The highlight of my recent trip to Italy was being shown round the Pagani factory. These visits are strictly invite only and I was fortunate to be with someone with the necessary connections, not only that but we were given the grand tour by a certain Mr Pagani himself.
As you would expect for a manufacturer that only produces 25 or so cars a year, the facility is not huge and sits in a rather unassuming industrial estate on the outskirts of Modena. If there wasn’t a sign on the building I would never have guessed what was made inside. Having said that we were told that they are in the process of fitting out a new factory that will double production (the existing premises will become an R&D area).
The tour started in the hospitality area where a Zonda R and Huayra were on display. We were given an intimate story of how Pagani got to where it is today. I will try my best to recount it here…
When he was young and growing up in Argentina, Pagani always dreamed of designing cars. We were shown models that he had made in his youth as well as a motorcycle that he built from scrap. However, it was a racing car that would change his life. Pagani built a single seater race car from scratch but didn’t have an engine to put in it. He travelled to Buenos Aires with his car and pestered Renault Argentina to give him an engine. When they saw the car they were won over and donated an engine to the project.
This car allowed Pagani to go racing and it was whilst he was racing that he met Juan Manuel Fangio, they became great friends and remained so until his death in 1995. Fangio wrote a series of letters to the heads of great Italian car manufacturers introducing his friend as a talented designer looking for work. Pagani travelled to Italy with these letters and was able to secure a job with Lamborghini.
Whilst he was working for Lamborghini Pagani realised that composite materials were going to be the future for high end and racing car production. However, he failed to convince the company to invest in the equipment. His conviction was so strong that Pagani went to a bank and personally borrowed enough money to buy an autoclave (it remains in use in the factory today). He set up the only company in Italy that was manufacturing composite car parts at the time (F40 Kevlar parts were even made by him). As the company become more and more successful he was able to invest money in designing and producing his own car, the Zonda. The rest is history…
The tour started in the composite area. Here, layers of pre-preg carbon fibre are specifically layered into moulds to create the parts. We were shown how the thicker sections are made from two layers of carbon sandwiching a rigid high density foam. We were also shown a material that I had not seen before, carbo-titanium. This is carbon fibre with strands are titanium threaded into it to provide extra strength.
We were then shown the autoclaves and the parts finishing area – parts that come out of the autoclave are trimmed and finished by hand.
The assembly room was next – here two Huayras were part the way through being constructed. As well as being given a personal narration of the company and the cars, we were able to get up close to the cars. We were permitted to touch the cars and the parts ready to be fitted and have a good look round how the cars are designed – and of course, any questions we had were answered with aplomb!
We were taken to see the finishing area where completed cars were ready to be tested. There was one car that had just returned from a road test and we were permitted to stand by as the mechanics did their stuff.
Some facts I was able to ascertain during the tour:
- Pagani make all their carbon fibre parts in house.
- They sub-contract the machining of their aluminium parts out to another company.
- The only cast aluminium parts on the car are in the engine (all other parts are machined from a sold billet of metal).
- The rear frame of the car that encases the engine is made from a chromium steel.
- All bolts are made from Titanium and have “Pagani” written on them (they buy these in).
- The engine partnership with Mercedes means they don’t suffer from the average emission targets for manufacturers (how this works I’m not quite sure but that was what I was told when I asked).
I was immensely impressed with everything I was told and shown. The cars are exquisite and I left promising that one day I would own a Pagani, even if I had to sell my house to do so. If you ever get the chance to visit the factory, I strongly suggest you take it.
View from the road:
The models and motorbike made in Pagani’s youth:
The car that started it all:
A glimpse of the assembly room: