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Henry Ford Wanted Pininfarina To Run His Design Department

Imagine if Battista had accepted Ford's offer.

Pininfarina has designed a lot of cars for a lot of different automakers: Ferrari, of course, but also Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and countless carmakers outside of Italy as well. That includes Ford, for which it designed and even manufactured the StreetKa and Focus Coupe Cabriolet on a contract basis. But if Henry Ford had his way, Pininfarina would have run the Blue Oval's own internal design department.

It's a bit of history revealed in “The American Dream," a video anticipating the debut of the forthcoming Pininfarina PF0 electric hypercar at Pebble Beach, which the carrozzeria points out won't be its first journey to America.

To hear Paolo Pininfarina tell it, his grandfather Battista “Pinin” Farina spent two weeks visiting the Ford factories in the early 1920s, before he founded the design house that would bear his name. At the end of his visit, Farina sat down for lunch with Henry Ford, who asked the designer to take charge of its styling department.

Pinin (as he was known) declined the offer, and went on to found his own design house in 1930. The rest, as they say, is history. Battista would hand the baton to his son Sergio, who passed it on to his son Andrea, who was succeeded by his brother.

These days Paolo Pininfarina still presides as chairman over the company that his grandfather founded, though these days it's owned by another automaker. Under Mahindra's auspices, Automobili Pininfarina is gearing up to realize Battista's dream of making its own cars under the family name, and will show its first new model to a select group of customers in Monterey this week before unveiling it to the public in Geneva next March. Meanwhile Ford would go on to subsume the Ghia and Vignale design houses. Hard to imagine what might (and might not) have been had Farina accepted Henry Ford's offer the better part of a century ago.

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