All men dream — but not equally. And it is the man who will let nothing stand between him and unreasonable ambition who ultimately achieves the extraordinary. This is the story of one Horacio Pagani that began, quite modestly, in Argentina about a half-century ago.
The son of an artist and a baker, young Horacio spent much of his boyhood days sketching and carving futuristic looking car models from balsa wood, dreaming endlessly of one day building the most beautiful car in the world.
His insatiably inquisitive nature paired with the unyielding tenacity of a budding polymath soon saw Pagani build his own motorbike at 14, assemble a four-wheeled buggie before finishing high school, and construct his own Formula 2 single-seater race car by his early 20s.
How stubbornness forged Pagani
But it was his stubbornness that eventually led to the founding of Pagani Automobili.
Dissatisfied with the school curriculum and frustrated at the prospect that tertiary education would steal five of the most creative years of his life, Pagani dropped out of university, where he had studied industrial design and later mechanical engineering. Earlier, Pagani had discovered the works of Leonardo da Vinci and became enamoured with his philosophies which demonstrated equal reverence for both art and science.
Upon leaving school, where he could not find a course, programme, or faculty that taught both art and science, Pagani opened an 80sqm “factory” and received his first commissioned job to construct a set of bar stools.
He soon established Horacio Pagani Design, which quickly found success producing commercial camper vans and caravans.
But a boy never forgets his first love, and Pagani then travelled to Italy in the hopes of getting a job with Lamborghini. He was met with a positive outcome and was offered a position.
Sadly, months later, he received word that the economy had turned and the job was no longer available. “Wait,” they said.
He kept the rejection from Lamborghini a secret from his family, and an undeterred Pagani set off for Italy. “Just hire me to do whatever you need me to do; I am happy to clean floors,” the 27-year-old said to the general manager when he arrived.
“But don’t forget, I came here to design the most beautiful cars ever made.”
The world’s first hypercar
From those humble beginnings, Pagani rose through the ranks and eventually became its chief engineer.
Automotive folklore would tell you that the catalyst for Pagani’s departure came when he tried to persuade Lamborghini to purchase an autoclave — an industrial machine that could extend the production of carbon parts. His employer refused.
Ever the revolutionary, Pagani borrowed capital to buy his own autoclave and, in 1991, broke away to start his own consultancy, Modena Design.
In 1992, he founded Pagani Automobili, which gave him carte blanche to finally create “the most beautiful car in the world”. Named after the Andes wind, the Pagani Zonda debuted at the 1999 Geneva Motor Show, designed as an ode to Pagani’s hero — the great Argentinian Formula One champion Juan Manuel Fangio.
It was nothing like anything the world had seen, prompting British journalists in attendance to coin a new breed of automobile: the hypercar.
The beautiful and fierce Zonda
The exotic coupe was a sculptural work of art that fulfilled Pagani’s “sensual” design brief — a stylistically exaggerated expression of speed and sophisticated engineering.
And it was certainly built for ultra-high performance, fitted with a Mercedes-Benz 6.0-litre V12 engine producing up to 331 kilowatt — modest by today’s standards but sensational for the times.
“You have sports cars and you have supercars. The Zonda created a new niche of cars; it was the first example of hypercar,” says Pagani, on his recent visit to Singapore for the brand’s 25th anniversary.
A decade of magnificent Zonda renditions, special editions, and one-off commissions then paved the way for its successor, the Huayra, said to be named after the Incan god of wind.
Dawn of a new era: Utopia
Last year, Pagani’s relentless pursuit of perfection culminated in the world premiere of the company’s third production model — the Utopia. It takes its rightful place as the haute couture of automotive art. Unsurprisingly, all 99 units of the limited release sold out a year before its official launch.
“Having a car that’s sold out one year before the unveiling — by just showing clients a render — is incredible feedback. It’s something I’ve never imagined,” shares Pagani. Where, then, does one go once you’ve achieved the impossible?
“We try to always create a new layer of perfection; we never finish the journey,” he says. The journey ahead will see the carmaker producing no more than 50 cars a year and making inroads into electrification.
“At the moment, there isn’t a huge demand for full-electric hypercars,” Pagani acknowledges. “The issue is that a full-electric car doesn’t have sound and a gearbox, amongst many other things. But this doesn’t stop us,” he explains.
The carmaker began its electric journey in 2018, but there’s still a long road ahead before we see an all-electric Pagani.
“The commitment is very big,” and a full-electric Pagani — not a hybrid — is coming, he assures.