Can You Still Start a Car Company?

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 17, 2012 | Go to article overview

Can You Still Start a Car Company?


Byline: Jason Stein Wheelbase Media

In Modena, Italy, the people measure success by the size of the engine and the thunder of your rumble.

Modena is to Europe what Indianapolis is to the United States.

Car guys? They were born here.

Ferrari is just down the road. So is Maserati and Lamborghini. Even the local Fiat dealer used to make his own race cars, just for fun.

Modena doesn't just mean motors, it means the spirit of driving -- the road and car becoming one. Today, the dreams of designers still come to life at 100 mph around bends and dips that challenge the world's best drivers.

But the story of Horacio Pagani, one of the world's most inventive car designers and the creator of the Zonda supercar, began more than 40 years ago and a few continents away. It begins in the small, agricultural town of Casilda, Argentina, where an 8-year-old boy is turning the pages of Style Auto magazine.

What Pagani found that fateful day took him in an entirely new direction. As the son, grandson and great-grandson in a family of bakers, he was supposed to learn about yeast, not the y-axis. He could blame the Alfa.

Pagani says he still gets chills thinking about that magazine photo of the Alfa Romeo Carabo he discovered one day. The car and those many magazines he kept hidden from his parents sparked an amazing reaction in the curious boy.

At 12 he amazed the town's children with models of supercars carved from wood or modeled in clay. Within no time he was spending many hours in his father's garage customizing the family car.

Amazed by it all, he studied industrial design at college and learned about Leonardo DaVinci. In 1977, just a few years out of school, he opened his own shop making chairs, then moved on to travel trailers.

By 21, he was building a single-seat race car for Formula Three, a couple of rungs below Formula One. But his heart was in street cars. "A fixation," he once told Automobile magazine.

As fortune would have it, the young Horacio would become friends with legendary race car driver Juan Manuel Fangio, who helped him get a job with Lamborghini in Italy.

So Pagani and his wife moved to Modena and he began working at Lamborghini, first as a third-level mechanic in the bodywork department, and eventually as a consultant designer, creating molds and body parts for the Countach Evoluzione. That work allowed him to rent a small shop and create experiments, which led to more work for Lamborghini. …

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