A spin in the Pinin, the world’s only four-door Ferrari saloon

A four-door Ferrari? It doesn’t seem right. We sent photographer Rémi Dargegen to capture the essence of the Ferrari that never was – and, very unusually, he was invited along for a ride, too.

A concept to tempt Enzo

Sergio Pininfarina longed to create a four-door Ferrari to rival the high-performance saloons of Maserati, Jaguar and Mercedes. Pininfarina’s 50th anniversary, in 1980, seemed the perfect opportunity to develop a four-door Ferrari concept to tempt Enzo Ferrari into considering a step in this direction. So the design studio created the ‘Ferrari Pinin’, on a Ferrari 412 chassis, in time for that year’s Turin motor show. 

Longing looks

Thirty-five years later, photographer Rémi Dargegen’s first impressions are mixed: “The car appears strangely long when you see it from a distance, even though it’s only a little bit longer than a 365, 400 or 412. The shape is very late 70s or maybe early 80s, so it’s a style you’re going to love or hate – but either way, you can’t deny that it exudes a huge helping of elegance.”

Back to the future

But it was when Dargegen climbed inside the Pinin that he really started to appreciate the avant-garde nature of this luxury sports saloon. “You look around and start to realise that the modern high-end saloons – cars such as the Panamera, Rapide and new Lagonda – really aren’t the first of their breed. This Ferrari got there first: four seats, controls for the rear passengers, an incredible level of comfort, magnificent leather everywhere and some impressively innovative (for the period) technology. The dashboard is positively futuristic.”

Shoehorned engine

Since the Pinin was purely a show car, it wasn’t designed around an engine – although it contained a non-working, front-mounted, flat-12 engine when it was displayed at Turin. When the engine was adapted to make it work, it created some problems; as Dargegen discovered when he was invited to be a passenger on a short test drive. “The car is drivable, but it’s not that easy; since it wasn’t originally designed around an engine, there’s very little room. The result of squeezing a 512 BB engine under the bonnet is that you find yourself in a historically fascinating concept car that can hardly turn to the left, and in which you need to look out for every little stone on the road, as the power unit has been fitted so very, very low in the engine bay.”

Bad timing

Although Enzo Ferrari was deeply impressed by Pininfarina’s concept – so much that he seriously considered a production run of the four-door Ferrari – he eventually decided against adopting the radically different design direction. The concept car itself was instead sold to Jacques Swaters. “The Pinin was coherent with Ferrari’s philosophy, but unfortunately it wasn’t the right time for such a car…

The car that should have been

…but riding in it today, especially through the streets of Maranello, past the factory and on to the Cavallino restaurant – it’s pure magic. Even if the Pinin isn’t the most useable of cars on the road, it’s a great honour to find myself inside the four-seater Ferrari never made – but should have done.”

Photos: Rémi Dargegen for Classic Driver © 2015

The unique Ferrari Pinin is currently on sale from Classic Driver dealer Maranello Purosangue.