I had the opportunity to sit down with Paolo Garella, Special Projects Manager for Pininfarina, again last week. Paolo heads up the bespoke car unit that built the striking Ferrari P4/5 one-off car for American enthusiast Jim Glickenhaus, which was just unveiled during the Pebble Beach weekend.
I was lucky enough to see pictures of the P4/5 several months ago. Paolo showed me dozens of engineering drawings and computer design sectionals. My first impression was that the car was truly amazing, breathtaking and jaw-dropping. My second impression was that it was better looking than almost all the current Ferrari product offerings.
Pininfarina is one of the most successful coachbuilders ever. Most Ferraris (including the classic 250GT Series One Cabriolet, curvaceous 246 GTS Dino, wicked 365 GTB/4 Daytona, and 308 GTS “Magnum PI car”) boast Pininfarina designs. They also were responsible for the glamorous Lancia Aurelia, timeless Fiat 124 Spyder, and even the Cadillac Allante.
But Pininfarina has been hammered recently in the press for its role in creating some questionable looking cars for Ferrari. Automobile magazine even went so far as to suggest Ferrari should cut its long-standing relationship with the firm. The downward spiral, they argue, started with the 550 Maranello – a nice, but some claim rather boring design. Although the 360 and 430 sports cars have been widely regarded as fantastic designs, the looks of the long, awkward 612 Scaglietti and similar new 599 GTB Fiorano have found few fans.
So I asked Paolo straight-up regarding the trend for Ferrari design, and whether it was fair for people to question Pininfarina’s styling ideas. His answer: Ferrari has so many people involved with styling now – brand managers, executives, engineers…that by the time Pininfarina’s engineers and stylists are allowed to begin, their hands are essentially tied behind their backs.
In other words: Ferrari is becoming too much like GM in the 1990s – brand managers making it impossible for the expert designers to do what they do best. Of all companies, Ferrari should realize that creating an identifiable single “look” is far less effective as a method for brand identity than simply ensuring that every vehicle with the “cavallino rampante” emblem offers unmatched beautify and performance.
The P4/5 is a great example of how Pininfarina can work with a creative client to produce a world-class car. It’s the way retro should be done (if it is to be done at all,) with heritage styling cues in an all-together futuristic package. Most importantly, Paolo explained that the production processes created to make this car are so far beyond what other manufacturers are doing that they allow for a whole new level of creativity, design and quality.
Hopefully Ferrari gets the message that it’s time to remove the handcuffs from the amazing team at Pininfarina. Maybe in the next redesign, the twelve-cylinder GT cars will be lighter, prettier, crisper and better balanced – more prancing horse, less bloated mule.