Pagani Zonda S

Martyn Goddard
Rear Engine View

Because he was competent in composites from his experience with chairs and trailers, he was able to get odd jobs around Modena, and eventually he returned to Lamborghini as a consultant designer. He designed molds and made the body parts for the Countach Evoluzione and the first competition GT, all without the use of an autoclave. He also did the styling and fabrication of parts for the Anniversary Countach.

That work gave him enough of a start to rent a small shop in Sant'Agata, buy his first autoclave--the fifth to be installed in Italy, where there are now more than 400--for curing carbon fiber parts quickly, and make experiments that led to more work with Lamborghini. Pagani says that the Diablo is about 50 percent composite, but that there was an all-composite project under Chrysler's ownership that was stopped with the sale of the company, an event that probably precipitated Pagani's determination to build a car on his own.

Pagani is adamant that two-ton supercars are silly, pointing to the 3960-pound weight of the Bugatti EB110. "The McLaren was about 2500 pounds. That's more like it." Pagani's Zonda C12 S is heavier than that, at 2750 pounds, but that seems a very reasonable result for a car costing only a third as much as the million-dollar McLaren, long considered to be the ultimate exotic. And Pagani's is really meant to be a road car, not a racing car for the road.

As you approach a Zonda, you are struck by the careful detailing of both hardware and surfaces. At first glance--and after careful study as well--the design seems excessively busy, almost baroque, with, as Salieri is supposed to have said about a Mozart composition, "too many notes." In the cockpit, you are impressed by the sheer opulence, the richness of materials, and the perfection of their assembly. A Rolls-Royce interior is a monument to careful craftsmanship, but it has nothing on a Zonda. Every stitch in the soft trim is precisely placed, perfectly tensioned, and artfully decorative in itself. Unlike any mid-engined Lamborghini or Ferrari I have ever occupied, the car is actually comfortable and does not rely on the magical aura of hallowed name and exotic mech-anical specification to induce you to ignore limited space, awkward control placement, and small seats.

Pagani explains that he is well aware that people who can afford his car are probably well along in years, fairly big in all dimensions, including girth, and not as flexible as a Formula 1 pilot, so he has made sure that there is more headroom, more width, easier entrance conditions, and more all-around comfort in his car than in other Italian machines in the supercar category. His awareness of customer requirements includes making sure that the machine has an easy ride and that all control forces are light.

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