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Concept Car of the Week: Pininfarina CNR-PF (1978)
by Rufus Thompson   
The research vehicle CNR PF (1976); the wind tunnel was still without a moving belt. Click for larger images
Pininfarina designers worked to make the concept into a roadworthy prototype
Even after additions the car's aerodynamics were hugely impressive

In the 1970s alarm bells were ringing in the energy sector as a series of energy crises and rising fuel prices spiralled. The car industry was forced to produce a new generation of more efficient cars and designers were putting new models through wind tunnels to optimize their aerodynamic performance to reduce aerodynamic drag.

Some pushed the limits further than others and none more so than Pininfarina, which designed a car that slipped through the air twice as efficiently than any other. That car was the CNR-PF.

The original concept was completely smooth with no accessories or gaps
A later model developed by CNR

Italy's National Research Council (CNR) commissioned the renowned carrozeria  to develop a prototype that would significantly reduce the drag coefficient.

Professor Alberto Morelli, design legend Leonardo Fioravanti and Antonello Cogotti, head of the Pininfarina wind tunnel, developed the CNR-PF and sent it for its first trial in 1976.

The test was a resounding success. The original mock-up achieved a drag coefficient of just Cd 0.172 – less than half that of conventional cars of the time. The most remarkable thing was that the CNR-PF also had a comfortably sized cabin for four passengers to complement the beautifully smooth shape of the car.

The result was most unusual, more reminisccent of a Henry Moore sculpture than a car with its high, arched form, hollow underbody and flush glazing.

Not content merely to make a near-perfect aerodynamic concept, Pininfarina designers then set to work transforming it into a running prototype complete with windows, doors, lighting and door mirrors that was built in 1990. 

First seen Turin, 1978
Designers Alberto Morelli, Leonardo Fioravanti and Antonello Cogotti
Length 4,320mm
Width 1,675mm
Height 1,335mm
Wheelbase 2,555mm
Drag Cd 0.172