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Horacio Pagani, founder and chief designer of Pagani Automobili, with a model of the Huayra at the company’s factory in Italy. The Huayra starts at 989,500 euros, or $1.3 million.

Alice Pavesi • International Herald Tribune,

Upstart in the backyard of Italy's supercars

  • Article by: ELISABETTA POVOLEDO
  • New York Times
  • August 2, 2013 - 1:00 AM

– Don’t be fooled by the building’s homely exterior, or by its location in a nondescript industrial area some 20 miles northwest of Bologna. Inside is the two-story workshop of Pagani Automobili, maker of some of the world’s most advanced — and most expensive — cars.

To aficionados, the name Pagani is associated with supercars of exceptional performance and a level of craftsmanship achieved by a near-maniacal attention to detail. The price tag might seem crazy, too: the latest model, the Huayra, starts at 989,500 euros, or $1.3 million.

Paganis “are not cars,” said Alessandro Pasi, deputy director of the Italian edition of Evo, a magazine devoted to high-performance cars. “They are objects bought by people who get pleasure from owning something unique, like a Picasso painting. The more unique the object, the happier they are.”

It is Leonardo da Vinci, not Picasso, whose inspiration is most often cited by the company’s founder, Horacio Pagani, an Argentine-born designer. The da Vinci ideal was “that art and science could work hand in hand,” Pagani, 57, said in an interview at the factory. The Huayra (pronounced WHY-ra) is the embodiment of the Pagani philosophy. It is named for the Incan god of the winds and inspired, Pagani said, “by the moment when a plane is accelerating, just when it’s about to take off.”

An observer could be forgiven for thinking that the Huayra looks like something that came flying out of the Batcave. The aerodynamic shape helps the Huayra reach a top speed that Car and Driver estimated at 224 mph, and air brake flaps, which mimic those used by planes during landing, help it slow from such an extralegal pace. In gushing reviews, writers have reveled in the car’s handcrafted details, its carbon-titanium chassis and gullwing doors. Praise has been lavished on the 720-horsepower twin-turbo V-12 engine, developed by the AMG group of Mercedes-Benz, and on the 7-speed automated gearbox.

Inside is an audio system by the Italian company Sonus Faber; premium leather covers the seat and the six matching pieces of luggage that tuck into various nooks. There is also a special key — a miniature model of the Huayra, in aluminum, that costs more than $1,300 each to make.

Pagani moved to Italy in 1983 to pursue his dream of designing exotic cars, carrying a letter of introduction from the Argentine driving champion Juan Manuel Fangio, which eventually got him a job with Lamborghini.

In 1991 he founded Modena Design, which designed and molded components for companies in the automotive, aerospace and military sectors, while he worked on his first supercar. He chose to stay in an area of Italy that is home to what are today some of his chief competitors: Lamborghini, Maserati and Ferrari.

“To build a supercar here in Modena was an incredible challenge, like climbing a mountain,” Pagani said.

His first car, the Pagani Zonda C12, was introduced at the 1999 Geneva Motor Show under the brand Pagani Automobili, grabbing headlines because it was not simply a prototype but a showroom-ready model. The Zonda went through various incarnations, with the most recent — and final — version, the Revolucion, introduced this year.

The Huayra, introduced in 2011, went into production last year. Like earlier models, it will be a limited edition — in this case, only 125 cars. There are no assembly lines at the factory in San Cesario, just a handful of mechanics working on one car at a time, in a room barely larger than a home garage.

The company is discrete about the identities of its clients, but it does say they include American venture capitalists, Arab oil sheiks, Ukrainian oligarchs and Chinese scions — along with celebrities that include an American reality TV actress. “We make cars for people who have worked hard all their life, and the pleasure of owning a Pagani is a reward for that effort,” Pagani said.

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