We know for certain that the 1955 Lancia Florida was designed by Pinin Farina himself. He worked on it with a staff of no more than 10 draftsmen and modelers at a time when his total work force numbered 340 and annual body production was only about 2,500.
His closest collaborator in those days was probably Francesco Martinengo, director of Design, Research, and Quality Control. He had joined Pinin Farina in 1952, leaving his post at Stabilimenti Farina (which closed its doors shortly afterward), where he had been since completing his schooling in 1934.
A Lancia chassis was a natural for the Florida. The carrozzeria was already handling series production of the Aurelia B-20 GT coupe and B-24 spider.
What's more, the appearance of the standard Aurelia sedan, introduced in 1950, was already quite dated. Some called it odd. Actually, the Florida was nothing less than a proposal to Lancia for a new model, and it came at exactly the right time.
On April 2, 1955, Lancia hired a new technical director named Antonio Fessia, who wanted to effect immediate changes in the product line. Then 54, he had experience going back to 1925 in both the aeronautical and automotive sections of Fiat.
In 1946, he designed a front-wheel-drive family car for Caproni that became the basis for the Lancia Flavia of 1960. He had also worked on motorcycle engines for Ducati and was a consultant to Pirelli until Fiat brought him back and put him in charge of engineering at its Heilbronn plant in Germany.
Fessia fell in love with the Florida. So did Gianni Lancia, the son of the founder, who was then running the business -- and would ultimately run it into the ground with his careless spending.
Lancia wanted the Florida, but it had to have four doors. Accordingly, Fessia went to work on a new chassis for the car that would soon become the production Flaminia.
Pinin Farina had built the Florida coupe on the standard Aurelia chassis. Although the high-volume models employed unit construction, Lancia also made a separate Aurelia GT platform available for low-volume applications with custom bodywork. This chassis was outstanding in many ways.
Notable was its high-performance V-6 engine designed by Francesco de Virgilio, who had joined Lancia in 1939 and later became one of Vittorio Jano's closest collaborators. Jano was Lancia's chief engineer from 1937 to 1955, and he was as brilliant an innovator as Vincenzo Lancia himself.
Front suspension was by the firm's patented sliding-pillar system, with enclosed coil springs and integral hydraulic shock absorbers. At the rear were a de Dion axle and semi-elliptic leaf springs.
But still, a four-door version was needed. Continue on to the next page to learn about its creation.
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