When an Argentine, a former Lamborghini engineer and one of the pioneers of carbon fiber composites, fought the odds to construct one of the most captivating supercars ever – and created a modern-day supercar dynasty on its back – the automobile industry was revolutionized.
Pagani’s rise from obscurity to become one of the automotive industry’s most legendary supercar makers is almost completely due to the success of one model: the Zonda.
The well-made and elegant Zonda dominated the market, making it impossible for its successor, the all-new Pagani Huayra, to steal the spotlight since wealthy buyers demanded the Zonda.
The Zonda went from being a relatively affordable supercar when it was first in 1999 to a commissioning piece for the super-rich because of this steady stream of new models.
The 760RS we drive is one of the commissioned cars, built with the goal of bringing the track-only Zonda R’s performance to the road.
It was the first vehicle to use a set of engine improvements to liberate about 750bhp from its V12 engine in order to meet its brief. I can’t think of a bigger compliment for a car or company than having F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton as a customer.
A Brief History
Pagani Zonda was created out of sheer passion by a man who recognized the need for increased competition in the automobile business.
The automobile in question did not so much fill a supercar niche as it did define the concept of a car that went beyond traditional super characteristics, bringing luxury and exclusivity to a whole new level. This is what Argentine Horatio Pagani brought to the industry.
The popularity and public acceptance of the Zonda were based not only on its performance, but also on its build quality, details, and execution.
The Zonda was a small town supercar compared to its contemporaries, but it put many of them to shame with its attention to detail – and ethos pushed by the guy behind the moniker.
He left Lamborghini after a disagreement over an autoclave needed for researching and producing composite components.
Due to his groundbreaking work with Lamborghini in the 1980s, Horatio Pagani, the Argentinian-born firm founder, is recognized as the “Father of Carbon Fiber. He opted to go it alone, forming a composites research and development firm solely to fund the building of his own supercar.
The Zonda C12 was the outcome of Horatio Pagani’s love of composite materials and meticulous attention to detail.
The Zonda C12 debuted with a 388bhp V12 mated to a five-speed transmission, and only five cars were constructed from 1999 prototypes.
Pagani released a more powerful C12 S in 2002, with a hand-built 7-liter engine producing 542bhp peak output. These S models also received an upgraded 6-speed transmission and minor exterior cosmetic changes.
Pagani uprated the engine to a 7.3-liter unit, merely a 5bhp improvement over the previous 7-liter, after his successful foray with Zonda in less than a year, creating the groundwork for Zonda’s countless future revisions.
The Roadster, F, and Cinque versions all use the same basic engine, but each is produced in exceedingly small numbers and at progressively higher prices.
The Zonda’s popularity kept it in demand long after its intended successor, the Huayra, was released. To placate his most ardent fans, Horatio continues to produce exorbitantly priced one-offs like the 760RS.
Under the Hood
Pagani partnered with Mercedes-Benz to bring in the M120 V12 engine, which had been in production since 1991 and was used in a variety of Mercedes-Benz flagships during the 1990s and 2000s. Over the years, both AMG and Pagani engineers refined this for the Zonda 760RS.
It is truly one of the most spectacular engines ever fitted to a car, with a combination of scintillating high rev performance underpinned by a big, torquey push that you only get with a swept capacity that’s more akin to a medium-sized locomotive.
749bhp at a spine-tingling 8000rpm is nothing short of the perfection of class and standard; it is truly one of the most spectacular engines ever fitted to a car.
The RS model we drive came with a punishing 6-speed sequential transmission, but subsequent owners, including Lewis Hamilton, upgraded to a 6-speed manual.
Pagani used his expertise to make Zonda light, stiff, and aerodynamically efficient. Zonda weighed just 2756 lb overall, thanks to a carbon fiber central chassis, chromium-molybdenum steel front, and rear space frames, and carbon fiber and aluminum panels.
The car’s open back end, complete with quad exhaust pipes situated in the center and elliptical twin headlights, makes it stick out.
The Luxurious Interior
The interior features a luxurious spectrum for excellent visibility, as well as an assortment of highly constructed components manufactured from the finest materials, including milled and machined aluminum, rich leathers, and flawless carbon fiber work.
During the design process, Horatio Pagani could care less about the interior of the Zonda, as he went to great lengths to style it and give it the feel of a fighter jet rather than a supercar.
Providing remarkably superb visibility in the light-filled interior.
This is supported by a variety of highly crafted components produced from the finest materials, including milled and machined metal, premium leathers, and flawless carbon fiber work.
For the 760 models, the relative luxury of earlier cars was reduced with the aim of weight reduction, but this is not to be misconstrued for a drop in craftsmanship.
The 760RS was finished with a variety of carbon components, with the majority of aluminum components being finished in anodized black aluminum, as per the owner’s specifications.