Sunday, January 3, 2010

Pagani Zonda C12

The howl at first was almost unnoticed.

When the original Pagani Zonda C12 was debuted at the Geneva Motor Show, it was sort of viewed as yet another upstart “supercar maker” that thought they could outgun the mainstay Italian breeds. Featuring the very highest technology in composite chassis development paired with an exquisite hand-made interior and thundering Mercedes V12 engine, it truly brought together the best of every world with respect to the world of supercars.


Interestingly, and of note to tuners and engineers everywhere, Pagani was working on chassis components and weight reduction long before thinking about monster power. The C12’s powerplant was lifted almost untouched from the Mercedes S/SL models. It was only with later iterations that AMG was contracted to increase power. As the saying goes, power is nothing without control — it seems so many looking to enhance performance have never learned this approach.


Combine the amazing handling with an intense approach to aerodynamics and you get an extremely slippery drag coefficient, helping the Zonda accelerate at an unbelievable rate. What’s even more extraordinary is the accompanying experience. The sheer noise coming from those quad “Gatling” exhaust pipes is absolutely hair-raising. Whereas most supercars tend towards the stripped-out cockpit approach, the cabin of the Zonda is painstakingly crafted out of the best materials money can buy. So you get the driving experience plus all the creature comforts you could realistically want in an automobile of this status.


The interior is an amazing blend of carbon fiber, leather, satin-finished aluminum, and over-the-top design effort. Only five were built. Three were sold to customers at a cost of $320,000 apiece. The 6.0L C12 accelerated to 60mph in just over 4 seconds, and hit the quarter mile in around 12 seconds, trapping at 124mph — and this with only 400hp.

The howl grew into a shriek.


Over the course of the next several years, better and faster variations emerged. The engine grew to 7 Liters (C12S), then 7.3 Liters (C12S 7.3, Zonda F). Power increased dramatically with the involvement of Mercedes’ tuning division, AMG, to over 640hp in the Zonda F Clubsport. Various racing versions have been created, including the 6.0-Liter Zonda R Clubsport, which squeezes out an astonishing 750 horsepower.


Lest we forget, there have been roadster versions of both the C12S and the Zonda F/Clubsport. Unlike most other drop-tops, where additional structural support increases weight dramatically, the Zonda Roadster is about the same weight as the hardtop. To find out the advantages of having no roof in a car like the Zonda, simply find the nearest tunnel and stand on the gas. The howling will freeze your blood and chill your very soul.


Most recently, a special limited-edition (“limited” having a new definition within the realm of Pagani) Zonda Cinque was announced, with a price tag of nearly $1.5 million . . . and, of course, a run of only five. Power is up to over 675hp from the monster AMG 7.3 Liter V12, and a sequential manual adds to the racecar effect. Standstill to 60mph is blurred in less than 3.5 seconds, and the cornering forces of nearly 1.5g will reposition the skin on your face.


Around 2010, a new Zonda model will emerge, with even more power, more radical styling, and — crucially — U.S. compatibility. And now that the howl is now a feral scream heard ’round the world, company founder Horatio Pagani will never have any lacking of respect and admiration. In a decade, his vision created works of art that many agree are better in every way than rival models from Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Maserati.

Can you hear it?



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