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Sergio Pininfarina was once called “the Godfather of automotive design,” and the title was not inappropriate: by the time of his death this week at the age of 85, he had left a lasting mark on the world of cars. The Globe and Mail's driving columnist Peter Cheney looks at Pininfarina’s legacy through nine cars - some great, some not.
1959 Ferrari 410 Superamarica: Sergio Pininfarina grew up with car design, inheriting the Turin coach-building business started by his father. By the time he turned 30, Pininfarina junior was a force to be reckoned with, and his design for the 1959 Ferrari 410 Superamarica played a key role in defining the Italian car builder’s design language. The Superamerica epitomized Ferrari’s mid-century approach to the high-end car market - only three dozen were built, and each had a custom-built body made by small-volume coach builders. Pininfarina added visual kick with tail fins and scoops.
1965 Ferrari Dino 206: Named in honor of Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari’s deceased son, the Dino was Pininfarina’s personal favorite car. The Dino was designed to compete with Porsche’s popular 911, and featured a six-cylinder engine that caused many Ferrari buffs to dismiss it as “not a real Ferrari,” but its restrained design and elegant proportions have made it an enduring classic.
1995 Bentley Azure: With the Azure, Pininfarina was called in to turn Bentley’s ponderous Continental coupe into a convertible. Pininfarina’s body design was considered a success, but the car’s high cost limited its appeal - less than 1,500 were built during the model’s nine-year production run.
1987 Ferrari F40: Conceived during the supercar wars of the mid-1980s, the F40 was designed to compete with freakish supercars like the Lamborghini Countach. Pininfarina created a design that combined muscle with relative restraint (at least in comparison with the overdone Countach.)
Ferrari Enzo: Conceived as a tribute to Ferrari’s legendary founder, the Pininfarina-designed Enzo was a love-it or hate-it car, with a cartoonish nose, bubble-shaped cockpit and air intakes large enough to suck in a medium-sized dog. Several magazines hailed the Enzo it as one of the greatest sports cars ever made. But many considered it a styling monstrosity, contorted to fit the misguided desires of one of the worst eras in car design. (Bloomberg Businessweek featured the Enzo in their list of the "Fifty Ugliest Cars of the Past 50 Years.")
2009 Ferrari 458 Italia: The Italia came as a breath of fresh air for Ferrari fans dismayed by overwrought designs like the scoop and wing-bedecked Enzo. With the 458 Italia, Pininfarina moved Ferrari design toward the minimalist, sporting elegance of cars like the 1960s 250 GTO.
1984 Ferrari Testarossa: With its signature side scoops and flattened wedge shape, Pininfarina’s Testarossa design became an icon of the Miami Vice era. Like Don Johnson’s sockless loafers, the Testarossa’s design has not aged particularly well.
Fiat 124 Sport Spider (1966-1979): The Spider brought Pininfarina’s design aesthetic to a car aimed at the mass market. With its clean lines and lack of superfluous ornamentation, the Spider is considered a modern classic. About 200,000 were sold during the car’s 13-year production run.