Aerodynamics were the topic of the moment 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 amazing power from high strung little engines. Pinin Farina, Bertone, Ghia and Zagato maximized the efficiency of their coachwork with conventional, but also 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 their own 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 an automobile 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 (it was, after all, 1960 when fins were 'in' and the teardrop shape provided little in the way of lateral or crosswind stability) stabilized the Pininfarina X's dart shape.
There was, even in the Fifties and Sixties, 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 coefficient of aerodynamic drag 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 sound 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 in an effort 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, a car that will draw attention away from the latest concepts, limited production, high efficiency vehicles on any show field, tour or event. It will be the most amazing, scene-stealing, dramatic vehicle anyone could ask to drive.