how an oven helped create a supercar brand
Horacio Pagani is from Casilda, Argentina. Fruit of the union of Marta Lavandaio and Mario Pagani, a couple of bakers from Como in Italy. Attracted to the automobile very early on, little Horacio Pagani built his first scale models in wood and resin, before restoring his first motorcycles at the age of 15.
When he was not yet of age, at the age of 17, he built a buggy based on a Renault Dauphine. But in Argentina, Horacio realizes that he was born in the wrong place.
Juan Manuel Fangio’s advice
“Where I was, there was not this artistic or technical tradition that we find in Italy. I had the ability to dream, a very strong imagination, the ability to project myself, the passion for technique and art. But I was born in the pampas, a place with a predominantly rural culture.” Horacio later declares to the Italian journalist Davide Cironi.
After building F2 chassis, Horacio befriends former driver Juan Manuel Fangio. This one will give him advice: “If you want to realize your dream of building supercars, go live in Italy”.
On the advice of his friend, he moved to Modena in 1983, the cradle of Italian sports cars. It is here, within a radius of a few kilometers, that the Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini factories are located. Horacio does not speak Italian, has no references, but begins to work with subcontractors where he can demonstrate his mastery of resin and composite materials.
The boy is determined, courageous and thus enters Lamborghini. Horacio will be able to touch his childhood dream: to manufacture sports cars. But the road is still long.
A simple worker
On his first employment contract binding him to Lamborghini, Horacio is “third level operator”, that is to say the lowest level of the ladder in the Italian factory. Fortunately, Horacio is assigned to the experimental chassis department. The young Argentinian quickly proved himself, and after a few months, the director of the factory offered him to take the head of this department.
Pagani’s early work concerns the LM002 project, a huge 4X4 first designed to respond to a call for tenders from the American army. But it is on the Lamborghini Countach that Horacio will spend hundreds of hours before working on the materials of the Jalpa. “At that time, Lamborghini never had any money.
This somewhat limited the possibilities, especially for the use of materials known to be expensive. But one day luck came knocking at the door of the workshop. Lamborghini had just gotten a research loan. That money was for the Countach Evolution.” says Horacio Pagani.
Carbon, material of the future
Pagani completely transforms the Countach and makes it the first production car with a chassis made of composite materials. A technique used in aviation but also since the mid-1980s in Formula 1, under the impetus of the McLaren team. The Countach Evolution is a success, but it does not bring the revolution Horacio has been waiting for.
Lamborghini management is not ready to change the way sports cars are designed. We use a little carbon here and there, but nobody is ready to manufacture and sell vehicles designed in carbon. The frame of the Countach is also made of composite materials without ever going through an autoclave oven to compact and cook the material to make it stronger.
You need an autoclave
Horacio Lamborghini regularly goes to the office of the accountant or the factory manager to ask for the purchase of an autoclave oven. With each request, the answer falls, “We don’t need it”. Yet Horacio knows that an autoclave oven would allow Lamborghini to take a step forward in the design of its sports cars.
Carbon is the material of the future, it is inconceivable to miss it. Month after month, Horacio reiterates his request until the day when the director of Lamborghini answers him: “Does Ferrari have an autoclave oven? Nope ! Which goes to show that we don’t need it!” Horacio turns around, slams the office door and leaves the factory compound on his bicycle.
The stroke of genius
Horacio passes the entrance gate of the factory on his bike, and heads at a good pace towards the town center of Sant’Agata Bolognese, towards the bank! The angry cyclist is received by the bank manager. Pagani asks the banker for a loan to buy an autoclave oven. Obviously the banker is completely unaware of what it is and asks what this oven could be used for. Horacio replies: « It’s an oven that is used to make a lot of money! »
A few minutes later, Pagani returns to the factory with the financing for the oven. The director of the Lamborghini factory, having heard of the purchase of the equipment by his technician, offered him to install this autoclave oven within the factory! But Horacio is smarter than that.
A cash machine
At the time, there must have been three or four autoclave ovens throughout the country and Horacio was one of the few who knew how to use them to design car parts. Obviously, if the oven is installed at Lamborghini, the Italian manufacturer will not hesitate to use it as it pleases and quickly learn how to use it. Horacio refuses Lamborghini’s offer to use their workshop to install the oven. But he offers them his services.
Horacio has just created his company, Pagani Composite Research. From now on, if Lamborghini wants to benefit from the know-how of Horacio Pagani and his oven, they will have to pay a high price. Lamborghini entrusts Horacio with the design of parts for the Lamborghini Diablo. “We were doing eight parts on every copy of Diablo, and about four cars a day.”
Quickly, the rumor spread throughout Italy. There is an Argentinian in the Modena area capable of making any carbon part. Parts orders are pouring in from all over the country. Pagani works for the Ferrari team in F1, but also for Dallara or Renault for whom he manufactures the Renault Next, the brand’s first hybrid.
Pagani realizes his dream
At the same time, Chrysler, main shareholder of Lamborghini decides to withdraw. Pagani did not become a billionaire but now has enough money to launch his own car brand. He begins to design his own car known at the time as the C8 Project.
In 1992, when the sports car market collapsed with the Gulf War, he began building his first car, called the Fangio F1. Mercedes-Benz, won over by the build quality, agrees to supply V12 engines. After the death of Juan Manuel Fangio, the car was finally renamed Zonda C12.
Horacio only had a verbal agreement with his friend Fangio and above all he does not wish to overuse the champion’s name in the event of failure. It will ultimately be a total success. The car was presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 1999. Twenty-three years later, Pagani is still producing extraordinary and unique cars. Horacio has realized his dream and it is now his creations that make children and adults dream. The latest is called Utopia and it has just been unveiled.