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The Pagani Zonda Turns 20: We Attend the Birthday Party in Hong Kong

An impressive array of Zondas—and Huayras, too—gathered to celebrate the occasion.

Ken Saitowriter, photographer

The Pagani Zonda was introduced at the 1999 Geneva Motor Show, and from that point forward Hong Kong fell hard for the car—at one time more than 30 individual examples of the exquisitely crafted hypercar called the special administrative region home. Now more than 20 years since its debut, the Zonda still holds a special place in the hearts of well-heeled enthusiasts here, making it the perfect place to kick off what will be a global celebration of the Zonda's 20th anniversary.

The "Zonda by the Bay" event held at The Repulse Bay Hotel brought together 11 of Hong Kong's Zondas for the first time as an entire group, as well as a few special Huayras for good measure. Pagani even flew in two special cars for the festivities.

The affinity affluent collectors in Hong Kong have for the Zonda and its maker, a small boutique supercar manufacturer from Modena, is fairly easily explained: The cars were—and are—highly desirable, and it was the first Asian market Pagani entered. "Brand loyalty is high in Hong Kong, as Pagani was possibly the first hypercar manufacturer to establish a presence here," says Kenneth Yu, Pagani's local marketing representative.

It also helps that despite Pagani's small size, it showed a willingness and ability to manufacture its low-volume exotic supercars in right-hand drive. Hong Kong regulations don't allow left-hand-drive cars to be driven on public roads unless they're at least 20 years old—which means, of course, that now the earliest left-hand-drive Zondas can be now registered in Hong Kong. But at the time of the car's launch, rivals such as Ferrari, Porsche, and Mercedes made their flagship supercars exclusively left-drive, which opened up the market for the likes of Pagani, Koenigsegg, and Gumpert.

Thus the concours-style event held as a thanks for the support and passion this city of 13 million people has shown the company. The cars were split up in different zones; four special Huayras were statically displayed in the first area, while the next zone offered a stage-like setup for a "catwalk" event later in the day. All the cars at the event, with the exception of the two Pagani factory cars, were displayed by local owners. They brought out Hong Kong's only Huayra BC in a matte carbon finish, two of the three Huayra Dinastias, and a special green Huayra with the Pachetto Tempesta upgrade. It was a treat to see these exclusive variants of the Huayra alongside their predecessors.

The main attractions, though, were the Zondas and there was one of every iteration, from the very first C12—which was on the floor at this year's Geneva auto show—to Horacio Pagani's very own HP Barchetta. With 11 of the 13 or 14 Zondas currently in the city at the event, it was a successful turn out. After the event, C12 chassis 001 was shipped off to its next destination, while the HP Barchetta (which made its Asian debut) would stay in Hong Kong for a week or so of display.

The locally owned cars were no less special, and as with all Paganis, no two were the same. There certainly was no lack of special cars including rarities such as the Zonda Uno; three Zonda 760-series in the Fantasma Evo, Absolute, and King; one of the three Zonda Tricolores ever made; a pair of silver Zonda Fs, a Zonda F Roadster, and a C12S. What makes these Paganis so special is that each car comes with a story as unique as the car itself. For example, the Zonda Uno was originally an F Roadster converted to this turquoise paint scheme at the request of a Qatari royal to match his fleet of turquoise supercars.

Likewise, the Zonda Fantasma Evo was originally an orange Zonda F Coupe but was turned into the dark red Zonda Fantasma—fantasma meaning "ghost" or "spirit" in Italian—after an accident. After the current owner bought the Fantasma, he sought to transform it into his interpretation of the ultimate Zonda. After several back and forth conversations with Horacio, the Fantasma Evo was born, offering less weight, more power, and, crucially, a six-speed manual gearbox. It is indeed quite possibly the ultimate roadgoing Zonda.

The other two Zonda 760s had similarly rich and unique stories. The Zonda King was originally another F Coupe owned by Aaron Kwok, who is considered to be one of the "four heavenly kings of pop" in Hong Kong, hence the number plate of his Zonda. After the 760 transformation, and as a nod to his original number plate and his nickname, the car was renamed the Zonda King. The Zonda Absolute also began life as an F but was then upgraded to Cinque spec to become the Absolute. More recently, it was upgraded again to 760 spec and fitted once again with a six-speed gearbox. As per 760 upgrades, it features a larger wing, flared fenders, and a central rear fin.

The real highlight of the event was the catwalk show, where cars took turns preening on a stage overlooking the bay, with Horacio saying a few words about each car and offering insight on what made each special. It was a nearly unrepeatable and immensely special chance to reflect on the different variations of the Zonda. As a cap to the evening, Horacio signed cars and took photos with friends and fans, and everything drew to a close just as rain started to come in. Both the people behind creating Paganis and the people fortunate to own them are genuinely passionate about the supercars, and it's easy to understand why.

Being a relatively young automotive firm, Pagani is one of the few operating today still under the singular vision of its founder. That founder, Horacio Pagani, could well be considered an artist, and as the driving force behind the cars, he will always find ways to improve and perfect his creations—even long after they've left the factory. The Zonda 760 and restoration programs on offer are proof of that, and they ensure there's still plenty of life left in the Zonda even two decades on. We'll be watching to see how the rest of the 20th anniversary celebration goes—each stop is sure to be as unique and special as the individual Zondas themselves.