When the emotion had cleared at Italian design house Pininfarina last summer following the death of its figurehead, former boss and one of the world’s greatest car designers, Sergio Pininfarina, it was evident that there was only going to be one fitting way to pay tribute to him: build a car. And not just any car.
To honour Sergio, a man famed for designing many of the most beautiful Ferraris of all time, the car would need to be a Ferrari, and it would need to be something head-turning enough to stop the traffic.
As current company chairman Paolo Pininfarina puts it: “The tribute to my father definitely had to be a Ferrari because he spent 60 years of his life working to develop this extraordinary relationship and designing about 100 Ferrari models.”
The Sergio concept, a two-seat barchetta based on the Ferrari 458 Spider, was born. And so positive was its reception at its global debut at the Geneva motor show in March that a small run of production cars is being considered.
The car is significant not just because it pays tribute to Sergio Pininfarina. It also shows the continuing strength of the relationship between the Turin design house and Ferrari. The Prancing Horse’s chairman, Luca di Montezemolo, gave his full support to the project, which also showcases Pininfarina’s desire to return to its roots as a builder of specialist coachbuilt cars as part of its core business. It also highlights the firm’s intention to build bespoke, customer-led individual models.
Fabio Filippini, Pininfarina’s chief designer, reveals that once it was clear that the tribute had to be a Ferrari, the specifics of the project quickly fell into place. “Sergio passed away in July, right at the time we had to decide what we had to do at the Geneva motor show the following March,” he says. “It was such an emotional time. We couldn’t decide how to pay tribute to him, so we stopped everything and went on holiday to decide how we could commemorate him.
It quickly became clear that the best way was with a tribute at the Geneva show, a concept car. And the proper way to do it would be with a Ferrari logo. We asked Ferrari before even drawing the car if we could do it and Luca di Montezemolo said we had all of his support. We decided it should be a mid-engined Ferrari because the first Sergio Ferrari was the Dino Berlinetta Speciale, the ancestor of all mid-engined Ferraris.”
A roofless barchetta body style was chosen for the Sergio, because it is the “most extreme and emotional” concept for a sports car, says Filippini. The 458 Spider was the logical donor car because Pininfarina had designed it.
By the end of September, Filippini’s team had a design proposal that was to become the Sergio concept. “The design is pure lightweight, aerodynamic, emotional and innovative – all aspects of Sergio’s input and development in the company over 50 years,” says Filippini.
The Sergio contains subtle styling references to many of the great Ferraris designed by Pininfarina. Filippini says: “We’ve tried to create the sensuality and feeling of Ferraris designed by Sergio in the 1960s and 1970s, without referencing a single car or having a retro look. It’s getting the flair, flavour and spirit of those cars in a concept – the bold wheel arches and soft, simple surfaces. Look closely and there’s hints of various Ferraris all over it: the Dino Berlinetta Speciale, Dino 246, 250 LM, Daytona, Mythos…” ◊
The windscreen-less design is deliberately extreme so that no one could mistake the Sergio for a 458 Spider. Occupants must wear helmets, although various trick aerodynamic devices – everything from spoilers to the rear-view mirror – work together to create a ‘virtual windscreen’ formed from the airflow.