It took an Argentinian of Italian extraction, driven by the force of the Zonda (the powerful wind that blows through the Andes), to combine, in a motor car, two quintessentially Italian traditions: art and technology. As a youngster growing up in Argentina, in the town of Casilda near San Fe, Horacio Pagani dreamed of Italian cars. Fangio was his idol.
At the age of 24, he built his own Formula 2 single-seater to use in Argentine races. Fangio, then 68 and still on great terms with Mercedes, with which he had won two world titles, willingly accepted Pagani’s request to help him find a way of moving to Italy, specifically to Modena (where else?), in order to realize his passion. Pagani was ready to do any job at all, providing it was in the world of magnificent red sports cars. It was Lamborghini, at the time a growing company, that opened its door to him, and he tiptoed in. The year was 1982.
Today, 38 years later, on entering the atelier he built and inaugurated in 2017 in San Cesario sul Panaro, it is easy to understand just what it meant to him to be able to combine Italian technology with Italian art. Similarly, the workshop where Pagani Zondas are built brings together skilled carbon fiber processing and masterful use of traditional Italian materials, such as Carrara marble and antique bricks in typical Modenese style. In other words, it speaks of Renaissance art and the brilliance of Leonardo da Vinci, but also of the stubborn determination to excel that typifies Modenese sports car manufacturers.
Pagani’s vision soon became apparent at Lamborghini, where he gradually developed the composites department. His work led to the construction of the Countach Evoluzione prototype, largely in composite materials, which reduced the weight of the vehicle by as much as 35% compared with the production Countach. It was magnificent, but it was still too soon to turn it into a production model.
But Pagani actually had another objective in mind: to become a manufacturer himself. He left Lamborghini and, in 1992, founded Modena Design. At this point, Fangio’s links with Mercedes proved valuable: Dieter Zetsche, head of development as well as member of the Board of Directors, agreed to supply Pagani with the engine for the GT, perfect in every last detail, that he was building.
In March 1999, the Pagani Zonda was unveiled at the Geneva Motor show. It was the first step in a dream that was becoming reality.