Pagani Zonda: The last surviving member of a glorious age

Pagani Zonda 760RS

There have been two videos in the past few days about Pagani. One was JF Musial’s visit to the Pagani Factory for his segment on the Drive network, and the other was EVO Magazine’s video of the Zonda 760RS. The Drive video was more like a documentary and featured an interview with Horacio Pagani himself, offering a lot of valuable insight into Pagani Automobili, their values, and their history. Evo’s video was more targeted toward the Zonda 760RS specifically. It was one of the typical, somewhat quirky, Harry Metcalfe videos that fans have come to know and love. But Harry did a fantastic job of showing us what the 760RS is all about, and he made sure we could hear the car’s glorious soundtrack. The mix of these videos started me thinking about the Zonda specifically, and its significance in the world of cars.   

The Zonda 760RS comes as a new model long after many people thought the Zonda line had come to an end. Back when they came out the Zonda Cinque and Zonda R were hailed as the last hurrahs of the Zonda line, but then it seemed that Pagani was swamped with special orders from customers all wanting their own personalized Zondas before production ceased. The 760RS, and other Zondas 760s to follow, are all basically road-going versions of the Zonda R track car, all special orders. I have even heard, unofficially, that Pagani will keep producing Zondas for as long as there is demand, a smart move for such a small firm. So this begs the question as to why the Zonda has been in such heavy demand before its production ends. Pagani’s new model, the Huayra, is already in production, and both cars share that astounding level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that Pagani is known for. The reason must lie more in how the two cars differ in character, and differ they do. In the Evo video Harry compares the Paganis to Porsche 911s. He says the Zonda is like the naturally aspirated GT3s and the Huayra is like the 911 Turbo, they are similar in many ways but they have a different character.

Even though more than a decade separates them, they look just right together

In thinking this over I believe the reason for the high demand of Zondas goes even beyond it being like a Porsche GT3 compared to a Turbo. In Drive’s video Mr. Pagani says that he finalized the design of the Zonda back in 1993. That was in the great era of Ferrari F40s, Mclaren F1s, and Lamborghini Diablos, a time that saw the pinnacle of unadulterated sports and racing cars before electronic gizmos began to take over. These were pure driving machines where the driver did the driving and computers were still largely in their infancy. The Zonda was conceived here, and it was meant for this era, but due to financial issues it would not be launched until 1999. So, as the tech age was beginning for supercars, the Zonda finally saw the light of day, but its purpose and design were still from that previous, late 80s-early 90s, era. That DNA remained in the Zonda as it evolved through the years to compete with its supercar contemporaries, and it certainly remains in the new 760RS. Sure Zonda has made use of lots of modern technology as it has progressed, but unlike modern suprecars, designed in modern times, the Zonda has remained pure at heart because it is from a different era.

Looked at in this light the Zonda is the last of its kind, the only one of the great 80s-90s supercars still in production today, even though it never came to fruition during that time. It is one of them, it has that raw character, and cars of that era are quickly appreciating in value, so it makes sense as to why people are demanding the Zonda so highly right as it was about to die. When it does end there will be no more cars in production with direct roots in that pinnacle era. I am not saying everyone who is buying a Zonda has realized this, but it does seem evident in the subtleties of the car that it is something different. I am also not saying new supercars are bad either, technology has improved cars immensely, but there is something to be said for the pinnacle of automotive purity achieved before electronics took over everything. Supercars of the late 80s-early 90s mark that point, and the Zonda is one of them at its very core.

This is the original Zonda, the C12. This design was finished in 1993, and it has remained largely the same over time as the car has progressed.

Having said that, it may be circumstance that has made the Zonda the automotive icon that it is. The fact that it was released later than planned probably made it the success it was. Had it come out in 1995 or so the Zonda would have been mixed with the slew of small supercar startups that popped up during the time, and Pagani quite possibly may not have seen the success they have today. Being a late arrival made the car something special in its time, and even more special today. The Huayra is great, and it will carry on the company well, but it is very different from the Zonda in character as Harry Metcalfe said. The Huayra is full of technological bits, and follows the modern trend of downsizing the engine and adding turbos. Even the Huayra’s aerodynamics are totally controlled by computers, it is a glorious 21st century car. There does however seem to still be quite a bit of demand for a late 20th century car in the Zonda, so I hope they keep it alive for the years to come because there is nothing like the howl of that 7.3L V12. The Zonda remains a relic of a glorious automotive age.

-Nick Walker

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