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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Car Design: Pininfarina's Hyperion is No Hype

Pininfarina has been going through an especially difficult period of late, suffering from cash woes and most recently the untimely death of young CEO Andrea Pininfarina in a road accident. The storied design firm still has a future as long as Ferrari (and by extension parent company FIAT) sees value in their work. Recently they unveiled the Ferrari California, which I gave a lukewarm review of. Over the weekend at Pebble Beach the last car to be completed under Andrea Pininfarina’s stewardship was introduced – a one-off for private collector and filthy rich person Roland Hall based on Rolls-Royce’s Phantom Drophead.

Thankfully it’s a welcome addition to the firms storied legacy, and an improvement over the brutalist bulk of the original. The Hyperion features soft flowing boat-like forms stretched out to emphasize the substantial length. This is accentuated by the removal of the rear seats, the cant of the windshield and the moving of the windshield’s base back. You could land a small plane on the surface of the hood.

The side sculpting is expertly handled with a graceful curve arching over the front wheel-well to form a rib before settling into the flowing haunches at the rear fenders. Up front the setting of the classic Rolls grille is perfectly proportioned and punctuated by the comet shaped LED-studded headlamps. The lower air intake is not as graceful as the rest of the car would suggest - one of the few off notes.

The tapering decklid at the rear is reminiscent of classic past designs from both Pininfarina and Rolls and the clean execution is a pleasure to behold. The rear exhaust outlets echo the air intake at the front and like that intake they seem somewhat incongruous in so elegant a car.

Rich teak wood encircles the passenger compartment and there is a specially built Girard-Perregaux timepiece that can be removed from the dashboard and placed in a wristband to be worn as a watch.

The Pininfarina Hyperion is a stunning affirmation in the classic coach building tradition of the past. Here’s hoping that the successful aesthetics of the Hyperion auger well for the future of Pininfarina

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