Battista “Pinin” Farina was born in Turin, Italy on November 2, 1893. Farina’s brother Giovanni owned a body shop, and at the age of 11 Pinin began working at the Stabilimenti Farina. There Farina learned the principles and the fine art of design. As Pinin grew older, he began to impact the design process more and more. At the age of 17 Farina designed the body for the Fiat Zero, the zero was very stylish in 1910. During WW1 he personally supervised the construction of the Aviatic trainer planes. After the war the Office of Military Aviation commended him.
After the war he continued to work at the Stabilimenti Farina, designing a number of hand built Fiat production and racecars. In 1920 He decided to visit the United States. He wanted to see America and judge first hand, the great developments in that country. In Detroit he met with Henry Ford, who asked him to stay and work for the Ford Motor Company; Farina declined. His visit to the U.S. was very important, not so much for the technical information he received, but for its view at the enthusiasm that private enterprise had created.
In the same year Pinin married Rosa Copasso. They had 2 children, Gianna, born in 1922 and Sergio, born in 1926. Sergio would later become the head of the Pininfarina. In 1921 Farina’s passion for technology led him towards aerodynamics and flight. The same year he drove the winning car in the Aosta- Gran San Bernadino, and set a record for the best time in all categories, even though his car was his personal car and not even a “sports” model. His impressive record stood for 11 years.
Farina’s next big leap came in 1930, when he left the Stabilimenti Farina. He started the Carrozeria Pinin Farina; he planned to build special car bodies, but hoped to eventually expand his business beyond manual craftsmanship. Farina wanted to turn car body manufacturing into a separate industry. Farina equipped his factory with specialized tools and procedures. He also equipped his factory with an assembly line that could produce 8 car bodies a day. Farina built and designed the bodies for the first Alfa Romeo’s, the Hispano Suiza Coupe, the Lancia Dilambda and Astura, the Fiat Ardita and the Lancia Aprilia Coupe. These revolutionary designs would dictate the style of cars after WW2.
After WW2 Pininfarina began to develop contacts with GM and Renault. Pinin also designed the Cristalia in 1946; this car resides in the New York Museum of Art as the best example of automotive design.
In 1952 Farina once again traveled to the U.S.; this time to unveil the A.M.C. Ambassador and the Nash Healey. In 1958 Pinin Farina decided to move his companies headquarters and factory to Grugliasco. He also designed the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider and by the 1960’s had built about 27,000 of them.
In 1961 Battista Farina turned over control of Pininfarina to his son Sergio Farina. That same year the President of the Italian Republic authorized the change of his last name from Farina to Pininfarina.
After leaving Pininfarina, Battista donated most of his fortune to charity. He also traveled widely and made a few films. He focused his time on cultural projects including education. About a month before his death he inaugurated Pininifarina Studies and Research Center.
Battista Pininfarina died on April 3rd 1966. By the time of his death he had created a legacy of innovation. Chances are the next time you see a stylish European sports car, it may not bear his name but he probably designed it.