Vintage & Classics

Who was Battista 'Pinin' Farina?

Italian car designers Battista Farina (1893 - 1966, left) and his son Sergio (1926 - 2012), of the Pininfarina car design and coachbuilding firm, Italy, 28th September 1956.

Photo by Thurston Hopkins/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Life wasn't always sexy for the man who would make his mark on the automotive world by helping to design some of the sexiest cars ever made.

Battista Farina was born in 1893 in Cortanze, a small town in northwest Italy, the 10th of 11 children. While still a boy, his parents gave him the nickname "Pinin" meaning baby in Piedmontese, a romance language spoken in Italy's Piedmont region. Though he would grow to be just five feet tall, Pinin's impact was large.

Near the turn of the century, Pinin's older brother Giovanni became an apprentice for a coachbuilder in Turin. Coachbuilding is the practice of crafting the body of a mode of transportation whether it take on a more primitive form as the body of a carriage or wagon, or in its modern iteration as custom bodies for bespoke motor vehicles.

Henry Ford Model T Henry Ford with his Model T. Ford tried to hire Farina but was not successful. Photo by Getty Images

In 1920, Battista Farina met auto industry icon Henry Ford. By the time they were acquainted, Ford was already successful having launched then left a company that would be renamed Cadillac in his absence and starting the Ford Motor Company with help from the Dodge brothers (yes, those Dodge brothers), eventually mass producing the Model T.

Family legend has it that Ford asked Farina, 30 years his junior, to come work for him. What words were said between them have gone the way of the wind, but it resulted in Farina heading back to Italy and forever changing the look of automotive muscle.

Ten years later, Farina founded his own artisan coachbuilding and design company, Carrozzeria Pinin Farina. The incorporation papers list its founding address as 107 Corso Trapani, Turin, Italy. Today, at that address stands a rather nondescript building across the street from a popular family-owned pizza restaurant east of downtown.

The coachbuilding company was the first to build a vehicle body using what is now known as unibody construction.

World War II took its toll on Italy and nearly brought Italian vehicle construction to a standstill. The Pinin Farina factory pivoted to constructing the bodies of ambulances and searchlight carriages that were needed to support the war effort.

Turin was one of the most-bombed cities in Northern Italy during the Second World War with air raids lasting from 1940 to 1945. Fiat, Lacia, and Michelin factories were struck.

Grand Palais Grand Palais on Winston Churchill Avenue in Paris. The site is famous for being where Farina's post-World War II vehicle display crashed the 1946 Paris Motor Show. Photo by Getty Images

Following the war, cars from German, Italian, and Japanese companies were banned from attending the 1946 Paris Motor Show. That did not deter Farina. He had two cars that he wanted to show off, a Lancia Aprilia Cabriolet and an Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Speciale.

Pinin and his 20-year old son Sergio got behind the wheel of the cars and drove them to Paris, by way of Geneva, Lausanne, and Monte Carlo, parking them on Avenue Winston Churchill, directly in front of the entrance to the Grand Palais where the show was being held. Attendees had to walk by them to get in.

The crowd went wild and the cars became the stars of the show that year, despite not being allowed to actually be there.

The Alfa had been commissioned by perfume designer Giuliana Tortoli di Cuccioli who agreed to sell the car to Farina following the show. Farina had the car as his daily driver until 1948 when he sold it to Leonard Lord, the chairman of Austin.

Cisitalia 202 Nuvolari Spyder A Cisitalia 202 Nuvolari Spyder displayed at the Salon Prive luxury car event at Blenheim Palace on September 3, 2015 in Woodstock, England. Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

Six years younger than Farina, Italian race car driver Piero Dusio was the founder of Cisitalia, an Italian sports and racing car brand. Dusio's company teamed up with Pinin Farina to create the famed Cisitalia 202. It all started with a chassis the company provided to Farina to handcraft an aluminum body onto. The coupe model established Farina's reputation as a master of the industry and his company as one of the finest in the world. Just 107 Cisitalia 202s were sold.

In 1951, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City displayed the Cisitalia 202 as part of its exhibit "Eight Automobiles" declaring it one of best ever designed.

The firm forged working relationships some of the world's greatest automakers over the last century - Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia, Nash, Peugeot, and Rolls-Royce – but it was its relationship with Ferrari that would most stand the test of time.

Farina's first foray with Ferrari was in 1952. It would become a historic partnership for both entities resulting in some of the most beautiful cars ever crafted with over 200 Ferraris designed by the bespoke coach builder over the ensuing decades.

Enzo Ferrari Pinin Farina Italian race car driver and businessman Enzo Ferrari (1898 - 1988, right) meets automobile designer Battista 'Pinin' Farina (1893 - 1966, centre) in Maranello, northern Italy, circa 1958. They are there to hold an informal discussion on a new approach to the automobile industry. Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Farina's artisan company was growing by leaps and bounds as it found success with Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Fiat, and Maserati models throughout the '50s. The company moved its headquarters to Grugliasco, Italy in 1958.

Pinin Farina's design for the Giulietta Spider was accepted by Alfa Romeo and because the first vehicle large scale production vehicle the humble Italian company ever produced, with over 4,000 made in 1959.

Farina officially changed his name to "Battista Pininfarina" in 1961 and relinquished control of his company to Sergio and his son-in-law, Renzo Carli.

Pinifarina continued to take an active role in the operations of the company. His last design was the Alfa Romeo 1600 Duetto, which came to market as the Alfa Romeo Spider 1600.

Pinifarina died in 1966, shortly after the Duetto was unveiled.

The company that bears his name recently paid homage to their founder with the debut of the Pininfarina Batista 1,900-horsepower all-electric super luxury sports car. To celebrate the company's 90th anniversary, this year they revealed a €2.6 million version of the model called the Pininfarina Battista Anniversario.

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The Chevrolet Silverado will be offered with a new, multi-way tailgate for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Buyers love the GMC Sierra’s MultiPro Tailgate so it was only a matter of time before General Motors brought it over to the Chevrolet Silverado. That time has arrived.

Chevy will introduce the six-way tailgate on the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado at the end of the year. Instead of being known as the MultiPro Tailgate, the feature will be rebranded and called the Multi-Flex Tailgate. Yes, with the hyphen and everything.

The Chevrolet version of the tailgate really isn’t much different than the GMC version. The biggest difference is that it wears bow tie badging.

It’s functionality includes:

  • Primary gate — opens from the key fob, from inside the truck or via a button on the gate.
  • Primary gate load stop — helps prevent items from sliding out of the box.
  • Easy access — the inner gate folds down, allowing a deeper reach into the box.
  • Full-width step — the inner gate folds into a large step for easy access and holds up to 375 pounds.
  • Inner gate load stop — helps prevent second-tier items from sliding out of the box.
  • Inner gate with work surface — when opened, provides a work surface as well as second-tier loading.
It is likely that the Multi-Flex Tailgate will cost a premium when it arrives on dealer lots and it probably won’t be available on all Silverado models. In the video above, Chevrolet shows the tailgate on the Silverado High Country, its highest trim level.
In addition to the tailgate news, Chevrolet has already revealed that it will offer a Realtree Edition of the Silverado 1500 for the 2021 model year. It will feature familiar features and appointments that exemplify the Realtree brand.

The 2021 Chevrolet Silverado is slated to go on sale later this year.

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The Nissan Z Proto is the next step in the Z story.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Nissan Z Proto has arrived. It's not a production car, it's a promise. A promise by Nissan to launch a new generation of the legendary Z sports car. The model has design elements that harken back to to the Z models of yesteryear that have become iconic waypoints in Nissan history.

Nissan has revealed that the Z Proto is one of the 10 models that the company will be showing for the U.S. in 20 months. The timeline has been adjusted from the original due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other models included as part of the plan are the 2020 Nissan Sentra, 2021 Nissan Rogue, and 2022 Nissan Ariya.

Nissan Z Proto

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

"The United States is home to one of the most devoted and enthusiastic Z communities in the world, with nearly 1.35 million total sales over the model's 50-year history," said Mike Colleran, senior vice president, Nissan U.S. Marketing and Sales. "With new models like Sentra and Rogue opening new eyes to our brand, Z Proto is our loudest statement yet that Nissan will continue to bring vehicles that thrill to U.S. showrooms."

The Z Proto is bathed inn a bright yellow pearlescent paint job - one that is reminiscent of the yellow of the first-generation 240Z and the 300ZX.

At its front are teardrop-shaped LED headlights that have their design roots in the original Z. The Z Proto's rectangular grille is more modern but the design of the grille fins are vintage in origin.

"The LED headlights have two half-circles that hark back to the Japan market-only 240ZG of the 70s," said Alfonso Albaisa, head of design at Nissan. "The ZG has clear dome lenses over the headlight buckets, which under light give off two circular reflections over each headlight. We liked that unique characteristic and discovered that it naturally fit with the Z's identity."

Nissan Z Proto

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

From the side, the Z Proto has a roofline that flows backward like the first-gen Z. It leads to the rear, which takes inspiration from the 300ZX taillights and reinterprets them for a modern world, complete with LED lights. They're set within a rectangular black section that spans the rear of the car and wraps around each outer edge. Below is a dual exhaust.

Side skirts, the front lower lip, and rear valance are made of carbon fiber. The prototype rides on 19-inch alloy wheels. The 2020 370Z also has 19-inch wheels.

The vintage-meets-modern elements continue in the car's cabin where design was focused on achieving a proper balance for road and track. In front of the driver is a 12.3-inch digital display that is arranged to allow to easy data interpretation at speed.

Designed to fit driver and passenger like a glove, the Z Proto's cabin seamlessly blends modern technology with vintage Z touches. A deep dish steering wheel combines modern aesthetics with vintage styling.

Under the prototype's hood is a twin-turbocharged V6 engine that is paired with a six-speed manual transmission. Nissan says that an automatic transmission option is in development. Horsepower and torque figures were not immediately available.

In looking toward the future, Nissan relays, "work is now underway to synchronize the power with the grace and control that has defined the Z for the past 50 years." The current Z has a 3.7-liter V6 engine that achieves 332 horsepower. It comes paired with a standard six-speed manual or available seven-speed automatic transmission.

Compared to the current Z, the Z Proto is five inches longer and two-tenths of an inch wider. The 2020 Nissan 370Z is two-tenths of an inch taller than the Z Proto.

Where do we go from there? Stay tuned.

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