Legendary Argentinian designer and engineer Horacio Pagani enjoys cult status in the world of supercars for being the mastermind behind some of the world's most significant cars. His latest creation, the Pagani Huayra, is named after Wayra Tata, which means "god of the winds" in Quechua.
The Huayra fits in with Pagani's desire to create timeless designs for his superfast cars. It has a 730hp engine that can reach 100 km/h in less than 3.5 seconds and has a top speed of 370km/h. Top Gear's Richard Hammond calls it "a machine so unlikely ever to be real, it may be a unicorn".
Pagani, who was in Shanghai recently to open a showroom in the Xintiandi district that neighbours similar establishments by Lamborghini, Spyker and Rolls-Royce, says: "Pagani owners are not only buying a car, they are buying a piece of art."
"Some of my clients didn't collect cars before owning a Pagani," adds the designer, who is dressed in a casual pit crew jersey and a Challenge Pagani watch - a titanium chronograph created by Swiss luxury watchmaker Cvstos. "They were only into artwork. They now have two or three Paganis parked in their garage, though they have probably never taken the car out for more than a single ride."
During the opening, Pagani unveiled a limited-edition Huayra Dinastia supercar featuring exquisite dragon engravings on the bonnet and calligraphic Chinese characters symbolising Baxia - the mythological dragon of the water - embroidered on the seat covers.
The Dinastia oozes exclusivity. Priced at 29 million yuan (HK$34.67 million), only three models will be made, and each will feature a different dragon inspired by Chinese fables. "Exclusivity and uniqueness is what our customers are after," Pagani says. "It also guarantees the investment value for Pagani owners."
Pagani produces about 40 cars annually - approximately one-third of the orders they receive. "Many of the cars on the market are mass-produced and all look the same, but a Huayra has her own soul," the designer says. "Every single Pagani car is unique."
Pagani has established a solid fan base in Asia in the past decade, with Canto-pop king Aaron Kwok Fu-shing - who has a Pagani Zonda - among the proud owners.
"We have been building connections with Chinese clients for a few years, and we've accumulated a great pool of clients," he says. "We have a long-term strategy that's tailored for the global market. We didn't want to rush into China just for the sake of it. We took our time [to understand the market]."
Pagani says aspiring owners work closely with him and his team to create their own supercar, which can take up to two years to complete. "The creative process is a journey that we take on together with our customers," he says. "Some of them enjoy the process so much that they are sad to see it end when they finally get delivery of the new car."
Citing the original Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci, as an inspiration, Pagani says his design philosophy merges art and science.
Known for the cutting-edge use of carbon fibre to achieve extreme lightness, the Huayra weighs just 1,350kg - for comparison, a Lamborghini Aventador is 1,575kg and a Bugatti Veyron weighs 1,888kg.
The Huayra's signature elegant curves resemble a wing and are designed to make the vehicle as aerodynamically neutral as possible. "We are very focused on technology advancement such as carbon fibre and titanium alloy," Pagani says. "For every car, we also strive to create the most beautiful silhouettes."
The craftsmanship behind the Pagani Huayra explains its hefty price tag. Each engine is handcrafted by mechanics at Mercedes-Benz. The exhaust system created by MHG Group features hydro-formed tubes, and the interiors are polished, shined, sandblasted and assembled by hand.
"Trends aren't something that I pursue," Pagani says. "I want to create timeless designs. Luxury isn't just something that you can put a price tag on. Our clients are also after objects of art."
Born in Casilda, Argentina, in 1955, Pagani began showing his mechanical genius at an early age. He crafted model GT motor cars at age 12 - some of the original models are displayed in Pagani showrooms. He designed and built a mini-motorcycle when he was 16 years old. Soon after graduating from the University of Rosario with a mechanical engineering degree, he built a single-seater Formula Two racing car.
"I've always been passionate about automobiles," Pagani says. "I was born in Argentina where there weren't many opportunities for me to learn the ropes of supercars. I dreamed of working in Italy."
In 1983, Pagani moved to Italy and, armed with a letter of recommendation from five-time Formula One world champion Juan Manuel Fangio, joined the team at Lamborghini. He created the Countach Evoluzione, the first car with a carbon-fibre frame. Pagani worked his way up at Lamborghini until he became the chief engineer, working on research and development projects such as the Lamborghini Diablo.
Pagani branched out on his own in 1991, starting Modena Design, which consults with Formula One cars and clients such as Ferrari, Renault and Lamborghini on interior and carbon-fibre composites. It took almost eight years to develop the Zonda, the first Pagani model, which he unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show in 1999. The car was an instant hit and earned Pagani legendary status in the supercar world.
"To start my own brand had been my childhood dream," Pagani says. "I began my career at Lamborghini as a ground worker, and I learned so much. Then I started my own brand, which was hard at first. I didn't have much funding except for my own investment. Now we have a strong team and we have very stable growth."
Pagani says the technology which excites him most is that which allows him to reduce the weight of supercars while making the vehicles more environmentally friendly.
"More than a car designer, I'm also a car fan," Pagani says. "I recently bought a Porsche 918. I love the car, but it's much heavier than a Pagani. The vision I have is to focus on the lightness of the supercars. We'll show two more models that highlight the focus at next year's Geneva International Motor Show."
While reducing carbon footprints for cars has long been on Pagani's agenda, he isn't convinced by the electronic and hybrid car trends. "For the moment, I don't plan to create any electronic cars," he says. "I think it's still debatable whether hybrids are more environmentally friendly, as the process of generating the electricity itself should be taken into consideration as well."
1955 Born in Argentina
1972 Studies industrial design at the University of La Plata (Argentina)
1983 Moves to Italy
1987 Designs the Lamborghini Countach Anniversary
1991 Starts Modena Design
1999 Presents the Pagani Zonda C12 at the Geneva International Motor Show
2006 Designs the Pagani Roadster F
2011 Unveils the Pagani Huayra
2015 Opens showroom in Shanghai
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