Aerodynamics was the moment's topic in the late Fifties and early Sixties. The search for efficiency was nowhere more prevalent than in Italy, where its cadre of talented, imaginative, creative coachbuilders sought to wring high-speed performance out of small displacement powerplants. The likes of Abarth and Conrero produced incredible power from high-strung little engines. Pinin Farina, Bertone, Ghia, and Zagato maximized their coachwork's efficiency with conventional but imaginative bodies.
This was the time of Franco Scaglione's Bertone B.A.T.s, Abarth's diminutive record-setters, Ghia's Gilda, and the double-bubble Abarths. Coachbuilders like Pinin Farina built wind tunnels to refine road car designs, then stretched conventional wisdom with advanced concepts.
In a period of continuous experimentation, perhaps no vehicle pushed the boundaries like the Pininfarina X. Years of experimental and empirical experience had shown that the teardrop was the most efficient way to minimize the resistance of a solid body (an automobile or airplane) passing through a fluid (air.) The problem remained for designers to adapt the shape of a car with four wheels and room for four passengers to the teardrop shape without becoming large and impractical.
Pinin Farina (it would become Pininfarina in 1961) resolved this issue with its 1960 concept, called the Pininfarina X. Instead of a conventional 4-corner layout for the wheels, Pininfarina (we'll defer to the later name) created a cruciform platform with a single steering wheel at the front, a single driving wheel at the rear and two outrigger wheels on the sides positioned behind the four doors. Large fins at the rear (after all, 1960, when fins were 'in' and the teardrop shape provided little lateral or crosswind stability) stabilized the Pininfarina X's dart shape.
Even in the Fifties and Sixties, there was no more daring and imaginative approach to breaking the mold of conventional automobile design.
It is powered by a diminutive rear-mounted 1089cc Fiat four producing just 43 horsepower with a 4-speed transmission driving the single rear tire. The aerodynamic drag coefficient is just 0.23, a figure that even the most modern fuel-efficient automobiles can only aspire to achieve.
Shown at Turin in 1960 and Brussels in 1961 by Pininfarina, it resided in the company's museum until 2007 and is in largely original and unmolested condition with good paint and interior. Unusually for a design concept, it was engineered and built by Pininfarina as a running, driving vehicle. Batista 'Pinin' Farina is believed to have driven it to various manufacturers to have its concept implemented in production, and today, it runs and drives.
Over half a century old, Pininfarina X is still in the vanguard of automobile concepts. This car will draw attention away from the latest concepts, limited production, and high-efficiency vehicles on any show field, tour, or event. It will be the most unique, scene-stealing, dramatic vehicle anyone could ask to drive.
Source: Hyman Ltd.
Images: pininfarina spa.; www.classiccarcatalogue.com; www.barrett-jackson.com