1955 Lancia Florida – styled by Pinin Farina, this car became one of the most influential designs of all time.
Few car stylists can claim to have created two of the most influential car designs of all time, but the late Batista “Pinin” Farina is one of those few.
Pinin Farina’s 1946 Cisitalia
His 1946 Cisitalia launched the pontoon style that came to dominate car styling for the remainder of the 1940s and into the mid-1950s. In the pontoon style, the fenders and the body proper were integrated into a smooth sweep. The separate body and fender style that had flowed from the evolution of automobiles from motorized versions of horse-drawn carriages was now a thing of the past. A fine example of this then-new pontoon design language is found in Robert Bourke and Holden Kato’s 1949 Ford.
In 1955, Farina introduced his second truly revolutionary design, the Lancia Florida. Built in small numbers, the Florida was offered as a pillar less four door hardtop – with no “B” pillar at all between the doors – and as a two door hardtop.
The 1955 Lancia Florida hardtop coupe. Note the difference in the sweep of the “A” pillar on the coupe vs on the four door hardtop version shown in the first photo.
The 1955 version at the front featured four headlamps, the upper ones being secondary to the larger main headlamps set low in the grille. Farina had been involved in the designs of the 1952 – 1955 full size Nash cars and the low set headlights figure in the front of the 1955 Nash.
Farina’s fascination with the headlight being set low and in the grille is seen again in the ’55 Nash, a design in which he was influential.
The pillar less four door hardtop theme was picked up by Cadillac for their very limited production 1957 and 1958 Eldorado Broughams.
“Look, Mom, no ‘B’-pillar!” Lancia Florida (above); Cadillac Eldorado Brougham (below).
The Florida’s “C”-pillar used the “flying buttress” theme on the roofline, a theme Farina first used on the 1954 Ferrari 375 “Bergman” and which he used again on the 1958 FIAT 1800 and the Peugeot 404. This idea was picked up by Ford with the 1958 Thunderbird, by Brooks Stevens with his Willys for South America and his 1962 Studebaker GT Hawk, and by General Motors with the 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix and the 1966 – 1967 mid-size Chevelle and Pontiac two door hardtops.
The Florida was hugely influential on the overall design of one of the very best GM designs of the 1960s, the ’63 Grand Prix. Aside from the “flying buttress” C-pillar, the subtle horizontal crease running the length of the mid body section on the Florida found its way to the Grand Prix. Note in the photos below how that crease plays with the light, a masterstroke design detail.
Another very fine design from the ’60s that seems to have been influenced by the Florida is the 1961 Lincoln Continental. The overall shape of the “C”-pillar and the treatment of the taillights seems to have a Florida influence, though the roof lacks the “flying buttress”. The suicide door feature re-appears on this car, though the “B”-pillar is included.
In execution, the large low set lights in the grille of the 1955 Florida work well, but the smaller lights at the top of the fenders look awkward. In the front view, this design element does not come off well. Farina corrected this with the front of the 1957 Florida II and the front of the 1958 Ferrari 250.
The soundness of Pinin Farina’s Florida designs was demonstrated twenty years later when the themes of the Florida II were put to work in the Rolls-Royce Camargue.
There is no doubt that Pinin Farina’s 1946 Cisitalia and his mid-’50s Floridas reached around the globe with their design influence.
This reminds me of the 1960s when I could have purchased a 1950’s Lancia convertible for $500. It was a model not sold in the USA. I believe that a serviceman had it shipped here. I passed on it because I figured that parts would be impossible to get. A friend bought it and “flipped” it at a great profit.
I believe that a 1947 Cistallia and a 1953 Studebaker Starliner were part of the same show at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City (when the Studebaker was new).
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Gary – I think you are correct about the Cisitalia and the Studebaker being shown together. Later, when the Avanti was introduced, it also was shown at MOMA. We in the US have missed out on much of the glory that was Lancia. They were superbly engineered cars. It’s sad that now they are only 1 model sold only in Italy.
Overall, a good article, though a serious omission is Lancia’s production version of the Florida concept, which was the Flaminia berlina from 1957 through 1968. I do not understand why the above article does not include a photo, or even a mention it. The Eldorado Brougham was not the only ‘suicide door’ four door hardtop in 1957 or 1958. Closer to Italy, the Facel Vega Excellence from France was on the market until 1962.
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I know that you know your Lancias because I see your contributions to the comments on Lancia listings at Bring-a-Trailer! 😊
On the other hand, I’m something of a “newbie” to Lancias and I didn’t know that the Flaminia Berlina was the production version of the show car. Reach around, pat yourself on the back and thank yourself for giving me the topic of next week’s “Gear Head” post!
A little nit-picking here, but important. The 1949 Ford’s main designer was Dick Caleal and it’s important that he get’s the credit for it, as controversial as the whole deal was. Also, a typo: Holden “Bob” Koto, not Kato.
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Thank you for this, Rick! I don’t consider it to be nit-picking. I appreciate you catching my error on Holden Koto’s name. I thought that I had fixed that. Obviously I missed it. • I did not know about Dick Caleal. I’ve got to look this up. I got my information from John Bridge’s book about Robert Bourke.