Thank Frankel it's Friday: The greatest Pininfarina designs?

23rd March 2018
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

At the Geneva Motor Show early this month, someone quietly suggested to me that the Pininfarina press conference might be worth attending. I’d not normally have made it because I’m usually too busy trying to wrench information out of board members of global corporations to get to the smaller stands I might choose to visit as a private punter. 


But along I went and was rewarded by hearing Paulo Pininfarina say that it was his wish that his grandfather’s dream (founder Battista Farina) of turning his company into a car manufacturer in its own right would ‘come true in the not distant future.’ Some furious digging later and I discovered that there exists a firm plan, financed by Mahindra, the Indian multi-national that owns most of Pininfarina, to start producing Pininfarina electrified supercars in time for its 90th anniversary in 2020. I’m glad I went.

So while we wait to see what the future of Pininfarina looks like, I thought I might just have a quick look at its past, specifically the 10 Pininfarina designs I’ve liked most over the years. Frankly, they could have all been Ferraris but I have put some others in too, for the sake of variety. And for the sake of relevance I’ve left out the concept cars like the incredible Ferrari 512 Modulo and ultra-low volume cars like the Pininfarina Mythos. So why is the Jaguar XJ Spider in there then? I simply could not do without it – and Jaguar should have built it.

Image courtesy of Hexagon Classics

1968 Dino 206 GT

The original baby Ferrari and a car that looks so like the 246GT that followed it, you may be surprised to learn they have not a single panel or dimension in common. The 206 is smaller and, to me, even sweeter, if only for its pea-shooter tailpipes and gorgeous three eared wheel spinners.

Peugeot 504 Cabriolet

The 504 saloon was a handsome enough family hack, but the job Pininfarina did turning it into a convertible was just exquisite, resulting in what is to me still the best looking Peugeot of them all. If only it could have done as good a job with the Mitsubishi Colt CSC and Ford Focus Coupe Cabriolet…

1971 Ferrari 365 GTC/4

This is the one they always forget, hidden away in the shadow of the slightly more powerful Daytona. But to me it is not just better looking than the Daytona, it’s the best looking Ferrari 2+2 of all time. And while it may not be that relevant here, for most people most of the time, it’s nicer to drive than a Daytona too. 

1973 Ferrari 365 GTBB ‘Boxer’

The Boxer may not go down as the greatest machine Ferrari ever produced from the point of view of driving, but for looks? Among the road cars I don’t think there’s one that combined prettiness and purpose to greater effect, especially the early 4.4-litre cars with their clean lines and, count ‘em, six exhausts.

1975 Ferrari 308 GTB

How could anyone follow the Dino? Well, Pininfarina managed it with a car with one of the rarest qualities of all: a shape that does not possess a single bad or even faintly disappointing angle. It also set a design template, echoes of which can still be seen in V8 Ferraris of today.


1975 Lancia Beta Monte Carlo

I know some of you will be scratching your heads at this, but to me the early Monte Carlos, before they changed the wheels and sorted out the brakes were incredible looking cars and, with proper management, could have spawned a series of cars that could today rival the Porsche 911. So sad that it turned into a design dead end.

1978 Jaguar XJ Spider

I think few would argue that E-type was not the best looking Jaguar road car of all time. But I’d place Pininfarina’s XJ Spider as a startlingly close second. When you realise just what the XJS could have looked like if they’d given these guys the gig it makes you want to weep. Elegant, curvaceous, sporting and ever so slightly raffish, it was everything a Jaguar should be – except put into production.

1988 Alfa Romeo 164

Look at this car and repeat after me ‘it’s built on the same platform as the Fiat Croma’. That’s how good Pininfarina can be on one of its better days. Probably the best looking big Alfa since the war and one I remember with unfettered affection. Did wonders for Alfa’s image upon which its 166 replacement sadly entirely failed to capitalise.

1991 Honda Beat

A bit left field but I thought the best looking of the surprisingly large number of Japanese ‘Kei’ cars that made it over here when they were fashionable in the early 1990s. A smartly styled, mid-engined roadster it seemed like a pint-sized rival to the Mazda MX-5. And it’s normally aspirated 660cc engine producing 63bhp at 8100rpm was hilarious.

2009 Ferrari 458 

The car that suggested in the clearest terms that, thanks to Pininfarina, Ferrari had rediscovered its stylistic mojo. The way it is so gorgeous yet also has such amazing presence makes me think of it as a latter-day Boxer, and where I come from, praise doesn’t come much higher than that.

  • thank frankel it's friday

  • pininfarina

  • ferrari-308gt4-rm-sothebys-main-goodwood-15112019.jpg

    Andrew Frankel

    Thank Frankel it’s Friday: The 308 GT4 is the Ferrari Roma’s true ancestor

  • ferrari_dino_230218_list.jpg

    Andrew Frankel

    Thank Frankel it's Friday: Why I adore the Ferrari Dino

  • peugeot_406_coupe_anorak_pininfarina_01052018_list.jpg


    Axon's Automotive Anorak: Pininfarina's underrated designs