At the Turin Motor Show in 1955, Pinin Farina presented its latest creation: the Lancia Florida, an elegant, luxurious sedan with an innovative shape that paved the way for the design that would characterise the Lancias to come in its wake.
In April 1955, Giovanni Gronchi was elected President of the Italian Republic; in that same month, coachbuilder Battista Farina, better known as Pinin - "Giuseppino" in the Piedmont dialect, due to his resemblance with his father Giuseppe - presented the concept car Florida at the Turin Motor Show, an innovative vehicle that would pave the way for the design of the Lancias launched in subsequent years. It was none other than President Gronchi, in 1961, who allowed Battista to change his family name to Pininfarina, binding him forever to the nickname by which he became best-known.
The Florida was based on the sophisticated mechanics of the Lancia Aurelia, with a V6 front engine and rear-wheel drive and transmission, making for a perfectly balanced weight. The vehicle immediately stood out for its design, a real innovation compared to the other Lancia vehicles produced in that period. The Florida is an elegant sedan almost five metres long, featuring a distinctive large oval grille with built-in head lamps. In this way, Pinin Farina broke away from the traditional shield-shaped grille that had characterised all the Lancias produced until then, proposing a horizontally developed front that also influenced the engine hood, making it low and slender.
The light, streamlined look of the cabin is distinguished by the lack of B-Pillar, despite the four doors: this is due to the designer’s choice of pillarless doors, an element in line with the Lancia tradition. The waistline extends to design the discreet rear fins, with built-in triangular head lamps that close the upturned “C” of the rear bumper. The sloping back window has an original central windscreen wiper: a true innovation for the period. The tight, modern lines of the Florida - so different from those of its peer, the Aurelia sedan - are further enhanced by its dual-colour paint: an aesthetic optional also available on request on the Flaminia later on. The prototype of the sedan was also accompanied by a 2-door coupé version that featured the same lines and was just as elegant.
LANCIA FLORIDA AND LANCIA FLAMINIA
The specially built Florida was a roaring success with the public and also struck a high note with the Lancia bosses, who appointed Pinin Farina to design the heir of the Aurelia.
The first prototype of the Lancia Flaminia, which retained the rear "suicide doors", was exhibited at the Turin Motor Show in 1956, while the definitive version was launched in Geneva in 1957. The innovative solutions of the Florida were adapted to meet the needs of the serial production but its style remained the same. The new sedan was characterised by the large grille in which the new Lancia badge appeared. This was no longer enamelled but made directly of chromed metal, with a simplified shape. Unlike the Florida prototype, the front head lamps stick out from the grille and close the front part of the fender whereas, lower down, there are another two smaller round head lamps, which act as indicators and fog lamps. The break with the past is also highlighted by the name: with Flaminia, the sequence of vehicles that begin with an A - such as Aurelia and Appia - came to a halt but the name chosen still followed the theme of the consular roads of Ancient Rome. In fact the Flaminia would spark another series: Lancia vehicles with names that begin with F. Indeed, it would be followed by the Flavia and the Fulvia in the 1960s.
The low engine hood is characterised by its large air vent. To ensure stability, a pillar had to be added and the four doors opened in the conventional way, but the model retained the chromed profile running all along the rear fin from the corner of the roof: a solution that enhanced the elegance of the design, not only in the two-colour versions. The “tear drop” profile of the bumpers made the sides more dynamic, to such an extent that they looked as if they were moving even when the vehicle was not. The one rear window wiper of the Florida became two, the large, comfortable interior expressed the elegance typical of Lancia and the modern geometry of the suspension offered a excellent road-holding ability and the ultimate comfort.
At the Turin Motor Show in 1957, Pinin Farina presented another evolution of the design, based on the mechanics of the new Flaminia: the Florida II, rightfully seen as a milestone in the history of automotive design. The small rear deflector light was removed, leaving only the side light of the cabin, and the silhouette of the car, even more streamlined than before, outlined a real 4-door pillarless coupé with rear suicide doors. Just like on the Flaminia, the front head lamps came out of the grille, which became more prominent and the single rear windscreen wiper of the first prototype was joined by a second one. Pinin Farina loved the Florida II so much that he used it as his own personal car until he died in 1966. The ingenious coachbuilder once said “ I recall that car-maker from Detroit, Olds, who used to live and sleep in his car. And I live in my Florida".
The year 1959 witnessed the debut of the Lancia Flaminia Coupé at the Turin Motor Show, featuring the splendid sleek lines of the Florida II. And in fact it was again Pinin Farina who, based on the chassis of the sedan, shortened by 12 cm, eliminated the rear suicide door of the Florida II and presented one of the most elegant and well-balanced coupés ever drawn by his ingenious studio.
The Flaminia sedan and coupé were produced in three series with few changes to the exterior, mostly due to the new Highway Code which required several changes to be made to the lights, such as the addition of orange indicator lenses. Instead, over the years, the mechanics evolved: the 2.5-litre V6 engine of the first series with 102 hp increased to 100 hp in the second, and in the third series the 2.5-litre engine became 2.8 litres with 129 hp. The coupés had a higher pressure ration: 119 hp that rose to become 128 with the triple-throat carburettor (3B) and 140 hp in the 2.8 3B. In addition to the versions designed by Pinin Farina, the chassis of the coupé versions were also used by the coach builder Touring Superleggera to create the splendid Flaminia GT and Convertible, while Zagato made the aerodynamic racing models Flaminia Sport and Super Sport.
It was none other than the President of the Republic Gronchi who appointed Lancia and Pinin Farina to create the “Presidenziale” convertible, which made its debut during the official visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1961. Today it is still the protagonist of the official parades staged in honour of grand State ceremonies. Four cars were built, based on the chassis of the Flaminia sedan, with extended wheelbase, all in a shade of dark blue with black leather interiors. In line with a long-standing tradition of the Quirinal Palace, they were named after four thoroughbred horses: Belfiore, Belmonte, Belvedere and Belsito.