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Pininfarina and Scaglietti

Jim Weed

Volume 49 Issue 12

Jun 22, 2024

Pininfarina and Scaglietti have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. How did Ferrari begin to use Pininfarina? Why did Scaglietti start to build Ferraris? The back story is interesting.

     I had a discussion the other day with a subscriber about his 250 GT Boano and we got in depth about how and why Boano, and later Ellena, built this series and why Pininfarina did not.

     It was interesting to place ourselves back in time to the days of early Ferrari history to understand how and why Boano received the contract and why Pininfarina did not.

     But wait, the title of this article is Pininfarina and Scaglietti. Boano and Ellena are not mentioned. In the big picture it really has to do with the relationship between the big two.

     The very early Ferraris were bodied mainly by three different coachbuilders. Touring, Vignale and Ghia were the prominent places to take a rolling chassis to have a body installed.

     The concept of individual coachwork builders prevailed from the very early days of the automobile and would have been a continuation of horse and buggy days when designing a unique carriage was common.

     People of means would contract with a carriage house to create something special, something that could set them apart from the masses. Being seen in a common carriage pulled with draft horses would not compare with an elegant pleasing design pulled by a matching pair of brown sorrels.

     As the horse gave way to the automobile, again, the affluent would not want to be seen in a common Model T, but would want something special, unique and visibly different.

     We have not come too far from that particular mindset when we see what Ferrari has done with their One-to-One and Tailor-Made programs. The ability to create a Ferrari especially crafted to one’s desires is certainly not a new concept.

     Ferrari made engines, fast, powerful engines. Ferrari made the chassis with suspension that incorporated the best knowledge in design. Ferrari made transmissions and rear axle assemblies that optimized the power of the engine. But Ferrari did not place the fenders, or seats, or configure the lights; he left those choices up to the customer.

     And why not? There were others who could do the job and work with the customer to make a pleasing final product.

     It is clear as you study many of those early Ferraris there is a consistency in design and shape. Touring and Ghia have their signature cars with variations thrown in.

     For sure, low production numbers prevented stamping the panels needed to make production efficient. There were also individual customer requests to make one unique from another.

     Due to the hand-built nature of each body, there were minor details that differed from one to another. That flaw is what helps us today as we inspect old photographs to determine which car might be pictured.

      Vignale was more creative in interpreting what the customer desired. While Vignale has a ‘look’ there is more evolution in the designs and much more changes in details than the other coachbuilders.

     The first years of Ferrari’s company were busy. Building racing cars and winning. Building racing cars for clients for them to win. Then making cars for customers who may have dreamed of winning or at a minimum to own the most powerful automobile on the road.

     Between 1948 to the end of 1952, Ferrari built roughly 116 even-numbered competition cars and 129 odd-numbered street cars.

     With slightly less than three hundred total cars built, Ferrari had yet to have one identity come through. But that was about to change.

     Pinin Farina and Ferrari met over lunch. Ferrari offered a chassis, and the die was cast. Pinin Farina created several more cars for Ferrari. The simple lines and beautiful shape began to define what a Ferrari should look like.

     Toward the end of the 212 Inter series, Pininfarina was the main builder of this model. Vignale still did a few for discerning customers, but it was clear the future Ferrari would have a Pininfarina look.

     The 250 Europa solidified the future look of a Ferrari. Of the twenty made seventeen were made by Pininfarina in 1953 to 1954. Add in eight 375 America and the total Pininfarina made was twenty-five.

     From 1955 through early 1956, the 250 Europa GT was Ferrari’s latest upgrade and of the forty-two produced, thirty-nine were made by Pininfarina.

     The last handful of this model showed a new design direction. This new shape would become what we now recognize as the Boano. So why did Pininfarina not build this car?

     The classic excuse is Pininfarina was building a new factory and could not add the small production of Ferrari automobiles. Yes and no. Yes, in that between 1956 and 1958 a new factory was built which greatly expanded production capability.

     The other reason was that Pinin Farina’s reputation was growing and the current Corso Trapani factory was full of Fiat 1100s and Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spiders. There just wasn’t extra capacity to handle Ferrari’s small production numbers.


               Pininfarina circa 1954


     So Felice Mario Boano accepted the Pininfarina design and built what is now known as the Boano. About sixty-five examples were made in 1956 through mid-1957 and then production was taken over by Ezio Ellena who made a further fifty cars.

     Production ended in 1958, which coincides with the opening of the new Pininfarina manufacturing plant.

     It is this point in time when Pininfarina really began to produce Ferrari automobiles. Battista (Pinin) Farina gave an interview in the September 1959 issue of Sports Cars Illustrated. Excerpted here:

     “Why have you decided to go into volume production instead of remaining with strictly custom manufacture?”

     “As you know,” Farina replied, “we have a new plant. It cost us about $750,000. In it we have a department devoted solely to the manufacture of one-off cars. We receive enough requests from all over the world to keep us on a schedule of 50 one-off cars a month. But we can’t do it: there just aren’t enough workmen available with the necessary skills. We find it very difficult to build more than ten originals a month because of this shortage of skilled labor.”

     The interview continues with this: “The ideal course open to us is small volume production.”

     This revelation coincides with the production numbers of Ferraris built by Pininfarina during the late 1950s and into the early 1960s. The 250 GT PF Coupe and 250 GT PF Cabriolet were made in small numbers, 350 and 200 respectively.

     The 250 GTE body including the 330 America was 1,000. And the 330 GT 2+2 in both versions was 1,080.

     The non-production cars included the 250 GT Series I Cabriolet with 41 produced. The 410 Superamerica Series III at twelve, and 400 Superamerica at forty-five.

      It is clear from the round numbers of production, Pininfarina was holding Ferrari, or contracted with Ferrari, for a guaranteed number of units. The other cars built in the one-off section were built on an as-needed basis and not held to any particular production number.

     So where does Scaglietti factor into the larger picture? Remember, Pininfarina was filled to capacity during 1955 and 1956. While they were filling the 250 Europa GT order, there was not room to make sportscars.

     This task was handed off to Scaglietti. Sergio Scaglietti had been repairing Ferrari race cars and by 1954 was a sanctioned body shop for repairing customer Ferraris.

     In 1955 Scaglietti began to receive chassis for the 750 Monza and began series production of Ferrari sportscars. While Pininfarina could not accept more work in-house they could continue to create designs for Ferrari.

     The 250 GT Berlinetta was one of those designs and became known as the Tour de France. This series was built by Scaglietti starting in 1956 and production continued through 1959.


               Scaglietti circa 1959

     The expansion of Scaglietti’s production allowed Ferrari to continue to offer automobiles while Pininfarina was able to grow its manufacturing.

     Soon Scaglietti was able to build the convertible version of the Berlinetta, the Spyder California. By the time Pininfarina had the new factory opened, Ferrari sales were at a point where both suppliers could be kept busy building Ferraris.

     The symbiotic relationship between Ferrari, Pininfarina and Scaglietti is well known. The timing of why and how Scaglietti came to prominence has not been well described.

     Ferrari engines and chassis, mated with Pininfarina’s thoughtful designs created the Ferrari identity. But it was a fortunate bit of timing that allowed Scaglietti to step in to fulfill Ferrari’s needs while Pininfarina handled its own needed expansion.

     And now you know the rest of the story…

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