In this April 4, 1959 photo, Sergio Pininfarina observes a...

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. Credit: AP

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.

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."

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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