Prince of… supercars?
Gest (a hard G) is an old English word meaning acts, or deeds. While it’s unequivocal that Robin Hood lived in the fourteenth century – but a stone’s throw from my own abode – his character will forever be open to speculation. Was he a thief who gave his plunder to the poor (à la Hollywood), a vagabond cast out to live life alone in the forest, or a plain woodsman who like many Englishmen from that time was skilled with bow and arrow?
My personal thoughts are that Robin Hood was indeed skilled in the art of thievery, along with a flashing blade and the gentle twang of a bowstring, to fell boar or errant henchman. But a benevolent thief; head honcho with an understanding side, engendering a brotherly, welcoming mien, to accommodate his merry men. Fools would fall, swiftly. Why not add in the Lincoln green costume and suave looks of an Errol Flynn for good measure?
Horacio Pagani, has similarities to the English legend. Not for one moment does this author suggest him to be a thief, more the cars emanating from this fellow’s mind and atelier cut a similar dash to that of Robin’s dagger. Pagani-made cars emit the swagger of the debonair and travel faster than the silver birch arrows in Robin’s bow could dream of. If Robin Hood’s character has divided opinions over the years, one could argue Pagani has stuck to his chosen route as straight as one of Hood’s arrows.
Pagani was never going to follow that long-standing Italian theme of providing transportation for the masses. Individualistic from the outset, he chose another historical legend as inspiration. One who left behind a more measurable legacy, that of Leonado da Vinci. “Art and science can walk together, hand in hand.” Born in the Argentinian village of Casildo, the son of a baker, his interest in the car developed from an early age, proudly showing his parents a balsa wood car, he had sculpted aged four. At 17, he opened a small workshop where his began to hone his bodywork skills.
Aged just twenty, Pagani designed and built a Formula 3 race car which attracted the attention of Renault. Desirous of ever more F3 victories, La Regie’s sporting element asked Pagani for bodywork improvements which helped shed 40Kgs (88Lbs) from their previous season’s car. His engineering talent now to the fore, this in turn led to a visit to Lamborghini.
Having penned letters to those within the Valle del motore enquiring over vacancies, only the Raging Bull responded. Offered menial roles, passion and devotion saw his eventual rise from practically floor sweeper to Chief Engineer. Frustrated at the St. Agata’s reluctance to purchase an autoclave, Horacio quit and set up Modena Design, swiftly becoming a go-to person for carbon fibre tubs and bodywork before unleashing his dream supercar under his own name.
Blending crafted business practices and adding the enigmatic model name of Zonda, a dry howling wind over the Argentinian Pampas, and you have the original vagabond supercar.
When the forest branches parted after a seven-year gestation period from 1992-99, the C12 cost a mere £200,000 with the later S version another fifty. A team of just twenty people originally steered Pagani Automobili Modena into the pantheons of car exotica from their Geneva show launch. Akin to Hood, Pagani allowed the limelight to surround the (lesser) competition. The man, if not exactly hiding, comfortably separated from the razzmatazz for a while, allowed the car to do the talking.
All too quickly, anyone with a journalistic card clamoured for an interview, a drive, another drive. Word soon got round this hitherto unknown company was the real deal – a stiletto with curves, a car that roughed up the opposition before melting into the woods, victorious. And as such, legends are born.
The original six litre V12 from Mercedes developed 394bhp along with 570Nm of torque; enough to make the contemporary rivals ponder deeply within their ivory towers. When Pagani then stuffed the seven litre, AMG breathed-upon mill into what became the Zonda F, those figures leapt to 500bhp and 700Nm. And that F had great significance, Fangio. The 1950s motorsport luminary was not only deigned a hero in the Pagani worldview, but the Argentine ace also introduced the would-be supercar maker to the three-pointed star. The vagabond had found a casket of riches.
And further sorties into the forests of supercar-dom only rewarded with higher returns. The Zonda became the car that refused to die. After a score and more years, the car’s basic shape remained, yet came to resemble the woodland legend even more. Diverse in character, nimble footed, cleaving the air and known to the rich and famous. Whereas Hood dealt in wood grain, Pagani’s carbon fibre layers flowed the same way.
Through dizzying amounts of variants, the specification and sub-names changed the car’s perception, if not the overall brutal in motion effect. The Cinque was proposed to be the final five Zonda’s in 2009. But the wealthy demanded more, often utilising this final iteration framework and engine as a base. Take the Zonda HH, Danish software programmer and racing car aficionado (David) Heinemeier Hansson’s version being Monterey Blue. Lewis Hamilton’s Zonda LH is a purple 760 version, itself based on a 760RS.
Monikers then turn odd. Zonda’s ZoZo, Fantasma, Danubio, King, Kiryu, Aether and even Oliver. All relevant to their respective initial specifier but mainly lost to us mere mortals. And whilst green examples may exist, one has yet to establish an exact Lincoln Green. Nor is there much room to store your bow and quiver. Shame. Yet the Zonda remains.
Of course, Pagani then went on to build the smoother in form, Huyara (Inca God of the Wind) and with future plans for electrification that will make his automobiles fly silently as Hood’s arrows. Horacio Pagani, as many can attest, uses various forms of music to enter “his creative mood.” Maybe one day he too will end up in a ballad, somewhere.
Data Sources: Independent article 10/11/1999, Pagani.com, Reclaiming Robin Hood – Folklore & South Yorkshire’s Infamous Outlaw by the Sensoria Festival, Ltd
 One ballad suggested he fired an arrow which stuck fast in Sheffield cathedral’s door from a mile away.
 Insert matinée idol name as appropriate.
 Pagani has revealed the only loan he has ever taken out was that of mortgaging the family home in order to purchase his own autoclave.
 Modena Design’s finances burgeoned to the point of bankrolling the Zonda plan in full.