Pagani – Insane Supercar Royalty

If you’re a reader of these ‘History of…’ blogs (and we hope you’ve been sharing them on Facebook and Twitter), you’ll know that many of the marques we’ve featured all have one thing in common.

Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin and BMW can all trace their roots virtually back to the dawn of the motor car itself. Pagani can’t. Pagani trace their roots back to the year Bill Clinton became President*.

*No need to look it up. It was 1992.


Pagani Zonda R © J.Smith831

While the story of Pagani, makers of the most insanely-styled supercars ever built starts when the Premier League started, the story of patriarch Horacio Pagani commenced long before.


Horacio Raúl Pagani was born in Casilda, a small town in the east of Argentina in November 1955. As a boy, he was obsessed with building cars from balsa wood (many of which are in the Pagani showroom including a silver GT car he built in 1967) and after studying Industrial Design at the University of La Plata and then Mechanical Engineering at the University of Rosario, his design career started in earnest.

His early career saw him design furniture, caravans, bicycles and a road deformation machine but his first love was always fast cars.

In 1983, armed with only a tent and a letter of recommendation from none other than five-time F1 world champion and fellow Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio, he moved to Italy.  He joined Lamborghini as a composite specialist and before long he had built the Countach Evoluzione concept, the first car with a near-complete carbon fibre frame. He was responsible for the design of the 1987 Countach Anniversary as well as elements of the Diablo and components for F1 engines but he fell out with the Raging Bull’s hierarchy.

 The story goes that he wanted an autoclave – a pressure chamber used to carry out industrial processes – to extend the production of carbon fibre parts but his bosses said no. If Ferrari didn’t have one, why would they need one…

He borrowed the money to buy his own autoclave in 1987 and four years later he left to set up Modena Design, an industrial design company that still thrives today.

To read more about the phenomenal engineer, the pioneering thinker, the man and the myth, here’s a great interview where he is described as a ‘modern-day Da Vinci.’

 Initial projects included ski boot design, carbon fibre composites for F1 cars and projects for Daimler, Ferrari and Aprilia but in 1992, something happened that would go on to leave the automotive world open-mouthed in astonishment.


The year Clinton entered the White House, Horacio Pagani founded Pagani Automobili Modena S.p.A in a factory in Cesario sul Panaro near Modena and his team got to work on his vision. His early relationship with Fangio left an indelible mark on him and by extension, his company. The racing demi-god assisted with the engineering of the Zonda and a racing version was named the Zonda F in his honour.


Pagani Zonda F Badge © marcus_jb1973

In 1994, Pagani signed a deal (on another of Fangio’s recommendations) with Mercedes-Benz for the German giant to supply a series of AMG-tuned V12 engines. Seven years after the company was formed, the first Zonda – renamed the C12 mid-way through production after Fangio died in 1995 – was debuted at the Geneva Motor Show.

*Interesting Fact*Zonda is the name of a wind (viento zonda) that occurs on the eastern slopes of the Andes in Argentina.

There followed a number of variants of the Zonda, each one more exquisite, more insanely-styled and invariably faster than the one before…

  • Zonda C12 – 6.0-litre V12 Mercedes-Benz, 389 bhp, 0-60 mph 4.2s
  • Zonda S – 0-litre Mercedes-Benz AMG V12, 540 bhp, 0-60 mph 3.7s
  • Zonda S 7.3 – 7.3-litre Mercedes-Benz AMG V12, 547 bhp, 0-60 mph 3.7s
  • Zonda Roadster – 7.3-litre Mercedes-Benz AMG V12, 547 bhp, 0-60 mph 3.7s
  • Zonda F – 7.3-litre Mercedes-Benz AMG V12, 602 bhp, 0-60 mph 3.6s
  • Zonda Roadster F – 7.3-litre Mercedes-Benz AMG V12, 650 bhp, 0-60 mph 3.6s
  • Zonda Cinque – 7.3-litre Mercedes-Benz AMG V12, 678 bhp, 0-60 mph 3.4s
  • Zonda Cinque Roadster – 7.3-litre Mercedes-Benz AMG V12, 678 bhp, 0-60 mph 3.4s
  • Zonda Tricolore – 7.3-litre Mercedes-Benz AMG V12, 670 bhp, 0-60 mph 3.4s
  • Zonda R – 6.0-litre Mercedes-Benz AMG V12, 740 bhp, 0-60 mph 2.7s
  • Zonda Revolucion – 6.0-litre Mercedes-Benz AMG V12, 800 bhp, 0-60 mph 2.6s


Pagani Zonda © Marco Vanoli

Between 1999 and 2011 (including development mules) Pagani made just 135 cars. They also crafted some quite sensational one-off models including one for Lewis Hamilton who commissioned the purple Zonda 760LH with a manual gearbox instead of the standard sequential box.

Other bespoke Zonda models include the Zonda Monza, a track day version built for King Moka; the Zonda GJ for Scottish millionaire Gareth Jones; the turquoise Zonda Uno for Qatari prince Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani; the Monterey Blue Zonda HH commissioned by Danish programmer David Heinemeier Hansson; the Zonda PS (the only one with the four exhaust pipes in a row rather than a square) for aviation businessman Peter Saywell and the Zonda 760LM, the last off the production line in 2015 with different headlights, a bigger rear spoiler and an uprated engine from 760 bhp to 800 bhp.


Zonda R © me.redbubble

It’s worth stopping for a moment to truly appreciate what Pagani as a business have achieved. Bearing in mind Ferrari have around 3,000 employees, Porsche have something like 15,000 on the payroll and Mercedes employ somewhere north of 280,000 people, Pagani employ about 100 people. Not 1,000 or 10,000 churning out those phenomenally fast masterpieces, just 100.

‘We are a small company, and it’s remarkable and not quite common for such a small company to engineer a complete vehicle in-house. Every little detail on the car is engineered for one specific purpose. It is made specifically for the Pagani vehicle, and it’s something our customers greatly appreciate, because they see this place not as a factory, but more of an atelier, where cars are built as an object of art.’ Horacio Pagani


Named for Huayra-tata, a wind-god revered by the 11m Quechua people of South America, the Pagani Huayra was debuted to the world at the Geneva Auto Salon in March 2011 as a direct replacement for the outgoing Zonda.

The Huayra (codenamed Project C9) is yet another stunning piece of automotive technology and even though the production run is limited to 100 cars as part of an agreement with engine supplier Mercedes-AMG, it understandably sold out quickly.

The facts as just as astonishing – perhaps even more so than the Zonda. In Pagani’s own words; ‘Mercedes-AMG has created a truly unique and lightweight engine, a twin turbo with 730 bhp and 1000 Nm of torque that perfectly complements the car giving a feeling that has motivated our research: that of the brute force of an airplane taking off.’

Engine: Mercedes-AMG 60° M158 6.0-litre V12 twin-turbo
Power: 730 bhp
Transmission: Transverse 7-speed sequential gearbox
Speed: 0-60 mph 2.8s, top speed 230 mph+


Pagani Huayra © Benedicto de Jesus

While the extreme styling has divided opinion amongst Pagani purists, there’s no doubting that the Huayra is as advanced a hypercar as you’ll find on the market. Talking of the market, all 100 went for the asking price of a little over £1m but if you can find one today, expect to have to pay double that.

At each corner you’ll find an aerodynamic airbrake, on either side you’ll find gullwing doors and at the back, the exhausts are made from titanium. On the inside, the extreme styling is as outrageous as the outside. The exposed gear linkage is a thing of exquisite beauty, as is the steering wheel, the instrument panel and the floating centre console. If you’re paying over a million quid for a car, you do expect refinement of the highest order and sitting inside a Huayra is a unique experience however it’s one that most of us will, sadly, never fulfil!


Pagani Huayra Interior © Paul Williams

As with the Zonda, Pagani has made a series of special editions of the Huayra including 20 of the €2.3 million Huayra BC named for Pagani’s friend and first customer Benny Caiola. They also sold out.

‘There’s the Pagani Huayra, and then there’s everything else.’ Dan Neil, Pulitzer Prize-winning motoring journalist


It’s unlikely Horacio Pagani will follow the corporate machines of Porsche, Ferrari and McLaren into the hybrid market (he has been vocally against it) but the idea is to maintain very low production volumes (no more than 50 cars per year) and to stay true to the exclusivity and artisanal processes that has stood Pagani out as a true innovator.

Horacio Pagani is a rare breed. First and foremost he’s a supremely talented engineer and has built a business and a culture based on precision, exceptionally high standards and real innovation. But, and this is a big but…he’s a passionate artist, a wonderfully imaginative creator who is constantly searching for what’s next and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

Rumours abound that he’s contemplating building boats or even hotels but we can say with virtual certainty that whatever Pagani puts his name on will be jaw-droppingly beautiful and the perfect blend of form and function.

‘An object is able to transmit the emotions when there are manual skills involved. The genius from the head being expressed throughout skilled hands, passion and heart. Only then the object comes to life, is given a soul and is able to tell a story.’ Horacio Pagani