How Pagani Became One of the World's Hottest Hypercar Brands

Horacio Pagani's hypercars are a heady blend of agonizing beauty and uncompromising performance.
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The Huayra Roadster prototype is powered
 by a 12-cylinder Mercedes-AMG twin turbo engine.

The Huayra Roadster prototype is powered by a 12-cylinder Mercedes-AMG twin turbo engine.

A day in early fall. The low, thick fog invades the valley, the wind is so weak it barely moves the leaves. The Emilian countryside, in the province of Modena, Italy, stretches for miles, pervaded by cultivated fields, streets, and rivers. Time has taken its toll on an asphalt road that separates two long rows of trees. A short stop, it seems like the perfect frame to take a picture. 

In the flat and uniform light, the Pagani Huayra Roadster, which costs just under $2.6 million, shines even brighter. There is an almost magical air, it seems as if time and the whole world has stopped to contemplate the elegant and brazen beauty of founder and chief designer Horacio Pagani’s latest creation. 

The big 12-cylinder engine rumbles while the Huayra Roadster maneuvers along the narrow road, under its tires the crackling of the very fine white gravel. 

Founder Horacio Pagani is one of the
 true geniuses in automotive design.

Founder Horacio Pagani is one of the true geniuses in automotive design.

A group of passing tourists comes up closer, intrigued by what looks like a spaceship that has just landed from afar; a flash of light tears through the clouds and illuminates the carbon blue texture of the bodywork. The soft lines, the accentuated surfaces, a chassis that’s sporty and aggressive but at the same time very refined, sublime.

The Huayra Roadster was six years in the making, “so everything had to come together as if it was a car carved out of a block of Carrara marble,” as the Pagani website puts it. 

Each feature of the car responds to a unique language of style and a clear-cut aerodynamic requirement. The smallest detail is conceived for a purpose, even the smallest piece of carbon fiber has its own meaning, and complies with the stylistic meaning of the whole. Painstaking work on the single parts, via digital and scale models, was carried out to achieve a form that overall is homogeneous and original, merging innovation and tradition.

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The 764-hp Huayra Roadster is first of all an idea, a work of art on four wheels, a mechanical symphony where each and every component is tuned to play in unison. It is the expression of an emotion.

At the Pagani Automobili factory there’s a sign over the door that points toward the old production area, now the experimental division, that reads: “The client is our real employer!” Signed: Horacio Pagani. 

Almost a mantra, one that those who work at Pagani know by heart, from the production division to the assembly line, from the carbonium laboratory to the marketing office. Horacio himself, when he is asked to describe the designer’s work, usually answers, to the point. 

“At Pagani the aim of those who create the project is to satisfy, according to the dictates of Leonardo da Vinci and in line with our style, the client’s wishes, because, as my father used to say, the real client is the one who comes back a second time.”

Striking red brake calipers give an indication of what
 Pagani hypercars are capable of.

Striking red brake calipers give an indication of what Pagani hypercars are capable of.

No one know this better than Brett David, CEO of Miami’s Prestige Imports, one of the first Pagani dealers in the United States. 

David, who personally owns three Paganis, including a Pagani Huayra coupe named Project Vulcan, a special one-off model called the Huayra L’Ultimo, and a Huayra Roadster, recently honored Horacio Pagani at the Miami Design District Concours Presented by Chopard in the city’s Design District. The occasion was the 20th anniversary of the very first supercar to bear the Pagani name, the Zonda C12.

“What appeals to me most about Paganis is the rarity of these vehicles,” David tells Maxim

"In a time like today, when automotive manufacturers have created so many incredible vehicles, Pagani remains in a league of its own. While many might say this is because of design or performance, to me it’s about the rarity of each individual vehicle and the fact that Pagani owners worldwide unite as family. Pagani and its local dealers, including myself, focus on the fact that the experience of owning a Pagani is much greater and more unique than owning any other sports car created. To me, a Pagani is not just a vehicle, it’s a piece of performing art.”

Brett David at the wheel of a Pagani during the Miami Design District Concours

Brett David at the wheel of a Pagani during the Miami Design District Concours

Asked if Paganis sell well, "It isn’t a matter of Paganis selling well," David says. "Actually the question that needs to be asked is how one can obtain a Pagani. That’s the most difficult part. The Pagani brand is sought after by the world’s elite, specifically because of its rarity."

"Our client list is a mix of unique individuals from all around  the world—they are self-made entrepreneurs, second generation automotive enthusiasts and collectors, female buyers that appreciate the true element of bespoke design and con figuration, and the list goes on and on." 

"One of the most incredible assets to me about being a Pagani dealer is having the opportunity to meet some of the world’s greatest minds that share the same passion that we do, not just for the automotive industry but for the love of Pagani.”

Much of that has to do with the fact that Pagani was a pioneer in creating customized cars. Each car that comes out of his studio in San Cesario sul Panaro is designed and engineered from scratch, a custom-made suit, created specifically for the client. 

The “gullwing”  doors of the Huayra BC are a tribute to the iconic Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.

The “gullwing” doors of the Huayra BC are a tribute to the iconic Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.

No two Paganis are the same, each car is customized down to the smallest detail, to the extent that it is even denominated in a different way. Each one has its own soul, which mirrors that of the client.

This passion for things automotive was instilled in Pagani from a young age. Horacio was born in rural Argentina in 1955. His father owned a bakery but the young man evinced an early infatuation with engineering and loved to build model cars. 

By his mid-20s Pagani designed and built his first Formula racer, which eventually led to a meeting with his idol, Argentine race car driver Juan Manuel Fangio, who dominated the first decade of Formula One racing, winning the world championship five times. 

Fangio would later write letters of recommendation for Pagani to Ferrari, De Tomaso, and Lamborghini, where his career as a de signer would flourish. Later Fangio also helped him obtain Mercedes-Benz engines for his Zonda project and gave him precious advice during the design and construction of his first supercar.  Up until his death in 1995, Fangio was a con stant presence in Pagani’s life and career.

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There were times when he certainly needed the support. In the early 1990s, following the crisis triggered by the First Gulf War, the demand for supercars fell dramatically.

That was a very difficult moment for all car manufacturers. Many of them cut their workforce or resorted to the state -subsidized layoff scheme. Some were even forced to close down completely. Even Horacio worked every [day] for a year without a salary. In spite of the terrible period, Pagani decided the time had come to fulfill his old dream, a challenge that everyone around him thought was sheer madness.

In 1992, Horacio left Lamborghini, and with courage, hard work, and study first of all founded Modena Design, and then, in the late-’90s, Pagani Automobili, unveiling the Zonda C12 at the Geneva Motor Show. Just as he would do as a boy when he’d show his models to his friends back in Argentina.

In addition to Fangio, Horacio Pagani has had a men tor, an inspirer, and life coach who has directed him and motivated him to find a way to fulfill his dreams. That per son is Leonardo da Vinci, who, during the Renaissance, promoted a new approach to art and science, introducing a vision that revolutionized the way of thinking of the entire human race. 

Before Leonardo, art and science were separated by an invisible but definite wall, and one did not venture into the field of the other or vice versa. Leonardo tied them with an indissoluble thread: “Art and science can walk together hand in hand.” 

Beauty and technology united in a dance whose purpose is the artistic object. Horacio Pagani was about 13 years old when he “met” Leonardo in an issue of Reader’s Digest, one of the most popular magazines in Argentina. His father, Mario, was a voracious reader, but the young Horacio was not far behind him. 

Many of the articles in Reader’s Digest were superficial, but there were some that were interesting, and Horacio would never forget that article on Leonardo and his genius, his curiosity, his passion, his visionary quality, and unique way of interpreting reality and nature. He was truly thunderstruck. In the space of an afternoon, the life of the young Horacio changed radically. 

He had always built model cars, and one idea, almost an obsession, was always there in his mind: going to Modena to design and to build his own car.

But Horacio didn’t know which road to take to pursue this aim. He was undecided and filled with doubts. Engineering or art, which path should he follow? It was Leonardo’s example from almost five hundred years before that finally showed him the way.

“I had an epiphany,” Horacio says. “Thanks to Leonardo, I realized that I didn’t necessarily have to choose between mechanical engineering and the fine arts, but that I could reconcile the beautiful and the useful, form and function, design and the most advanced technology. Leonardo became the start of everything for me. Art allied with science.”

“What I admire about Horacio Pagani is that this man is more than just an automotive manufacturer,” Brett David says. 

“He’s an artist. His vehicles each represent something about their individual owners while maintaining Da Vinci’s theory ‘form follows function.’ Mr. Pagani will deservedly always be known as one of the most in credible automotive icons; furthermore, he has preserved the most important pillars of the Pagani brand — Pagani is a family brand and the experience when purchasing a Pagani is of the utmost importance, serving as an entrance for the buyer into the Pagani family.”

Paganis on display at the Miami Design District Concours

Paganis on display at the Miami Design District Concours

And judging by the smiles on the drivers’ faces, it is one very happy family indeed.

Partially adapted from Pagani Hypercars: More by Horacio Pagani and Luca Venturi with photography by Mikael Masoero, published by Rizzoli New York