally developed by Ferrari, Tipo M139 was initially available only with the kind of sequential gearbox Modenese engineers were besotted with in those days. The inherent clunkiness and appalling lack of refinement of this set-up did little for the sales prospect of a model that was otherwise deemed spot-on for its brand and intended market.
The example we sampled during our 1400 kilometre trip across western Europe was, thankfully, a later Sport GT model, which means it was equipped with a more mundane, yet far more serviceable ZF torque-converter six-speed auto. The Ferrari-based V8 engine’s output remained unchanged though, at 400 hp.
Marcello Gandini is rightly lauded as one of the great Italian car designers of the 20th century. However there is cause to suspect that he may have been allergic to cats.
The life of a design consultant is fraught with reversals. All that time spent scouting for commissions, late night oil expended preparing and revising proposals only to receive the thanks, but no-thanks brush-off from the prospective client.
For the Italian car design houses, this had become a way of life – some you win, some you lose. This was certainly the state of affairs in late 1973, when Jaguar’s then Managing Director, Geoffrey Robinson requested carrozzeria Bertone (along with rivals, Ital Design) to Continue reading “Genus Felidae”
To quite some degree, the western view on Chinese tastes in car design has been informed by awe and condescension. This year’s Shanghai motor show suggests that may have to change sooner, rather than later.
China, as every donkey knows, is the centre of the automotive world these days. Without it, some of the fundamental changes to the business model of the western world’s car makers that are now on the verge of being addressed would have needed to be tackled a decade ago.
China is the lifeline of the car business as we know it, yet the dramatic dependance upon this market hasn’t resulted in similar levels of respect for it – quite the opposite, in fact. ‘That’s what the Chinese demand’ has been used as an excuse for a great many a dubious product and design decisions in recent years, often spoken with an expression of regret on the face of those so obviously forced by the Middle Kingdom to Continue reading “Auto Shanghai 2019: Misunderestimation”
Our man in Geneva reports from Battista’s official reveal.
Pininfarina S.p.A has adopted many alternative identities over its 89-year lifespan. Not simply the World’s most famous and acclaimed Italian coachbuilder and design consultancy, but also contract manufacturer – building cars for the likes of Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Peugeot amongst others, and now it would seem, a carmaker in their own right.
When it came to translation a car design sketch into a tangible object, craftsmanship and even cultural background used to be of the utmost importance.
As described earlier on, the technique and style any car designer chooses to depict his ideas is highly informative.
Back in the golden era of the Italian carrozzieri, however, this did not matter as much, as most of the legendary Italian car designers didn’t much care for impressive illustrations. Viewing the sketches of the likes of Leonardo Fioravanti, Marcello Gandini or Aldo Brovarone from today’s perspective, their artistic qualities appear rather naïve, to put it mildly. Continue reading “Adding Dimensions (II)”
Reviewing 1958’s British offerings, DTW experiences a sinking feeling.
The RMS Titanic sank many times in the intervening years since it first slipped beneath the waves with terrible loss of life in April 1912, but perhaps its definitive cinematic retelling dates to the Roy Ward Baker directed A Night To Remember, starring Kenneth More. The most expensive British made film when it premiered in July 1958, it was notable for its historical accuracy and the fact that several first-hand survivors of the sinking were employed as advisors to the production.
Tracing the Peugeot 504’s kinked tail motif through the Pininfarina back catalogue.
In order to capitalise on the popularity of UK TV series, The Avengers, stars, Honor Blackman and Patrick Macnee were persuaded to record a novelty single celebrating not only the fashions adorning the somewhat distracting Ms. Blackman, but the broadening societal permissiveness of mid-Sixties Britain. And while it was a rather throwaway ditty which didn’t chart particularly well at the time, it did take on a second life several decades later.
These things take time – as with fashion, so with design. One of the more interesting aspects of recent discussions surrounding the styling of the 1968 Peugeot 504 was the notion that its rear aspect was regarded with a degree of ambivalence. Uncomfortable and strange were among the soubriquets employed on these pages, but further afield, and particularly in the US, the 504’s kinked tail was considered peculiar. In light of this, it might be germane to Continue reading “Kinky Boots”
The ‘Sixty-Eighters’ rocked France, yet one of its more illustrious offspring would become a bastion of more conformist values.
In a curiously prescient article for Le Monde in March 1968, journalist, Pierre Viansson-Ponté made the assertion that France was suffering from the dangerous affliction of ‘boredom’. During a period which French economist, Jean Fourastié coined as Les Trentes Glorieuses, the country settled into a period of political stability and economic prosperity, transitioning from a predominantly agricultural economy to a largely industrial one.
Rural France had decanted into the cities and its universities were brimming with the young and sexually frustrated, expected to behave in a similar fashion to that of their socially conformist parents. But students from Paris’ Université Nanterre, emboldened perhaps from a diet rich in Satre, Brel, and Dylan would no longer Continue reading “Children of the Revolution”
In 1978, Pininfarina made one final pitch to gain Jaguar’s business. It didn’t succeed, but did it precipitate another, more tangled narrative web?
By around 1976 the automotive world had broadly coalesced around the belief that Jaguar’s XJ-S was, in stylistic terms a rather poor show from a carmaker renowned for being the business of beauty. It didn’t really matter that this particular set of shared assumptions had largely been formed by a UK and US press corps who had whipped themselves into a frenzy on the false premise that Jaguar would reprise the E-Type’s impact and ambition and by consequence required a scapegoat when reality proved somewhat different.
Blaming Jaguar was perhaps cathartic and while some argued the carmaker might have controlled the narrative a little better in the run up to the XJ-S’ announcement, in reality, the embattled residents of Browns Lane couldn’t Continue reading “Along Came a Spider”
Vietnamese company Vinfast have shown their Lux A2.0 saloon and AS2.0 sports utility vehicle at the 2018 Paris Mondiale. The styling is attributed to Pininfarina who did it real quick, you know.
“The design direction of these first two cars was influenced by the Vietnamese people through a public vote. This has enhanced the sense of national pride in these products, which pay homage to the country’s natural beauty. The design development for the production cars was undertaken by legendary design house, Pininfarina, giving the cars Italian design flair and sophistication,” says the corporate press kit. The part which caught my eye was this: Continue reading “What You See When You Look There Instead of Up”
Sometimes it’s necessary to look back in order to move forward.
It’s a slightly forlorn image would you not agree? An elegant, if vaguely unsatisfying looking 1960s Italian GT is parked upon a deserted beachscape. The photo comes courtesy of the estimable Mr. Christopher Butt, he of the influential and painstakingly curated Auto-Didakt. The car? Well, you can read Christopher’s well-chosen words on this carrozzeria unicorn here, should your curiosity get the better of you.
The image serves as something of a visual metaphor – for the demise of the carrozzieri, of course, but also for something more. But first, some background. As our Auto-Didaktic cohort points out, during the post-war period, French and Italian coachbuilders struggled to Continue reading “Surf’s Up”
…which is the kind of image that is worth a science fiction story, I feel.
If anyone wants to spin a science-fiction story off that idea, they are welcome to use it as long as they are kind enough to credit the idea to me.
The notion suggested in the phrase is that there are spaces between the universes which are all packed together like multidimensional foam on a huge scale. Think of the gaps between tennis balls in a bag of tennis balls. That’s the rough shape of the spaces between the universes.
Pininfarina’s 1973 take on the seminal Jaguar saloon wasn’t their finest hour. But while it served to highlight a fundamental weakness in the Italian carrozzieri’s business model, it did lead to something more worthwhile.
For the Italian carrozzieri it was a matter of intense pride that no manufacturer was creatively off limits, even one with as strong and universally lauded a design tradition as Jaguar. Predominantly the result of one man’s exceptional taste and unswerving vision, the craftsmen of Piedmont time and again Continue reading “The Cambiano Connection”
There is more to BMW’s new 8 series GT than meets the eye.
These past few weeks have seen the unveiling of more than one automotive eyesore, courtesy of the German ‘premium’ brands. And the one among these that truly stood out was the BMW 8 series.
This is mainly due to what this BMW is not. It is not an oversized ‘utility’ behemoth, nor another ‘crossover’ of some sort. It also isn’t some supposedly all-new category of car (like its ‘first ever’ X2 sibling, to name but one). Instead, it is among the most traditional of automobiles there is, a gran turismo. Which means it is the kind of car that ought to Continue reading “8½”
The early promise of Fiat’s X1/38 design theme was quickly extinguished within centro stile Fiat. Was it a loss of confidence or something more seismic?
It was perhaps Fiat’s misfortune that the Ritmo arrived at a point where the design zeitgeist was shifting away from the stark modernism of the early ’70s to a more polished, yet more conservative aesthetic. This shift is vividly illustrated by the transition from Ritmo to the three volume Regata model upon which it was based. Continue reading “Broken Rhythm”
Every car design enthusiast and their dog lament the downfall of the Torinese carrozzieri. Yet a recent example illustrates that it’s not simply the industry that’s at fault.
With Bertone gone (despite a company of that name still in existence) and ItalDesign churning out the crassest, most tasteless, un-Giugiaro-like concoctions, it’s now up to Pininfarina to wave the flag of Italian automotive design excellence.
In 1978, Fiat and Pininfarina displayed both their environmental credentials alongside the Ecos styling study. Twenty years later, were its themes reprised for of all things, an SUV?
As we’re fond of pointing out round here, the storied Italian design houses were not exactly above rehashing and repurposing design concepts for rival clients should the need arise (And it frequently did). After all, there are only so many ideas out there at a given time and if the intended client isn’t biting, why not Continue reading “A Concept for Sunday: 1978 Pininfarina Ecos”
In 1987, Maranello went back to its roots, launching the precursor to today’s track-bound limited edition wonders. But in looking to the past, was F40 the modern Ferrari of all?
The Ferrari F40 is a car that brooks no ambivalence. Like the company’s founder and imperator, F40 is indifferent to the notion that you might find it vulgar, somewhat silly, a virtually unusable statement of machismo and status, because it’s all of those things and a great deal more besides. Because, perhaps more than anything, F40 remains the essence of Enzo. Continue reading “Two Fingered Salute”
Fiat received most of the credit, but the 1987 Alfa Romeo 164 was a genuine Alfa Romeo, despite what some might retrospectively suggest.
In 2014, then Alfa Romeo chief, Harald Wester illustrated the marque’s latterday decline with an image of the 164, stating that by making it front wheel drive, it had diluted the carmaker’s bloodline. But instead he demonstrated both an eloquent disdain for his forebears and a blind ignorance of history. Dismissing the 164, perhaps the most accomplished and rounded product the troubled Milanese car maker had produced since the 1960s, not only made Wester Continue reading “When the Poets Dreamed of Angels”
Car designer Tom Tjaarda has died. He was 82. DTW takes a look back at his career.
Two things stand out about Tom Tjaarda. One was the prolific and varied body of work: the 1976 Ford Fiesta, the de Tomaso Deauville, the 1964 Ferrari 330 GT2+2 and Fiat 2300 coupe. The other thing is that he wasn’t as well known as Giugiario, Gandini or even quite a few younger designers with only a few cars from the same brand to their name.
As well as having talent, Tjaarda arrived in the world of car design at a time when there was considerably more room to flourish, not unlike Danish architect Arne Jacobsen – both had space into which their abilities could be projected. Tjaarda designed a wide range of cars and Jacobsen could do everything from door handles to buildings. Continue reading “Tom Tjaarda”
This little number is up for sale in Jutland. It’s too good to fall under the rubric of Something Rotten In Denmark.
The photo is a screenshot (a deliberate choice). Bilbasen should adjust their web-page so as to show the complete photo; evidently the entire photo is uploaded but it is cropped to fit the box. A thumbnail in the screen shot shows the entire car. What about the design story? Continue reading “Nice Old Datsun With Italian Flavour”
Pininfarina stayed true to form with the H600 concept. Nothing wrong with that we say.
At the 2012 Geneva motor show, carrozzeria Pininfarina showed Cambiano, a concept, said by the Italian styling house to be in effect, a homage to the legendary Florida II. But while that pivotal 1957 concept became a stylistic monument, siring an entire generation of cars, Cambiano, while commendably elegant of line and refreshingly free of frippery, disappeared pretty much as soon as it arrived – overshadowed by more brash contemporaries. Continue reading “Geneva 2017 Reflections – Dignified Silence”
Alfa Romeo really ought to have made these lovely Pininfarina concepts – well maybe not…
By the mid-1980s, Italy’s Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale had run out of the two crucial components necessary for their ongoing custody of Alfa Romeo: patience and money. Having come bitingly close to selling the ailing motor company to Ford in 1985, Fiat swooped in and made the Italian government agency a far more palatable offer, both financially and politically. With the storied marque now a part of the sprawling Fiat empire, carrozzeria Pininfarina were quick to see the potential, and for the 1986 Turin show, prepared twin concepts for a new coupé and spider derivative, called Vivace. Continue reading “Transitory Twins – 1986 Alfa Romeo Vivace”
It’s been ages since I crossed one of these: Pininfarina’s version of the Lancia Thema.
Pininfarina assembled the SW in the Borgo San Paolo factory (which is not Fiat’s Mirafiori plant, an important difference). Unique among the T4 cars, it came as an estate though it doesn’t look all that unlike how the Fiat Croma might have done had it been offered in the same format. Continue reading “A Photoseries for Sunday: 1986-1994 Lancia Thema SW”
We can add this vehicle to the DTW collection of ashtray rarities.
There are not so many of these cars hanging around and good one costs around €17,000 these days. The styling, by Paolo Martin at Pininfarina, is something of a legend. He also handled the interior, sprucing up the design based on the 130 saloon. And in turn Fiat carried these improvements back to the saloon (which already had a very fine interior). Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1972 Fiat 130 Coupe”
Much has been written on the contribution of Italy’s styling houses to the Japanese motor industry in the crucial years when it went from being a tentative exporter to a seemingly unstoppable force.
I have taken a closer look at cars from the last five decades with an Italian connection. Unsurprisingly, the activity was at its most intense in the 1960s. Almost every carmaker was using the Italian styling houses then. They were not so much a service to industry, more a regional art form, but as well as being masters of form and proportion, the carrozzieri could Continue reading “Theme: Japan – Tokyo, Twinned With Turin”
Pininfarina is perhaps the world’s best known automotive design consultancy, but now they’re setting their sights higher. About 95-metres to be precise.
35km west of Istanbul near Arnavutköy, lies possibly the largest construction site in existence. Rising from reclaimed land on the Black sea coast, the Istanbul Grand Airport terminal is currently under construction; the design of which is led by UK architectural practice, Scott Brownrigg. With an area of 1.3 million square meters, it will be the largest airport terminal – potentially the largest building in the world. The first phase will provide for up to 90 million passengers per annum, but once the phase three is completed, the airport will see over 150 million passengers through its gates each year. Now that is big. Continue reading “Pininfarina’s Towering Ambition”
The Gamma Berlina’s appearance would divide opinion. In this part, we examine the concept that inspired it.
The styling of both Gamma variants was the responsibility of Pininfarina, a design house with a lengthy and distinguished association with the Lancia marque. While the Gamma coupé would reference themes from Lancia’s stylistic past, the scheme for the Berlina would prove a complete departure; echoing, particularly in the canopy area, the carrozzeria’s 1967 Berlina Aerodynamica, possibly the most influential saloon concept since their Lancia Florida series a decade earlier. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Seven”
Mahindra and Mahindra bought Pininfarina who had been losing money for quite some time. Now plans are revealed as to their future activities.
The XUV Aero appeared at the New Delhi Motor show. At the same time Mahindra explained that they plan to enlist Pininfarina to design a “premium” car to offer more competition in that part of the market they specialise in, SUVs. Looking at the XUV Aero here one can hope Continue reading “Whatever Happened To Pininfarina?”
The Gamma Coupé evolved to become the model’s stylistic True North, but was this Pininfarina’s tacit admission of failure?
Over the course of our ongoing examination into the Gamma, I’ve focused primarily upon the Berlina, styled at Pininfarina by Aldo Brovorone, under the supervision of Leonardo Fioravanti. The origins of the saloon’s styling we will return to, but today I want to examine the version that captivated the pundits at the 1976 launch – the Pininfarina Coupé. Continue reading “Gamma Bytes – Pininfarina’s Concepts”
Earlier in the week we discussed the phenomenon of glazed C-pillars – a design feature popular during the mid-to late 1980’s. Here’s another example of the breed.
Pininfarina’s 1985 Griffe 4 concept was created to honour the carrozzeira’s 30-year association with Peugeot, which began with the 403 model. What’s interesting here is not only its use of the glazed C-pillar treatment, (if indeed they can be described as pillars at all), but the fact that it resembles a rather prettier Subaru XT. Continue reading “A Concept for Sunday – 1985 Peugeot Griffe 4”
This year, Bertone has joined the doleful list of recently deceased Italian styling houses, having held out against the inevitable longer than most. The quantity and quality of Bertone’s output had been in decline, particularly as commissions from major manufacturers began to dry up. The era of the great Italian styling houses is over and the centre of gravity has moved away from its traditional Italian heartland. Continue reading “Death of a Carrozzeria”
Has Centro Stile Fiat ever produced a design of lasting significance?
This is the question I found myself asking following a recent Driven to Write piece on Lorenzo Ramaciotti – (which I urge you to read). Because like many, I held firm to the view that Turin’s fabled carrozzerie were responsible for every design worthy of note. On the other hand, memory can sometimes prove a faulty co-driver, so I did what any self-respecting autophile would do at this point and revisited the Fiat group’s styling back catalogue in a quest for answers. So what I offer here is a list of significant Fiats of the last 50 years and who is believed responsible for their styling. Continue reading “A Question of Form”
This being, unofficially, the Fiat/FCA themed month, I feel like shedding some light on Fiat’s current styling policy and the man responsible for it.
And when I say “shedding some light”, I actually mean pointing out all the dark and shadowy areas that currently make up Fiat’s styling. More questions will be asked than answered, inevitably.
Superficially, the reorganisation of Fiat’s different Centri Stile in the wake of the company’s Marchionnisation seems to have been a straightforward example of streamlining. And, unlike the most famous jumper lover’s financial and fiscal shenanigans, this move appears to be both easily graspable and logical. Continue reading “What Exactly Is Lorenzo Ramaciotti Doing?”