Journal: The American Influence on Italian Design

The American Influence on Italian Design

By Yoav Gilad
October 10, 2014

North America has long been Ferrari’s most important market and even from the beginning they had one eye keenly fixed on American tastes. But it hasn’t strictly been a one-way road. Even the first North American distributor, Mr. Luigi Chinetti sometimes requested special cars be built that he knew would sell briskly in the US.

One aspect that has always remained firmly in Italian hands is the styling though, right? Yes and no. Ferraris have always been designed in-house or by Italian coachbuilders like Pininfarina, Scagletti, et al. But famous American designers have made significant contributions to Ferrari’s design language by their employment within the design firms. And this isn’t a new phenomenon either; it began with Mr. Tom Tjaarda in the early 1960s.

Tjaarda seemed destined to be a designer from birth. His father, John, was a car designer, and in an industrial design class as an architecture student at the University of Michigan the younger Tjaarda impressed the teacher so much that his teacher shared Tom’s model with his friend, then-head of design at Carrozzeria Ghia, Luigi Segre. Tjaarda received an offer of employment as a result of the one model and moved to Torino, Italy. In his first couple of years at Ghia, he designed several concepts and production cars for firms such as Innocenti and Renault. Following some work for the city of Torino’s ‘Italia 1961 Design Exhibition’ Pininfarina snatched him up.

And while he worked on a variety of projects for a few different clients, among his most memorable are the 1964 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Pininfarina series 1 and the ’66 Ferrari 365 GT California. The California replaced the 500 Superfast and was built on the same chassis but equipped with a cabriolet top for an open-motoring experience. It debuted at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show but sadly only fourteen 365 Californias were ever produced.

More recently, another American has shaken up the Italian status quo. Mr. Jason Castriota hails from the New York City area and took an internship at Pininfarina while still a student at Art Center College of Design. When his internship ended, he dropped out of school and stayed in Torino as an employee where he worked on the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano as well as other clients’ projects.

His work was so appreciated that he was named Head Designer for Special Projects. It is there that he executed what may be his best-known work: The Ferrari P4/5 by Pininfarina. It was based on the Ferrari Enzo but completely redesigned to pay homage to the P3/4 endurance racers of the 1960s. Additionally, Castriota designed a one-off Ferrari 612, called the Kappa based on the Scaglietti and bodied entirely out of aluminum.

Now let’s be clear: Ferrari is a purely Italian phenomenon. But it’s Ferrari North America’s sixtieth anniversary and like Chinetti contributing to Ferrari’s success during the early days, we’re recognizing a couple of small American contributions to the storied marque in a field (design) that might be surprising to some.

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Forest Casey
Forest Casey
9 years ago

Great topic for an article. If you’re talking Italian-American design, why not talk about two of Tom Tjaarda’s major successes: The 1971 Pantera (perhaps the first Italian-American supercar) and the 1963 Pininfarina Corvair.

“Pininfarina did a Corvair?” Yes, they did. Look it up — it very nearly redeems the car.

TJ Martin
TJ Martin
9 years ago

OK .. lets be clear about this . Since the mid 50’s Ferrari has been an American influenced Italian entity and anything but a purely Italian phenomena … with the likes of Luigi Chinetti etc having massive input .. despite Enzo denying it .. on the styles and types as well as the power under the hood etc of the cars they built .

And then … there’s all those AC Delco , Ford and Chrysler bits under the hood of every callsic Ferrari ever made [ snag a copy of the long out of print and banned by Ferrari NA ” The Anarchists Guide to Owning a Ferrari ” if you can find one and afford the price ] a trend which continues right up to the present day

But now .. with Stronzetto Marchionne at the helm … the circle is about to go 180 degrees … as Ferrari now becomes American with an Italian influence

PS; Yoav . Head over to the Lamborghini when they were strictly Lamborghini to see some serious impact from US designers and engineers on Italian iron

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
9 years ago

Nice piece Yoav. While he did not design production Ferraris, there is one other American who contributed to 60’s Ferrari design – Tom Meade. Based in Modena he designed the gorgeous Nembo Spyder and outrageous Thomassima specials. Perhaps a worthy subject of a future design piece?

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