In the 1950s, Italy’s design maestro, Pinin Farina, changed the shape of automotive architecture while drumming up new business for his expanding carrozzeria. Here’s the story of the dramatic show car -- the 1955 Lancia Florida -- that touched off a worldwide styling revolution with an influence you can still see today.
The Lancia Florida is now some 50 years distant, so its colossal significance may not be fully appreciated by today’s style-conscious observer. Yet few design studies offer such a clear-cut example of a truly new form.
There was nothing like the Florida in Pinin Farina’s earlier work, and the maestro certainly didn’t copy it from any of his rivals in Turin, London, Milan, or Detroit.
When he sprang his surprise on the world at the Turin Salone dell’Automobile in the spring of 1955, everyone was unprepared. And no one could grasp at that moment how much the Florida would influence the art of car design in years to come.
If that sounds like an exaggeration, it’s not. With the Florida, Farina bid farewell to "monolithic" shapes and said hello to a new principle: body development by symmetrical juxtaposition of curved panels.
Look at it this way: If older cars were sculpted, as if hewn from a lump of clay, the Florida was just the opposite. It was built like a house of cards, each card preformed to a certain aesthetic concept. The starting point was not a solid object but merely a surface.
The Florida was remarkably clean for its time. The major theme was form, with a near-total absence of decoration. Horizontal emphasis was provided by the beltline, which picked up from the front fenders and stretched into the high rear fenders, blending with the backwards sweep of the C-post.
Further strengthening the horizontal motif was a full-length sheet-metal crease just above the wheel cutouts. A hardtop coupe built in steel, the Lancia Florida also featured a wraparound windshield and "dogleg" A-posts, prompted no doubt by the contemporary U.S. styling fad originated by General Motors.
The grille was not new, being merely a variation on the flattened oval that Farina was using on so many Ferraris. Headlamps were housed within the grille frame, with smaller auxiliary lamps recessed into the front fender tips.
In proportions, the Lancia Florida was perfect for its time. The profile was long and sleek, and rear deck length was sufficient for full visual balance with the hood, thereby giving extra emphasis to the car’s static 50/50 unladen weight distribution.
The shallow greenhouse and big wheels may look dated to modern eyes. However, those wheels -- shod with Michelin X 165-400 tires -- seemed smaller than expected for a 104.3-inch-wheelbase car in 1955, and the absence of fixed B-posts counteracted the low roof, giving a definite airiness to the interior. The prototype was originally finished in two-tone paint, with white on the roof and decklid and dark blue everywhere else.
It didn’t take long for Pinin Farina to develop a four-door version of the 1955 Lancia Florida design. It was ready in September 1955, still on the same short-wheelbase platform.
The windshield base was moved forward and the hood correspondingly shortened to make room for the rear doors. Headlamps were relocated from the grille to the fenders, with the parking lights directly below. A Ferrari-like air scoop appeared on the hood, and the A-posts were straightened to vertical, still with a wrapped windshield.
Like the coupe, the four-door Florida was pillarless. Doors were center-opening, and Farina came up with a novel arrangement to make up for the lack of B-posts. When closed, the back doors locked into the fronts, and all doors also latched on the sills.
Frameless sideglass precluded any roof-mounted door attachment points. Lancia had some misgivings about this arrangement, so the Flaminia emerged as a pillared sedan with full window frames and conventional front-hinged rear doors.
The Flaminia was built on a 113-inch wheelbase. Power was supplied by the largest 2.5-liter (152-cubic-inch) version of the Aurelia V-6, detuned to 102 horsepower. Naturally it inherited the Aurelia’s front-drive transaxle, thus keeping tooling costs within strict limits.
The de Dion rear suspension was retained, but Fessia departed wildly from Lancia practice by going to a new front suspension design with upper and lower A-arms and coil springs inclined at about 20 degrees from vertical.
Several major manufacturers had noticed the fundamental styling change represented by the original Lancia Florida and began talking to Pinin Farina about doing something similar. What he did was sell a scaled-down version of the basic Flaminia design intended to accept engines of 1.5-2.0 liters (91-121 cid).
It appeared in quick succession at British Motor Corporation in 1958 (Wolseley 15/60, Austin A-55 Cambridge, MG Magnette Mark III, Morris Oxford Series IV, and Riley 4/68), at Fiat in 1959 (1800 and 2100), and at Peugeot in 1960 (for the 404). The French and Italian cars stayed with big horizontal grilles. Austin and Morris used less daring ones, while the Riley and Wolseley had narrower, more traditional, vertical-bar treatments.
Pronounced rear fender "fins" appeared on the British cars, which also had horizontal chrome moldings running back from headlamp center level and curved downward in the rear door area. More modest blades graced the Peugeot, while the Fiats’ flanks were straight.
The Florida was already influential, but Pinin Farina had still further plans for this design.
Source: www.ritzsite.net; auto.howstuffworks.com; «МАЛЫШ НА МИЛЛИОН» ИВАН СУСАРИН, Журнал «Автопилот» Август, 2008 № 08 (173)