“Pagani e’ arte, emozione e technologia.” Horacio Pagani“
“Per me la Zonda era Fangio trasformata in automobile” Horacio Pagani
“To me the Zonda was the quintessence of Fangio expressed in a car”
Horacio Pagani, Juan Manuel Fangio and Leonardo Da Vinci. Three names, three institutions, three sources of inspiration, art, science and limitless creativity coming together to gift the world with what might be described as the embodiment of art, technology and beauty: the Pagani line of hand crafted, bespoke automobiles.
Horacio Pagani was born in Argentina, his father a baker of Italian descent and his mother a creative artist. The family had no previous connection with the automotive industry yet Pagani started to design supercars from a young age and as a child he would carve and give form to his creations from balsa wood, plastic and glue – the most affordable materials that a family with a modest income could afford. These models are still prized possessions that Pagani keeps in his headquarters in Modena together with other memorabilia. His dream as a child was that one day he would design most beautiful car in the world. At a young age Pagani would tell his friends that he would be presenting the balsa wood model he had just created at an imaginary international car show. He knew what he wanted to do from a very young age and this gift he personally attributes to luck and hard work. Pagani studied the life and art of Leonardo Da Vinci being particularly inspired by Da Vinci’s belief that ‘art and science can walk together’. It takes one look at any car designed by Horacio Pagani to witness this incredible fusion between art, science and a fascinating blend of materials which come together as an expression of form and function.
At a young age Pagani idolized Argentinian compatriot and five time Formula One title winner Juan Manuel Fangio, El Maestro, who would eventually become Pagani’s friend and mentor. Pagani met Fangio, through Oreste Berta (Technical Director) in Formula Two where the young Pagani had designed and built a Formula Two car from scratch making reference only to the Formula Two technical rulebook. Pagani had never actually been to a Formula Two race before, nor seen a Formula Two car in the flesh yet he actually designed the car in its entirety and hand built over seventy percent of the parts and components required in the build. It was thanks to Fangio’s letter of recommendation to Ferrari and Lamborghini that Pagani would move to Italy to follow his dream: to design, build and manufacture a supercar. It is famously also thanks to Pagani’s relationship with Fangio that all Pagani cars are powered by Mercedes AMG engines. Further to Fangio’s letter of recommendation, Pagani was in fact taken on by Lamborghini to work in their body shop and within a short time he was promoted to head of the material composite department. Pagani says of his time working at Lamborghini that even though he started at the lowest ranks he was the first employee to report to work at six in the morning and the last one to leave at eight in the evening. When he joined it was a relatively small company with about one hundred and seventy employees most of whom were craftsmen.
Pagani had a fascination for new materials and he contributed to the design of the first car in the world to be made entirely from carbon fiber and kevlar: the 1985 Countach Evolution concept. Pagani strongly believes in the importance of actually building a special relationship with materials, studying them and holding them in your hands making friends with them and at a certain point asking the materials to help you – to tell you what you can do with them. Pagani says that Lamborghini gave him a lot and he tried to give back as much as possible.
It was his fascination for composites and materials and the refusal by Lamborghini to invest in an autoclave to extend the production of carbon fiber parts that led to Pagani taking a personal loan to build his own autoclave – a decision which the heads of Lamborghini at the time saw as a ‘crazy’ move. In 1991 Pagani set up Modena Design which still designs and manufactures carbon fiber parts for Formula One teams and other car and bike manufacturers such as Ferrari and Aprilia.
This was the post Gulf war period and all sports car manufacturers had been effected by the war. Lamborghini itself was practically out of business and it was precisely in this tumultuous period that Pagani decided to follow his life long dream and to design and build his own super car. Pagani says that he never effectively parted ways with Lamborghini and that after a short period of time he was again collaborating with the company and providing them with the design and manufacture of special composites. In 1992 Horacio Pagani founded Pagani Automobili Modena. The company would hand craft special cars which look like nothing anyone had ever seen before and after seven years of design the automotive world was graced by the presence of the outrageous Pagani Zonda which would go on to be produced until 2011. Again, Juan Manuel Fangio directly and indirectly contributed to the design of the Zonda and Pagani’s intention was to name the Zonda the ‘Fangio F1’ but following Fangio’s death Pagani decided against this idea and changed the name to Zonda (the wind of the Andes – el viento de los Andes). Pagani himself says “Today, after years spent in a rigorous search for perfection, the result is the Zonda F, a car that I wish to dedicate to Juan Manuel Fangio, the man who has made everything different.”
Horacio Pagani claims that the design cues for the Zonda came from Le Mans Prototype cars, from Patek Philippe watches in so far as design details are concerned and from fighter jets in relation to materials and technology. The artistic aspect however is inspired by the unique and hand built Riva boats.
I had always held Horacio Pagani in high esteem. I am short of words every time I merely see a photo of a Pagani automobile. Yet the research I have carried out to write this article has revealed a prodigious highly talented individual who we should consider ourselves lucky to have as our contemporary. Stirling Moss says of Fangio that “For me, Fangio the man is greater than the myth”. I am sure that one day we shall say the same of the humble and unassuming artist, designer, materials magician and sports car engineer that is Horacio Pagani.