No designer had a greater influence
Twenty-seven-year-old Battista "Pinin" Farina was so curious about cars and how to design and build them that he traveled from Turin to the United States in 1920. He wanted to see that country's growing auto industry firsthand.
The youngest of 11 children, he had worked in his older brother Giovanni's body shop since he was 11 years old. At 17, he designed the body of the Fiat Zero.
Young "Pinin" was also interested in aeronautics. During World War I, he personally supervised the construction of Aviatic trainer planes and received a commendation from Italy's Office of Military Aviation.
But he knew that he wanted to make cars and he was eager to learn. In Detroit in 1920, he met Henry Ford, who asked the talented young Italian to stay in America and work for the Ford Motor Co. Farina decided to return to Italy, but what he saw in America changed him forever.
His enthusiasm for American entrepreneurialism - as demonstrated by Ford and others - inspired him to eventually start his own company, Carrozzeria Pinin Farina. It became the best known and most successful and influential design house ever.
When he founded the company in 1930, Farina's plan was to build special car bodies in small series using the latest tooling and manufacturing technology. It was a revolutionary idea in the era of hand-built specialty models.
But not only did he found an industry, he revolutionized styling - previewing lines and shapes that would become commonplace. His company worked on the first Alfa Romeo cars, the Hispano Suiza Coupe, the Fiat Ardita and the Lancia Aprilia Coupe. Giant carmakers such as General Motors and Renault sought his services in the years before World War II.
After the war he quickly picked up where he left off. In 1946, his Cisitalia sports car foretold the shape of the great Ferrari designs that Pinin Farina would create in the coming years. In 1951, New York's Museum of Modern Art invited the Cisitalia along with just seven other cars to appear in the museum's historic exhibit on automotive design.
In the post-war years, several manufacturers flocked to Turin to collaborate with the now famous design and coachbuilding house. A contract with Nash Motor in Detroit made Pinin Farina's reputation in the USA. The 1952 Ambassador revolutionized small-car design in America. Later, the Nash-Healey was built in limited series at the Pinin Farina plant in Turin.
Indeed, Pinin Farina was internationally-minded - an unusual trait in his era. But he defined Italian style. Starting in 1952, he created Ferrari's visual image with a succession of cars and pioneered aerodynamic research along the way.
In 1961, Pinin Farina's name was officially changed to Battista Pininfarina by order of the president of Italy. That same year, he turned the company over to his son Sergio and son-in-law, Renzo Carli.
One month before his death in 1966, Battista Pininfarina appeared at the inauguration of the Pininfarina Studies and Research Center, sharing the occasion with the Italian president. Toward the end of his life he received many honors, including the French "Legion d'Honneur" from Charles DeGaulle.
"If anyone created a benchmark of automotive design during the last 60 years, it was Battista Pininfarina," said veteran car designer Tom Tjaarda earlier this year. "His designs have been consistent in being the leading edge in elegant, innovative and, especially, long-lasting design. One can look back at those creations and find they are still appealing."