We go backstage to see the artists of Automobili Pagani at work
MODENA, ITALY - Italy, widely acknowledged as the birthplace of Western civilisation, is seen by many as the artistic and cultural seat of Europe. The nation has produced some of the world’s greatest and most admired artwork, sculpture, architecture, opera, film, food and fashion.
Italian automakers also hold a special place in the hearts of many petrolheads. From the refreshingly utilitarian Panda to the latest Ferrari bringing F1 tech to the open road, Italian cars have long captured the attention and imagination of car lovers all over the world.
The cognoscenti will tell you that one man and his small, dedicated team are quietly building the world’s finest automotive works of art, each one a hand-built, rolling celebration of centuries of Italian craftsmanship, innovation and design prowess. That man is Horacio Pagani... and we’ve just had a peek into his new factory.
We’re on a nondescript street in the small town of San Cesario sul Panaro, on the outskirts of Modena. Pagani calls its current home an ‘atelier’, somewhat downplaying its multi-faceted role as workshop, sales gallery, R&D centre and manufacturing facility. We’re allowed to roam the various departments, starting with a room where staff are painstakingly coaxing sheets of carbonfibre into car-like shapes. At one point, Horacio walks past and we are introduced to him. Soft-spoken and self-effacing, he greets us warmly and welcomes us to continue poking around.
The next room contains some of the largest autoclaves we have seen, befitting Pagani’s reputation as the master of automotive carbonfibre. We walk through the R&D department, where the latest Huayra BC prototype sits on a jig with its gullwing doors and clamshell engine lid open. As the team highlights some of the car’s new features, we can’t help admiring the simplicity and raw beauty of its lines and curves.
Pagani’s chief test driver Andrea Palma decides to drive us to see the new manufacturing facility in a wine red Huayra Tempesta. It’s a short, spirited drive, with Andrea pushing the car close to its limits, each of his upshifts accompanied by a blast of turbocharged surge that pins us back into our seat and reels in the horizon at a rate that’s barely legal.
If the old atelier was quaint and compact, Pagani’s new digs are modern and expansive. One of the main areas is a cavernous, hangar-like space, designed to look like a typical town square and complete with a small clock tower. Customer cars back for upgrades or left with Pagani for safekeeping pepper the area, some wearing British or Middle Eastern licence plates. A pair of blue cars, a Zonda and a Huayra with matching gold wheels, sit majestically in one corner, works of art that we can walk around and climb into.
In the next room we find a line of partially completed Huayra supercars, some almost bare carbonfibre monocoques receiving their first components, others nearly finished with their bespoke AMG V12 turbo engines and Xtrac sequential transmissions already in place. We’re stunned by the myriad variations that only a custom built automobile can provide – carbonfibre in blue or red, and tailor-made interiors festooned in whatever colour leather your heart desires. A limited edition Huayra, built to commemorate the company’s entry into China, looks resplendent in purple carbonfibre and a Tiffany blue interior, which, as jarring as that may sound, just work magnificently in the flesh.
The new facility has been designed by Pagani’s internal team, and boasts automotive references in unlikely places, such as ceiling support struts that resemble oversized suspension arms. The building will also house a customer lounge, a sales office and a small museum. Some of Horacio’s earliest creations, such as a motorbike built in his teens and an F2 race car built in his 20s, will be on display. We’re shown a trio of classic cars from his personal collection that will also be displayed – a Ford Mustang ‘Eleanor’, a Ford GT40 and a ‘Pagoda’ Mercedes SL.
At time of writing, the new factory is over a month from its start of operations, but it’s already easy to imagine how it will look in full swing. Unlike traditional works of art that live their lives from one stuffy gallery to another, the open road will be the gallery for Horacio’s jaw-dropping creations. STORY & PHOTOS: TERENCE FOO
This feature first appeared in Top Gear Singapore #52 (July 2016)