Legendary Ferrari designer dies

In this April 4, 1959 photo, Sergio Pininfarina

In this April 4, 1959 photo, Sergio Pininfarina observes a Ferrari model in Turin. Pininfarina, who headed a family company known for its designs of sleek Ferraris and other cars, died July 3, 2012 at his home in Turin. He was 85. Photo Credit: AP

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Sergio Pininfarina, whose Italian engineering design firm conceived the sensuous bodies that made Ferraris look fast at a standstill and whose futuristic car designs were decades ahead of their time, died July 3 at his home in Turin, Italy. He was 85.

His death was announced by Pininfarina, the design company his father started in 1930. The cause was not disclosed.

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In the automotive world, the names Pininfarina and Ferrari evoke speed, style and splendor. Their names were inextricably linked beginning in the early 1950s when Battista "Pinin" Farina began a business relationship with Enzo Ferrari, owner of the sports car manufacturer.

Sergio Pininfarina became chairman after his father's death in 1966 and helped transform the small custom shop into a worldwide design empire.

During the 1950s, the company produced less than a 1,000 cars a year for mainly Italian auto companies. Pininfarina helped expand the design firm's operations, reaching a peak annual production of nearly 50,000 units for clients including Peugeot, Rolls-Royce, Maserati and Cadillac.

As chairman, Pininfarina had the final word on all aspects of a car's look. "Good design equals longevity, and the better the design, the longer its life," he once said. "A beautiful car -- like a beautiful woman -- is always beautiful." Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo said the two companies flourished under Pininfarina's stewardship. "Calling his relation with Ferrari legendary is insufficient," Montezemolo said in a statement, noting that Pininfarina was known for his "sense of elegance."

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For Ferrari, Pininfarina oversaw the body design of the 1968 Daytona, known for its long, sloping hood; the 1984 Testarossa and its dramatically vented doors, and the 1987 F40, with its signature rear wing. His last contribution was the 2002 Enzo supercar, inspired by the low-slung bodies of Ferrari's champion Formula 1 racers.

Pininfarina, with his bespoke suits and wire-framed glasses, became a well-known cultural figure in Italy. He also served in the European Parliament from 1979 to 1988.

Survivors include his wife, Giorgia; a son, Paolo, and a daughter, Lorenza.

His son Andrea, who took over the family business when Pininfarina stepped down in 2006, was killed in 2008 when his Vespa was struck by a car.

After Andrea's death, Paolo became the leader of the company, which suffered financially in the 2000s.

He said that his luxury as a car designer was that his business catered to an elite clientele, compared with larger American auto companies that designed for mass appeal.

"You make a new car and you invite a dozen people, a dentist, a sportsman, a lawyer, a prostitute. And you say, do you like this, do you prefer that? I accept it, but I am not an enthusiast, and I'll tell you why," Pininfarina told The New York Times in 1987. "I am looking to the future, and these people are accustomed to the past."

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