Standing on a platform, overlooking Carmel beach and the Pacific Ocean, at about 6 o’clock a week ago last Wednesday, I felt like the proud father of a kid that had just sung a solo at her third grade graduation. The temperature was in the low eighties and there was not a breath of air with the Pacific as placid as a millpond. Standing there, listening to the babble of voices and laughter from all over the world – mostly Chinese and French, it seemed – I felt, totally irrationally, that California was putting on a great show just for the out-of-town visitors and I was, somehow, partially responsible.
Later, driving away from the beach on Ocean Avenue, with the top down on Michele’s car, all the better to feel the soft air and see the supercars parked around town, like Toyotas at Costco, we both yelled, There’s a Pagani. It was our first sighting in the wild. We circled the block, found a place to park and walked back. Looking at it parked in a standard parking place, the Pagani looks small. It is only a little longer than the Miata in front of it and not any taller. Somehow however, it has a presence that is way out of proportion to its actual size; it is about as unobtrusive as Sofia Vergara at that third grader’s pool party.
I do read that the Huayra is easy and pleasant to drive which is not always a feature of a hypercar. Of course, I will never find out, and therein lies the paradox – to misquote the Bard – cars are meant to be driven and while the overwhelming majority of us are only able to ogle, how they drive – how fast they are – is part of their allure. The Pagani has plenty of allure with a six liter, twin-Turbo, AMG V-12 Mercedes engine that puts out 730 horsepower giving it a 0 to 60 time of about 3.2 seconds and a top speed of about 230 mph.
As an aside, Horacio Pagani made his fortune making carbon fiber and the Pagani Huayra is a legacy of that. Carbon fiber is cloth woven from threads – thinner than a human hair – made from carbon atoms bonded together to form a long chain. These are then woven into a very thin cloth. According to howstufworks.com, it’s five times as strong as steel, two times as stiff, yet weighs about two-thirds less. What they don’t say is that it is way, way, more expensive. The Pagani Huayra’s basic body is made from four layers of carbon fiber, each about one millimeter thick. Because the carbon fiber has a weave and it takes more to match the seams – like making the pocket weave match on a nice shirt – in the least expensive versions of the car, the carbon fiber covered by paint. End aside.I want to say that, in the Pagani’s case, the exquisite details are what give it the most kick, but that really isn’t the case. Everything just adds to its show stopping presence and I think that is because Pagani is the creation of one person. Most cars, most for-sale designed things, are compromises with what people supposedly want. When a designed object gets too far from the mainstream, it risks being ostracized. No matter how good it is (think Raymond Loewy’s Studebakers which, looking back, are much better looking than anyone gave them credit for). The result is that most car designs are watered down, but not the Pagani. Often, I will rave over a car and Michele will be lukewarm saying Yeah, it’s OK but it is too masculine for me. That is not the case with the Pagani, it is soft and luscious and very feminine. Even the mirrors are supposed to evoke a woman’s eyes (although who besides Sophia Loren, I have no idea). Still, for me, the best part is the heavily chromed steampunk interior which contrasts with the chromeless exterior. Of course Ferrari wants to remain the premier Italian car so, to take on Pagani, they have come out with the 1.5 million dollar Ferrari LaFerrari. It is drop dead gorgeous, in a very studied way, and the contrast to Pagani is striking. Michele described it as The Pagani is a young rich man’s car and the LaFerrai is an old rich man’s car. Of course, the Huayra and the LaFerrari were not the only treats. Everywhere we turned, there were memorable cars. This year, there were lots of Cunninghams – an American supercar from the 50’s – a wonderful 1931 Alfa Grand Sport with a body by Touring, and one of my favorites, a Cadillac built for Rita Hayworth with a body by Ghia. I can hardly wait for next year.
(Post updated 8/29/15 to reflect credit for Pagani mirror back photo by Michele.)