There are many names to know in the annals of Ferrari design, but if you only remember one (aside from Enzo, of course), make it Leonardo Fioravanti, the designer behind some of Ferrari’s most iconic road cars.
Fioravanti worked at Pininfarina for 24 years, first joining the legendary Italian coachmaker and design firm as a stylist in 1964 when he was just 26 years old. From there he worked his way up to managing director.
For 18 of those 24 years he was general manager of Pininfarina’s research arm, Pininfarina Studi & Ricerche, and later he worked as the deputy general manager of Ferrari. In 1989, he joined Fiat’s Centro Stilo as director of design. How’s that for a resumé?
For the purposes of this article I will focus on Fioravanti’s time with Pininfarina, where he not only designed many of Ferrari’s most iconic models, but also introduced new aesthetics that redefined the brand several times over.
Bringing Ferrari into the Modern Era
In 1968, Fioravanti created the Ferrari 365 GTB, popularly known as the Daytona. This was a radically new shape for Ferrari. Instead of a rounded look, he crafted a body of sharp angles around its front-mounted V12, giving the car a distinctly sleek, thin, modern appearance. The Daytona was a line in the sand that shook off the last vestiges of ’50s influence and launched Ferrari’s road cars into the modern sports car era.
He followed this up a year later with the Dino, a marque all its own named for Enzo’s late son, Alfredo, who succumbed to Duchenne muscular dystrophy at just 24 years old. The Dino remains one of Fioravanti’s most recognizable designs, especially the 246 GT iteration, with its deeply set circular headlamps, duckbill nose, sloping backend and low, powerful stance. The shooting comet air intake on each door panel endured across models for the next 20 years.
Putting the Miura on Notice
In 1973, Fioravanti designed Ferrari’s first mid-engine sports car and defined a silhouette that lived on for years to come. The first 365 GT4 BB was shown in Paris in 1971 as a response to the Miura, but the 512 Berlinetta Boxer that debuted in 1976 was a true showstopper that remained in production for over a decade, with more than 2,300 produced. The sharp nose, yellow running lights, white hood louver, twin tail lights and exhaust pipes on each side, two-tone paint job, futuristic engine cover, and other design elements defined a look and feel that carried Ferrari well into the ‘80s.
Before we leave the 1970s, I must tip my hat to Fioravanti’s 308 GTB. This model is often criticized for not standing out enough against the 512 BB or 288 GTO, but it’s both a bridge and an icon in its own right. I mean, it was cool enough for Tom Selleck in Magnum, P.I. – what else do you want?
The Making of a Masterpiece
In 1983, Fioravanti created what is still for me the most beautiful Ferrari ever designed: the 288 GTO. It is, to quote myself: “A perfectly balanced, aesthetically pleasing design devoid of pomp and flourish…a singular achievement of form-meets-function… The car’s rear end is a clean panel with two pairs of equally sized taillights and a simple “GTO” in that wonderfully ’80s font… Four generous fender flares bulge to accommodate its large racing tires, and together with its tight midsection and sharply cut frontend, they create a muscular stance that looks ready to pounce, even at a standstill.”
And yet with all of this to his credit, Fioravanti was far from done. He had two more era-defining masterpieces up his sleeve.
In 1984, he unveiled the Testarossa, with its raked door panel air intakes that look cooler than the Fonz pulling a comb through his hair. It was a design that launched a thousand bedroom posters and boyhood fantasies, and to this day it still looks boldly futuristic. Just three years later, he teamed up with Enzo Ferrari to create a revolutionary design for the brand’s 40th year that became the automaker’s swan song. The result was of course the F40, a monstrous evolution of the 288 GTO that’s not among my personal favorites, but is undoubtedly a legend and adored by collectors worldwide.
Did he ever make mistakes? Oh sure, a few: the Mondial. The 348. The P5. But along with Giorgetto Giugiaro and Marcello Gandini (all born within months of one another, oddly), he stands as one of the greatest car designers of the 20th century, perhaps as important to Italian culture as Federico Fellini. What do you think of Leonardo Fioravanti’s work?