Long term tests

Pagani Zonda C12 S

Harry and Zonda visit the Pagani factory for the annual owner get-together

The Pagani factory isn’t exactly huge. In fact the most cars I’ve seen here before was about eight, but today there are Zondas littered everywhere. Aside from those being built inside, there are six parked out the front, a couple more sat by the entrance to the showroom and a further two hiding round the back. It’s this last pair that are getting all the attention, though, because one is the new Zonda R trackday special while the other is the ultra-rare Zonda Cinque. It’s not just a static display, though – Horacio Pagani soon agrees to give a demonstration of the track-only Zonda R out on the public roads surrounding the factory, as you do in Italy on a Thursday afternoon.

You can see what happens next on the video but suffice to say they’re pretty lucky to get away with just a 28-euro fine from the police… Still, it’s a great way to kick off the latest ‘Pagani Gathering’. This annual event, where Zonda owners get to meet up and enjoy their cars, is now in its fifth year, and there’s a healthy British contingent for 2009 with five UK-registered Zondas present, plus an Enzo, which one of the owners has decided to bring along as well. The rest of the Zondas on the tour are all from Europe, although one has just returned from New York and is the only Zonda in the world that is legally registered to be driven in the US.

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My car arrived here by truck a couple of weeks ago. I’d asked if it would be worth getting a service done while it was at the factory, but Pagani’s response was that this wouldn’t be necessary as Zondas only need servicing every 10,000km or two years and, as mine has only covered around 2500 miles (4000km) since its last service, a quick check-over was all that was needed. My bank account liked the sound of that…

Once we’ve all calmed down after the unexpected visit from the police we assemble for the journey down to the first night’s hotel, located just south of Siena, some 150 miles away. Like a line of primary-school children following their teacher, we all head off in convoy with Horacio leading the way – quite sedately, as it happens, but then he does have his wife sat beside him…

Upon arriving at our destination I spend a few moments looking around all the Zondas assembled in the car park and soon realise that every single one is subtly different. If anyone ever tries to write a definitive book on the Zonda they’ll be stuffed. Mine, for example, was the second 7.3 S built, but as I’ve reported before, it now has the monster brakes from a Zonda F. Parked next to it is another Zonda S of similar vintage, but it has a different exhaust design and unpainted, all-carbon rear spoilers. Further along the line there’s another S, this one boasting the rear lights from the F, and there’s even an S Roadster with an F-spec engine under its hood. And it’s the same story with the Zonda Fs. Some have a Perspex section on the rear clamshell to show off the engine, others have a simple mesh grill; most have leather-lined interiors, but a few have simple carpet; one has its aluminium trim polished where another gets a titanium finish…

The detail differences between the cars are endless, but this is all part of the fun of owning a Pagani. Horacio’s philosophy is to make each Zonda as individual as possible so owners get to have the car of their dreams. It’s also why the factory tends to refer to the cars not by model but by chassis number – mine is no.21, for example.

The next day it’s cooking outside. The dash is saying it’s 34 degrees C and the air-conditioning is struggling to maintain a steady 21 degrees inside. There’s a lot of glass area in a Zonda but at least the cabin is relatively small so the air-con can just about cope, and thanks to a special treatment on the roof glass it seems to radiate less heat than the front screen does.

The day starts with a tour of southern Tuscany, but later I head off with a breakaway group of cars to some of evo’s favourite road-test routes in this region. The mini evo tour turns out to be a bit of a hit and has the added bonus of giving me and the owner of the Enzo a chance to really stretch our cars on some of the best driving roads I know. Although they are only separated by a couple of years, these are two very different cars to drive. The Enzo’s steering is surprisingly light for a start, especially when compared with the Zonda’s weighty helm. The Ferrari’s got a slightly longer wheelbase too, and seems to turn-in even quicker, although there’s rarely a hint of understeer in the Pagani. Then there’s the way you change gears in the two cars. In the Zonda, swapping cogs is not something to be rushed; the shift is a bit slow and notchy, so you tend to stick to one gear and lean on the engine’s massive reach. In the Enzo, you simply flick a paddle and the car instantly selects your chosen gear, mean you can constantly stay in the meat of the narrower power band. On the twisting tarmac we’re on today it’s a real advantage, but thanks to the Pagani’s lighter weight, smaller dimensions, instantaneous thrust and more compliant suspension, it can easily match the Enzo for pace. It might be slightly harder work for the driver, but a hard-charging Zonda still takes some beating on give-and-take roads like these.

I’m enjoying every minute of the Pagani Gathering but, sadly, prior commitments mean that I have to leave after the first couple of days. By the time next year’s event is held, the new Pagani C9 should be ready to roll and from what I’ve heard it should be quite something. It might even be able to give a Veyron a bit of a fright. But more on that another time…

Running Costs

Date acquiredJune 2006
Total mileage34,583
Costs this month£0
Mileage this month463
MPG this month19.1

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