Pagani Huayra: Insanity on Wheels

When it comes to Italian supercars, there is an unwritten social order of things. Ferrari is at the top, with decades of racing experience and some of the world’s best road-legal supercars money can buy. Lamborghini is a close second, having designed and built some of the wildest and most iconic vehicles in the world.

Both companies have been around for over 50 years. Both make very fast and very expensive cars. Both have proven that they’ve got what it takes when it comes to radical engineering and even more radical design. They’ve both got pedigree.

Then in 1992, this Lamborghini engineer by the name of Horacio Pagani decides to leave the company to do his own car. He has no pedigree and no racing heritage. It takes him 7 years to build his first car, the Zonda. For a supercar company, Pagani’s sales were anything but fast. Ten years in, the company had sold just 206 of these exotic hypercars.

The first time I heard about Pagani was in 2007, when the Zonda became road legal in the United States. I heard a little bit of buzz when the company introduced a new model, the Huayra, in 2012. But it didn’t pique my interest, and I never bothered to learn anything about the car or the company.

Then, it seemed as if the Huayra was following me around, begging me to give it a chance. I saw it at the 2013 SEMA show in Las Vegas. I saw it again at the 2014 CES show. And then I crossed paths with the Pagani Huayra for a third time at the Arizona Concours d’Elegance. I finally gave this car a look, and all I can say is: “wow.”

Everything about it, from the design to the engine to the interior is just so ridiculously over-the-top that it leaves you grasping for words. If this car were a band, it would be Spinal Tap and it would be turned up to 11. If this car were a hot pepper, it would be the bhut jolokia (ghost pepper). It is the concept of an automobile taken to the extreme.

Up close, the car reveals some interesting details. The gauges are intricately detailed and sit in a pod mounted on the dashboard that really looks like a steampunk thing. Meanwhile, the interior is done up in the most abundant display of red leather and chrome anyone has ever seen outside of a 1960 Corvette.

For all of the car’s showiness in its design, the performance is just as impressive. The car’s body is a monocoque chassis built of carbon fiber and titanium, which makes it both strong and light. The completed car weighs in at 2,977 lbs – just 23 pounds heavier than a MINI Cooper Clubman!

Power comes from a mid-mounted AMG Mercedes twin turbo V12 engine producing 739 horsepower, and top speed is about 230 miles per hour. Even the exhaust pipes are made of titanium. At a cost of $1.3 million, it is a car for people for whom money is no object.

Horacio Pagani’s greatest masterpiece is one hell of an automobile. It’s the kind of car you would sketch in class as a 12 year old, minus the wings and rocket launchers. It is insanity on wheels, and I think that’s what makes it so unique.