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Horacio Pagani: from Bicycle to Hypercar

This is quite the fairy tale, the story of an Argentinian businessman who came to Italy to make his dream come true. Luigi Marmiroli recalls when they were both at Lamborghini, where Horacio took his first steps and immediately demonstrated his tenacity and determination

Words Luigi Marmiroli

Photography Courtesy of Luigi Marmiroli Archive

As our eager readers well know, in my professional life I met and cooperated with many famous people from the leisure, sports and competition fields of the motoring world. I have already talked of Enzo Ferrari, Ferruccio Lamborghini, Carlo Chiti and Clay Regazzoni. There is another person that I am very fond of, as I had the chance to work with him at Lamborghini until he left to doggedly follow his own dream of building his own car.

The opportunity to write this article comes from the fact that in May, Pagani Automobili celebrated the 25th anniversary of its foundation.

An important celebration: in a lovely square in Modena, twenty-five cars - from the first Zonda to the last Utopia - were put on display all together, thrilling the fans. But here’s where it all began.

Horacio Pagani was born in Argentina; his father was a baker. As we know, all the great founders of Modena car companies came from humble backgrounds: the Maserati brothers were two of the seven children of a railway worker; Enzo Ferrari’s father was a blacksmith; Ferruccio Lamborghini came from a family of farmers.

In 1983, with a tent and two bicycles, the young Horacio Pagani left his country for Italy, dreaming of pursuing that passion he had developed as a child building model cars. The second bicycle was for Cristina Pérez, whom he married shortly afterwards.

He immediately accepted whatever job he could find: from gardener to welder, while his wife worked in a shop. Of course, their means of transport was the bicycle, and the tent their home. Having knocked in vain on the doors of several car manufacturers, finally he managed to join Lamborghini as a level-three worker in the experimental bodywork department. And it was here that, in 1985, I too was hired by Lamborghini Automobili. I met him in a small department, shielded from prying eyes by wooden panels, getting his hands dirty with resin and fibreglass as he built a plastic spoiler for the Countach.

Since then, the boy – as they say – has come a long way. Even then, his mind was driven by two guiding stars, one old and one modern.

When he was a child, Horacio fell in love with Leonardo Da Vinci and his philosophy, according to which Art and Science can go hand in hand. Not by chance, he called his first son Leonardo.

He confessed to me that he often went to visit the town of Vinci, spending hours in the genius’s birth home, as if directly communicating with his spirit through those old walls.

The second person is Manuel Fangio, driver, who won the Formula 1 championship several times and is considered one of the best drivers of all time. Fangio took Horacio under his wing, placing his experience and knowledge at his disposal and becoming both friend and mentor. One day, Horacio took him to visit Lamborghini, and there I too had the chance to meet him and, together with Sandro Munari, appreciate his professionalism and innate modesty. Sandro Munari, who was also a famous rally driver, four times world champion, was there in his capacity as newly appointed PR of Lamborghini.

Fresh from the competition world, in which they were introducing the first composite material components, I remember then that I felt that the time was ripe for their development and use in the supercar world.

When we were designing the Diablo, we were able to introduce a lot of components that were skilfully made by Horacio and his meagre work team.

And what’s more, Lamborghini was the first car manufacturer to invest in a new department devoted to the mass production of these components using a large, innovative autoclave. And Horacio was in charge of the department until he decided to leave Lamborghini.

Increasingly an expert in composite materials, Pagani also demonstrated major style skills that allowed him to express the best possible design of the components that took shape using this technology. The Countach Evoluzione was the first attempt to produce a chassis in composite materials.

In 1988, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the foundation of Automobili Lamborghini, the new Diablo project wasn’t ready yet and the available budget was not very big, so it was decided to create a celebration version of the Countach in-house, developing the style and setting up the modifications. Set this extremely hard task, Horacio Pagani created a special version using solutions that didn’t change the style of the Countach “legend”.

The time was exceptionally favourable for supercars, and the Countach 25thAnniversary – as it was called - recorded greater sales than all the other versions of the same car.

A few years later, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the foundation in 1993, supported by Italian state funding, now with Horacio working freelance, we worked on another highly innovative project: a precursor of the hypercar, made entirely in carbon fibre, a solution way ahead of all the competitors. The chassis, made of thin carbon fibre walls, was a masterpiece of car engineering. Nothing came of the design, known technically as the L30, but that’s another story… I confess that I still dream of driving this car, recording fantastic performances on a non-existent race track.

P.S: At this point, if they wish my readers can return to the cover page and see all the names of the characters written in mysterious Leonardo da Vinci-style mirror writing. This shows how we are still charmed by the genius behind the Mona Lisa…


Luigi Marmiroli was born in Fiorano Modenese in 1945. After graduating in mechanical engineering at the University of Padua, in 1970 he was hired by Ferrari to introduce electronic computing to Maranello for the first time. In 1976 he founded Fly Studio with Giacomo Caliri, designing and managing competition cars on international circuits. Their main works were for Fittipaldi Copersucar, Autodelta, ATS and Minardi, with whom they joined forces. The developments in the partnership with Autodelta led Marmiroli to manage the technical unit of the Euroracing team in 1983. Two years later he was hired by Lamborghini to design the heir of the Countach. Other projects came after the 17 versions of the Diablo, though due to the continuing changes of ownership of the Sant’Agata based company, they were never put into production. Marmiroli relaunched Fly Studio in 1997, providing consulting services. One of the projects of the last few years is the development of microcars, quadbikes and commercial vehicles, including electric versions.


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