• William Clarke

Pagani Vs Koenigsegg- The Ultimate Showdown Of Luxury And Performance


Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Porsche- you'd be hard pushed to find someone that hasn't heard of at least one of these incredible manufacturers. All four of them have for decades set the benchmark for what supercars should be like, combining quality, performance and exclusivity to create the ultimate driving machine. Each of these marques has it's own unique and inspiring story about how they were formed- each boasting a strong and very marketable heritage that their modern-day success is indebted to. Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche owe their popularity to a strong racing pedigree established decades ago, whilst Lamborghini have only more recently set foot on the motorsport scene after years spent perfecting their very contrasting ideas of the perfect road car. Over the last century, they've been the go-to companies for passionate car enthusiasts and wealthy figures- monopolising the high performance automotive industry with scarce competition. However, 25 years ago in a town just outside Modena, Italy- a reckoning force was being founded.

In 1983, Renault bodywork engineer Horacio Pagani moved from his home town in Argentina and began working for Lamborghini. He had already been involved with the design of body components for several companies in America such as Ford and Chevrolet, and as chief engineer at Lamborghini he contributed greatly to the development of the world famous 'Countach' model- the first production car to flaunt a carbon fibre frame. In the following years he was also responsible for much of the Diablo model's framework, developing and applying his extensive knowledge of composite materials like carbon fibre. Despite this, his attempt to refine Lamborghini's production process with the introduction of an autoclave was quelled by the company, who claimed that it was an unnecessary investment- also pointing out that if Ferrari didn't have one, then they didn't need one. Fuelled by his desire to fulfil his childhood dream of designing his own supercar, Horacio borrowed the money for the costly machinery and set out to produce his own high performance car parts, and in 1991 Modena Design was born. Mr Pagani and his small team saw great success in it's first years, supplying huge names in the motorsport industry such as Aprilia, Renault and even Ferrari with top end racing components. 25 years later Modena Design are still responsible for the design and manufacture of high performance parts for leading marques across the world.

Amid the growth of Modena Design, Horacio was beginning to realise his childhood dream. He found himself surrounded by performance parts of the highest quality available at the time, and combined with his leading understanding of strong, lightweight composite materials and bodywork design and manufacture, he was able to compose his first car, the Pagani Zonda.

In 1999, on the day I was born no less, Pagani Automobili unveiled their first car at the Geneva Motor Show; the Zonda C12. It had been years in the making, Horacio assembling his first ideas for the car back in 1993. Many people found its design unappealing, but what some say it lacked in looks it certainly made up for in performance! It prided itself with a 6.0L V12 engine provided by Mercedes Benz, enabling staggering acceleration and a rumoured top speed of over 200mph. Three years later in 2003, Pagani Automobili had already turned out three variations of the Zonda- the 7.0L C12S, 7.3L Zonda S and also the Zonda S Roadster. In fact, the production of the Zonda followed a somewhat predictable pattern, but people weren't deterred by this at all. The car's evolution continued to captivate its audience with revolutionary body and chassis work and controversial interior design. As a result, the Pagani name began to build a reputation for tasteful aesthetics and mind-blowing performance; and this, in combination with the Zonda's very limited production numbers, saw prices for the car skyrocket. Demand for the Zonda forced Pagani to continue developing the car, and leading up to the present day countless renditions of the Zonda have been made, each more breathtaking than the last and many of them limited to just one production car. Over 20 bespoke Zondas are known to have been made for special people or high paying individuals, one of which is Lewis Hamilton who had the Zonda 760LH made for him. A one-off Zonda actually appeared at the 2017 Goodwood Festival Of Speed- the Zonda 760 'Oliver Edition'. It was commissioned by one of Pagani's most valuable collectors, who incredibly gifted the car to his son on his 9th birthday. No, that's not a misprint! According to seasoned Pagani drivers, this final 760 series Zonda handles better than any other thanks to it's unique rear wing, and is the closest match performance-wise to the very extreme Zonda R.

In 2012 the company based in Modena released the Huayra, a car that myself and most others have loved from the moment it was unveiled. Named after the Incan god of wind, the Huayra was Pagani's efforts to refresh the ageing Zonda whilst maintaining the iconic design features that the world had grown to love since Pagani entered the scene at the turning of the millenium. The instantly recognisable head and taillight design remained on this new model, as well as Pagani's quintessential quad exhuast pipes emerging from the centre of the rear. The interior retains the Zonda's quirky taste, too- with the incredible attention to detail evident in each component. The frame for the driver's gauges, for example, is milled precisely from one solid aluminium block using remarkably consistent CAM (Computer Aided Manufacture) machinery. One interior feature that the Huayra prides itself on in particular is the exposed gear linkages which help to add to the raw driving sensation that the driver gets every time they get into the car.

In typical Pagani fashion, updated versions of the original Huayra have since been released, and the brand's bottomless customisation scheme has meant that not one Huayra is identical. A later interpretation of the design saw the Huayra BC introduced in very limited numbers- a total of just 20 in production. Its name is inspired by an Italian entrepreneur named Benny Caiola, who was one of the first people to order a Pagani years before. He was well known for his huge Ferrari collection, which was sold at auction after Caiola's passing in 2010. The BC features a fixed wing that works in tandem with the active aerodynamics found on the normal Huayra- if you can call it normal!

Since it's startup, Pagani's huge growth set the bar exceedingly high for the 'ultimate supercar' market- offering exclusivity and experience even beyond what Ferrari could offer. In 1994 however, Christian von Koenigsegg, having grown up inspired by his home country's engineering prowess and leading transport safety expertise, picked up the gauntlet that Horacio Pagani had thrown on the other side of Europe. It was in 2002, 3 years after the release of the Pagani Zonda, that von Koenigsegg and his small team based in Ängelholm, Sweden, released just 6 Koenigsegg CC8S cars. There had been just one fully functioning prototype developed before the CC8S, so the company's reputation would be determined by a car that, realistically, still needed lots of development. After a slow establishment compared to Pagani Automobili, it was time for Koenigsegg to take to the stage on a global scale. 10 years after Koenigsegg's foundation, the CCR was unleashed to the world- and set the world record for the fastest production car with a top speed of 242mph. For a small company like Koenigsegg were at the time, to achieve this was unprecedented- the record helped them to establish a solid reputation which would see the team continue to strive for the record after Bugatti stole it from them just weeks after.

In 2003, during the early production stages of the CCR, Koenigsegg's small production facility was mostly destroyed by a fire, meaning that they had to relocate to a disused aircraft hangar once occupied by a Swedish Fighter Squadron known as the ghosts; because they used to fly out at dawn and return at dusk, meaning that they were never seen. As a tribute to this, the ghost symbol adorns the rear window of every Koenigsegg that leaves the factory. Their factory remains here today, and they now also have access to the accompanying runway for test runs! The company drew the CC range to a close in 2010 with the CCXR Edition, capable of 250mph and production limited to just eight- but von Koenigsegg was far from finished in his pursuit of making the 'perfect supercar'. The Agera, revealed to the world at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, proceeded-receiving much more attention from outside Europe than the CC. It showcased a level of craftsmanship so remarkable that the international market scrambled for the new model, drawn in not only by it's staggering performance but also the extensive time and care taken to produce each and every part for the car. Precisely sculpted body panels hang on an immensely refined chassis created with safety at high speeds in mind; and the hand crafted carbon fibre wheels weighing in at just under 6kg are considerably tougher- and better looking- than the aluminium alloys produced by any other manufacturer.

Despite their rapid expansion in recent years, Koenigsegg haven't lost touch with their initial ideologies of unrivalled quality, performance and emotion in their cars. Even now they're a well established marque drawing huge demand, each car receives no less attention than they did 15 years ago when their very first car rolled out of the workshop. The most recent model, the Agera RS, is perhaps the fullest representation of what Koenigsegg stands for. It combines brutal yet clinical engineering with truly addictive aesthetics, resulting in a machine that the car world simply can't get enough of. Formed by nature, its graceful appearance provides the car with astonishingly efficient aerodynamics, working with the car's mechanical features to make the most of every air particle that rushes over the sleek 6 layer painted surface of the body panels. Days of attention are given to the quality of the carbon fibre weave before layers of paint, the exact colour chosen by the customer, are applied with painstaking precision. Many Koenigseggs feature a selection of different finishes such as gloss, matte or pearlescent- and the team at Ängelholm cut no corners when it comes to application- ensuring that each colour combination, on all 6 layers, is applied without blemish. Parts such as the hood which combine multiple finishes on one surface require extensive sanding and polishing to ensure that there are no joining lines or raised areas- over two hundred hours are spent polishing the finish of one car alone. Alternatively to paint, what's known as a clearcoat can be applied- this is how what many will know as 'exposed carbon fibre' is achieved. Similarly to Pagani, exposed carbon is now somewhat of an expectation, and both manufacturers even offer a selection of tinted clearcoats to enable coloured carbon. With such time-consuming production processes exclusivity is something that these two fierce competitors have no choice but to provide. There'll be 25 of Koenigsegg's Agera RS, whilst the Pagani Huayra BC's production will be capped at just 20- and, with many of these inevitably destined for wealthy collectors' private garages, you'll do well to see one at all.

So, the age old question- which is better? The answer, as always, is that to bring a definitive conclusion to this epic match of marques would be a pointless exercise. Ultimately the answer lies with you- it lies with the wants and needs that you personally have for the 'ultimate hypercar'. Perhaps a more fitting way to summarise this would be to fire a question back at you: With the unrivalled performance, personality and production processes of the two manufacturers, do you think their dreams all those years ago of the 'perfect car' have been realised?

#wjautomotivephotography #Koenigsegg #Pagani #Supercar #Automotiveblog #carbonfibre

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Based in Northamptonshire, United Kingdom