Even though Pagani Automobili was only founded in 1992, you could fill books with the stories Horacio Pagani and his team created over the last 25 years. Pagani was born in Argentina and came to Italy as a young man, to pursue his dream of building the perfect sportscar. He began working for Lamborghini in the early 80´s and became Head of Composite Materials eventually. Pagani knew that the future of sportscars was in carbonfibre and urged Lamborghini to invest in an autoclave (an oven to produce carbonfibre panels). Lamborghini however had a simple answer for him: Ferrari did not have an autoclave, so they didn´t need one either. Pagani was not discouraged though – quite the contrary. He went to the bank and borrowed the money to buy an autoclave himself.
In 1988, he founded Modena Design and started research and developement of carbonfibre parts and composite materials. Ironnically, Lamborghini slowly started to realize the potential of composite materials and collaboreted with Pagani on many projects, like the Countach Evoluzione, the LM002, the P140, the Countach 25th Anniversary and the Diablo. Pagani started to work on his own car at that time too and founded Pagani Automobili in 1992. It took another seven years of developement though, before the Zonda was ready to be unleashed – but the wait was well worth it: the Pagani Zonda C12 debuted at the 1999 Geneva Motor Show and was well recieved. Even though people were sceptical at first wether this was just another concept car or not, when they saw the Mercedes-Benz emblem on the engine, all doubts dropped. At the end of the show, Pagani had more orders for the car than he could build in the first year.
The Zonda was initially called “Fangio” – named after Horacio Pagani´s mentor and legendary racing driver Huan Manuel Fangio. After Fangio passed away in 1995 however, Pagani decided to call his car “Zonda” after the argentinian wind. The “Fangio” name was later reactivated for the Zonda F. The first version of the Zonda used an 6.0 litre Mercedes-Benz V12 engine, internally called M120. It produced around 400 horsepower and 570 Nm of torque, which was good for a 0-60 time of 4.2 seconds. Since carbonfibre was Paganis expertise, the body of the Zonda was entirely made from the light, yet strong material. When it came to the styling of the Zonda, Pagani incorporated some of his favorite designs in the world: Patek Philippe watches, Riva motorboats and Le Mans racecars. The technological aspect of the car should represent a fighterjet.
Just five examples of the Zonda C12 were made – one for crash testing, one for further developement (called “Nonna” and still at the factory) and three for customers.
One year later, at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show, Pagani presented an updated version of the Zonda – the Zonda S. Now featuring a 7.0 litre V12 engine with 550 horsepower and 750 Nm of torque, the body recieved some new details too. The nose was more pointy and flowed into a new front lip with fog lights. At the back, the rear spoiler got divided into two pieces and the air-intake for the engine was improved as well. 16 Zonda S have been produced.
In 2002 – at the Geneva Motor Show as usual – Pagani showed the Zonda S 7.3 to the public. Body changes were minor, the engine however was even bigger: the 7.3 litre Mercedes-Benz V12 now produced 555 horsepower, while the massive torque of 750 Nm was available from very low revs on. With a weight of just 1280 kg, top speed was claimed to be 335 km/h. 17 examples of the Zonda S 7.3 were produced, one was kept by Mr. Pagani himself.
Finally in 2003, Pagani released it´s first roadster. The Zonda Roadster was based on the S 7.3 but needed to be redesigned to compensate for the missing roof. Pagani achieved it with almost no weight increase over the coupé. The roadster was produced until 2006, production numbers vary from 11 to 40 examples.
You could argue that the Zonda had not fully evolved until 2005, when the small italian company from San Cesario sul Panaro presented the Zonda F. Now named after Horacio´s friend and mentor Fangio, the Zonda F was a major redesign of the existing car. Many exterior and interior changes had been made and the 7.3 litre engine had been upgraded to 602 horsepower (650 hp with the optional clubsport package). Carbon ceramic brakes became an option for the first time and production of the Zonda F was limited to 25 units.
Following the established pattern, Pagani presented the Zonda Roadster F at the Geneva Motor Show in 2006. Other than the missing roof, no major changes were made for the Roadster F. It came with the more powerful 650 horsepower engine right away. Like the coupé, 25 untis were built between 2006 and 2009.
Pagani Automobili did a lot of research and developement for the next version of the Zonda, the Zonda R – a track-only race car. Pagani had produced race versions of the Zonda in the past, called Zonda GR and Zonda Monza. But even though the Zonda R was based on the Zonda F, it can be considered a completely new car. Almost all the parts had been redesigned and specially developed for the Zonda R. It had a 6.0 litre V12 race engine from Mercedes-Benz, previously used in the CLK GTR racecar. With 750 horsepower to play with, it smashed the lap record at the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 2010 – 6:47.48 minutes. As if that wasn´t impressive enough, Pagani continued the developement of the Zonda R and presented the Zonda R Evolution in 2012 and the Zonda Revolución in 2013.
The developement of the street legal Zonda wasn´t over yet either: in 2009 Pagani unveiled the Zonda Cinque – a special request of a Hong Kong dealer who wanted a road-going version of the Zonda R. Like the name “Cinque” (Italian for “Five”) implies, only five units should be made. The Zonda Cinque featured many details of the Zonda R, most importantly an automated gearbox with paddles behind the steering wheel. The power was upped to 678 horsepower and the chassis was constructed of the latest composite materials Pagani had developed in-house: carbotanium – a blend of carbonfibre and titanium. Two white Cinques, one blue, one orange and one green have been made.
With just five Zonda Cinques made, demand was higher than supply. Therefore Pagani introduced the Zonda Roadster Cinque in 2010, which was essentially the same model but as a roadster. Featuring the snorkel between the seats but no roof, you could hear the engine sucking air into the combustion chambers. Probably one of the most exciting driving experiences ever. As with the coupé, five units have been made in the following colors: three in white, one in yellow and one in red.
Another new introduction made at the Geneva Motor Show 2010 was the Zonda Tricolore. As homage to the “Frecce Tricolori” – the aerobatic demonstration team of the italian air force – Pagani built three examples of a stunning blue carbon fiber Zonda. The body is a mix of the Zonda F and Zonda Cinque, while the drivetrain is the same as in the Cinque. It featured a unique fin on the engine cover and is certainly one of the most beautiful Zondas ever created.
Officially, production of the Zonda ended in 2011 with the last Zonda Tricolore. Fortunatly, only officially – many special one-off Pagani Zondas have been made over the years and continue to be made. If a customer has ideas for a unique version of the Zonda and the money to back them up, Pagani will still build you a custom Zonda. To show how popular the custom order Zondas have become, here is a list of the known examples:
– Zonda PS
– Zonda Absolute
– Zonda GJ
– Zonda HH
– Zonda Uno
– Zonda Nero
– Zonda 760RS
– Zonda 760LH
– Zonda 764 Passione
– Zonda Fantasama
– Zonda RSJX
– Zonda LM
– Zonda Roadster LM
– Zonda JC
– Zonda 760
– Zonda 760 Roadster
– Zonda ZOZO
– Zonda 760 AG Roadster
– Zonda Kiryu
– Zonda 760 VR
– Zonda MD
– Zonda Mileson
– Zonda Zeus
– Zonda Oliver Evolution
Starting with the Zonda 760RS, Pagani even developed a more powerful version of the 7.3 litre V12, now producing 760 horsepower! Luckily, many Zonda 760 owners opted for a manual transmission and the result can only be described as one of the best cars ever made: Beatiful body shape, lightweight construction, 7.3 litres of screaming V12, 760 naturally aspirated horsepower and a manual transmission. Nothing left to say –exept that I hope Pagani continues to build as many of them as possible.
In-depth interview with Horacio Pagani by XCAR
Harry Metcalfe drives “Nonna” and the Zonda 760RS
TopGear review and lap of the Zonda R
Zonda F Passenger Ride
Official Pagani Automobili website
Great information on all Pagani models ever produced
Pagani Fanpage Prototype Zero