1992: The Beginning
Pagani Automobili was founded in Modena, Italy in 1992 by Horacio Pagani, an Argentinian man born to Italian immigrant parents. He became interested in engineering at a very young age, and soon realized that the village he grew up in would not be sufficient for him to forge a career for himself in that field, so he packed his bags and moved to his ancestral homeland of Italy in 1982.
Although he had built his very own Formula 3 racing car by the time he was 20, his first foray into the supercar world was at Lamborghini, where he started off sweeping floors among other menial tasks. Undeterred, Pagani eventually went on to become a chief engineer at the company.
Some years later, he tried to convince his bosses to purchase an autoclave, which is a device used to make incredibly strong and light carbon fiber parts. The bosses told him that if Ferrari didn’t need an autoclave, then neither did Lamborghini, so Pagani borrowed the capital to buy his very own in 1987 prior to setting up Pagani Automobili in 1992.
1999: The Zonda C12 Emerges
The very first Zonda, the C12, broke cover at the 1999 Geneva Auto Show. A 6.0-liter Mercedes-Benz AMG V12 featured under the car’s exquisite “clamshell” rear end, which was mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. Only five of the original 6.0-liter Paganis were ever built. Of these, one was used as a demonstration car, another was a show car and another was used for crash testing. The last 6.0-liter Zonda of the five built that’s accounted for is in the hands of a female owner in Switzerland. She refused an offer to purchase the car from Horacio Pagani himself, who wanted to get hold of it for its historical significance.
2002: Zonda C12S
Three years after the C12 made its debut, the C12-S was put on sale, with a price tag of $500,000. It featured a larger 7.0-liter Mercedes-Benz AMG V12, and car’s power output went up from 389bhp in the C12, to 540bhp in the C12-S. Other changes included an elongated nose, aerodynamic flaps at the rear of the car, new light clusters and a new exhaust layout. Only 15 C12-S models were ever built.
Zonda S 7.3
Soon after the 7.0-liter C12-S went on sale, the Zonda S 7.3 began to emerge from the Pagani factory. This iteration of the Zonda was the first to feature traction control and anti-lock brakes as standard. Interestingly, in spite of the larger engine, performance figures for the 7.3 remained unchanged over the 7.0-liter model.
2003: Zonda Roadster
The Zonda Roadster debuted in 2003. It’s an open-topped version of the aforementioned Zonda S 7.3, and only 40 of them were ever made.
2005: Zonda F
The first major rework in the Zonda’s long life was marked by the letter F. This F pays homage to the legendary five-time Formula 1 world champion, Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio. Fangio, one of the best racers ever to live actually had a hand in the Zonda’s initial development, so it’s very fitting that the F series of Zondas paid tribute to him.
The rework of the car included enhanced intake manifolds, a new exhaust system and a revised engine control unit. This took the car’s power to just under 600bhp. Cosmetic changes included an extra headlight over older cars, new fog lights, a revised front end, new rear spoiler and more aerodynamic vents. Different side mirrors also debuted on the car, as did new alloy wheels. In addition, owners had the option to spec their cars with more powerful carbon-ceramic brakes. The Zonda F was limited to 25 units.
Zonda F Roadster
In essence, this car is a Zonda F with the roof cut off, but what makes it particularly remarkable is that it is just five kilograms heavier than the coupe version despite the need to strengthen a car’s structural rigidity when you take the roof of it. The F Roadsters, of which 25 were built, are also more powerful than the F coupes, with their power output rated at 640bhp.
Pagani also offered this iteration of the Zonda in Clubsport spec, which saw minor cosmetic changes and slight more power. Most of the Clubsports built are finished in bare carbon fiber.
2009: Zonda Cinque
The $2.2 million Zonda Cinque was supposed to be the very last road-going iteration of the Zonda, with delivery of all five cars (hence the cinque name) earmarked for June 2009. This “last hurrah” Zonda was equipped with a new 6-speed sequential gearbox, carbotanium bodywork (a mixture of carbon fiber and titanium for added strength and lightness – a Pagani invention), magnesium and titanium suspension components, and 670 bhp power output.
Cosmetically, the car received a longer front splitter over previous models, new side skirts, a new rear diffuser, bumper canards and a roof-mounted intake scoop. Following the Cinque coupes, five Cinque Roadsters were also built at a price of $2 million per car.
2010: Zonda Tricolore
The very last “mass-produced” Zonda was the Tricolore. Although it was originally conceived as a one-off, three of the cars were built. The model is a tribute to the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian military’s aerobatics team. The cars were finished in bare carbon fiber painted with blue lacquer, red, white and green stripes from nose to tail, and gold wheels. They cost $1.5 million each.
2010-2011: One-off special editions
Although Pagani wanted to stop making the Zonda a few years ago, the demand from multimillionaire enthusiasts has never let up. This has led to the company creating a whole range of one-off special edition versions of the Zonda, such as the bright turquoise Uno, pictured, which was built for a member of the Qatari royal family, and the black carbon fiber, right-hand-drive Absolute that found a home in Hong Kong. Many of these cars feature unique body parts, colors and other customizations tailored to the customer’s exact specifications. Their uniqueness makes them all extremely valuable.
2012-2016: 760 series
The most powerful road-legal Pagani Zondas in existence are the one-off cars produced as part of the 760 series. The 760 in their name denoted the cars’ power outputs, 760PS, or 750bhp. Triple Formula 1 world champion, Lewis Hamilton, owns one befittingly badged the 760LH, which he commissioned Pagani to build for him. It’s bright purple both inside and out, and has a manual gearbox rather than the usual sequential one. At least two of the 760 Series cars are roadsters. The 760 LM, the only Zonda to have unique headlights and probably the largest rear wing of any, is pictured.
2012-present: Pagani Huayra
The Zonda’s replacement, the Huayra, was first shown to the world in 2012, yet it has failed to captivate people in the same way the Zonda does. Nevertheless, it’s an engineering and stylistic masterpiece, and it may yet go on to eclipse the Zonda’s mystique. In addition to the “regular” Huayra, there have been numerous one-offs produced as well. The Pagani Huayra Roadster, the opened-topped version of the supercar, will debut at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show.
BONUS VIDEO: Ride in the Zonda 760 Nonno
This "Nonno" (grandfather in Italian), is the second Zonda ever built. It has been used by Pagani as a test mule ever since, being constantly upgraded through the years and racking up a staggering 1.1 million kilometers (683,000 miles) on the odometer in the process. Enjoy a ride with famous YouTuber, Shmee150, in this remarkable car:
Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10