A Sergio Pininfarina story -- How his dad met Henry Ford
Sergio Pininfarina, who died last week at age 85, was a terrific storyteller.
One of our favorites was about his father, Battista "Pinin" Farina, who founded the Italian design and coachbuilding company that bears his name. In 1920, Pinin went to America to see Henry Ford's factory. He made the two-week voyage from Genoa to New York, then traveled to Michigan to study Ford's famed production system. He stayed in the United States about a month.
It was a bold move by the 27-year-old, who was working at the time in his older brother's body shop in Turin. When the unknown Italian reached Dearborn, he toured the Ford factory complex several times. When a guide asked him why he kept taking the tours, Pinin said that he wanted to learn the system. The guide told Henry Ford about the young man and Ford invited Pinin to his office. After chatting awhile, Ford invited him to lunch at the Detroit Athletic Club.
Sergio Pininfarina related the story to Automotive News Europe in 2002 when his father was inducted into the European Automotive Hall of Fame. (Sergio Pininfarina later was inducted, too.)
"My father talked a lot about that occasion," Sergio Pininfarina said. "He showed Mr. Ford some of his sketches. Ford was surprised by his keen interest. He asked my father about his industrial ideas as well as his personal future. He has often recalled his lunch with Mr. Ford. He really admired him."
At the end of the lunch Henry Ford offered Pinin a job. The young man declined. He was determined to start his own company. And 10 years later, he did.
Said Sergio Pininfarina: "We never forgot the lessons of Henry Ford."