Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pinin Farina's Lancia Florida 4-Door Hardtop

For better or worse (for sentimental reasons, I'll side with "worse"), automobile styling is now pretty much internationalized.  That is, nowadays design students can cross borders for training by faculty members from several countries.  Styling studios usually employ designers from other countries along with native-born stylists.  Even design directors might be from elsewhere.  In addition, some car companies maintain styling studios in more than one country.

The internationalization process began in the 1930s when General Motors and Ford sent Americans to work at or manage design studios in some of their European subsidiaries.  But the phenomenon I'm thinking about actually started seriously at some indefinite time around, say, 1970.

Now consider the years around 1950.  Aside from Ford and GM subsidiaries and a few Detroit-influenced designs such as the Volvo PV 444 and Peugeot 203, cars tended to have a national look.  That is, French cars usually seemed French, English cars English, German cars German and Italian cars Italian.

But even in those days there were hints of internationalized designs to come.  This post's example is the Lancia Aurelia B56 "Florida" prototype cars of 1955 (short reference here).  It was designed by the Pininfarina carozzeria, but I'm not sure if Battista "Pinin" Farina himself was the designer or if the work was done under other hands.

Although the Florida is very much Italian-looking, it has some important features that are distinctly mid-1950s American.  These are (1) a wraparound windshield, and (2) having a four-door hardtop convertible body type.  The term "hardtop convertible" was used in the USA for cars with conventional steel tops, but lacking a passenger greenhouse B-pillar and thus having the breezy appearance of a convertible coupe with the canvas top raised and side windows rolled down.  For the 1955 model year, General Motors introduced four-door cars with the same feature, and other brands joined in as soon as they could.  B-pillarless cars left the market when strong rollover-related safety regulations appeared.

The first link above mentions that four Floridas were built.  Three had four doors and one was a two-door hardtop.


Four-door hardtops were previewed at General Motors' 1953 Motorama by this Cadillac Orleans show car.  Like the later Lancia Florida, it features a wraparound windshield, four doors and no exposed B-pillar.

A poor-quality image of the Orleans seen from the side.  The rear doors are hinged by the C-pillar, but there seems to be a stub B-pillar to anchor the door latches.

As mentioned, production 4-door hardtops began to appear in 1955.  The example shown here (click on image to enlarge) is a Buick Special.  Unlike the Orleans, the rear doors are hinged on the stub B-pillar.

This is a four-door Lancia Aurelia B56 Florida from 1955.  It seems considerably larger than production Aurelia B10s and B12s, though the stretched B15 might have been about this size (though with a longer greenhouse and shorter hood).  An odd feature is the collection of lights at the front, especially those smallish ones on the fenders.

Side view.  The wheel openings are not classically rounded and remind me of those found on the 1954 Motorama Oldsmobile Cutlass and F-88 show cars, not to mention the production '54 Buick Skylark convertible coupe.

Interior view.  Note the complete lack of a B-Pillar.  Also the right-hand drive steering wheel position, a feature shared with production Aurelias.  As in France for many years, even though cars drove on the right sides of streets and roads, many luxury cars featured English-style right-hand drive.  A prestige or snob feature, I presume.

Rear three-quarter view.  The modest sail panels at the rear of the greenhouse blend into rear fender top-ridges.  This is emphasized by the two-tone paint scheme, yet another Detroit-influenced characteristic.  Those large tail lights suggest 1950s America and not Italy.  The recessed backlight is serviced by two wiper blades.

This is the sole two-door Florida.  Despite those major and lesser American touches, the overall design retains an Italian feeling.  Contributing factors include the basic proportions and the simplified major surfaces.

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