Auto Makers: Italy (Part 5A)

When you think about car makers the US, UK, Germany, Italy, & Japan are the big names that come to mind. Of course the actual manufacturing is done all over the world no matter what parent company name goes on the final product or where it is ultimately sold.

It’s also true that a ton of cars are made by manufacturers other than the big 5 listed above. Many are even sold in large markets like the US but some of them are not sold outside their own borders. This series starts with the big auto countries but it won’t stop until we’ve covered every country that makes a car for sale to the public.

This summer we did a 6 part series on US Auto Makers starting with July 4th. Now that we’ve finished that and fall is upon us, let’s dive into a country that doesn’t export as many cars by volume but makes up for it by what they charge per car. Italy is known for it’s luxury sports cars and super cars, so this should be a fun one.

Pagani

Horacio Pagani founded and is still at the helm of this Pagani in San Cesario sul PanaroMO, Italy, in 1992, only 30 years ago. So why start this post with such a young car maker? Because as of the writing of this post, it’s one of only two Italian car manufacturer that’s not currently part of a giant, car-making conglomeration.

Pagani left Lamborghini Composites division on good terms in 1988 to form his own, Pagani Composites Research. The new company continued to work with Lamborghini on the four editions including the Diablo. By 1991 Pagani established Modena Design to handle his design and prototyping services and went to work on creating his own car, which he intended to name after his friend and dominant F1 Racer, Juan Manuel Fangio.

In 1994, Mercedes-Benz agreed to supply V12 engines and the Zonda C12 began rolling off the line for a couple million dollars a piece. Out of respect the car was renamed when Fangio died in a racing disaster.

In 2005 Pagani announced their decision to increase production and enter the American market.

2014 Pagani Zonda Revolución 

Noteworthy: On 30 June 2010, the Pagani Zonda R completing the Nürburgring in 6:47, a new record for production-based cars (beating the Ferrari 599XX).

Pagani’s first model, the Zonda, featured a unique circular, four pipe exhaust system. It is powered by a mid-mounted Merc DOHC V12. Pagani made 3 varieties of the Zonda (including a roadster and racecar conversion), and three more varieties of Zonda F, the Zonda cinque and the Zonda Tricolore, before peaking with the Zonda HP Barchetta of which there were only 3 ever made. Two of the Barchetta’s were sold for $15 million a piece and one remains in Pagani’s personal collection.

Three things all the Zonda’s have in common: they max out around 215 MPH, they go 0-60 in less than 3.5 seconds, and they all look hot.

In 2011 Pagani released a second model the Huarya (named after an Incan god). Meant to be a successor to the Zonda, Pagani seems to have continued to make their Zonda for several years. The Huayra had a a Merc 6.0-litre twin-turbo M158 V12 engine, and a carbotanium body. (Carbotanium is a carbon fibre / titanium composit.) It’s acceleration remained the same but its top speed grew by 20MPH.

Huarya BC

After making only 100 of the base models, that retailed for 1,000,000 pounds each, they released the Huayra BC, a track focused named for Benny Caiola. Caiola was a car collector and friend of Pagani’s who bought the first Zonda. The Huayra BC has more torque and weighs over 1,000lbs less than the stock version. It’s tires contain12 different rubber compounds, the suspension and wishbones are made of Avional (aeronautical grade aluminum) and a Xtrac 7-speed sequential manual transmission plus an electro-hydraulic actuation system.

In 2017 Pagani made a roadster version with gull wing doors. What really sets it apart from the coupe version is the body composition, a material developed by Pagani that he calls ‘carbon triax.’ It’s allowed the car to be 40% lighter than the coupe. Pagani claims it accelerates so fast a driver experiences 1.8 G.

Pagani also created what are called Bespoke Editions, which are often commissioned by buyers, with other colors or upgrades. Pagani made 15 of them between 2004 and 2018 based on the Zhonda model and 10 on the Huayra.

Ferrari

Farrari is the other independent Italian car maker, but with a longer and very different type of origin story. One thing Ferrari and Pagani have in common is that they had no intention of making a production car. Officially founded by Enzo Ferrari in 1939 and headquartered in Maranello, Italy, but the story goes back further than that.

Born in 1898 Enzo rose to the top of Alfa Romeo’s racing division, which he named formed Scuderia Ferrari in 1929. Scuderia basically means stable and refers to a team. In 1939 Alfa spun Ferrari off and by 1940 they’ produced their own racecar based on a Fiat platform.

The Ferrari factory was bombed in WWII and rebuilt to include a production line of cars. The first Ferrari badged car came out in 1947. In 1969, Fiat took a 50% stake in Ferrari and the infusion of cash was put to good use expanding the factory. Fiat’s stake rose over time to 90% by 1988 the year of Enzo’s death.

As Fiat was acquired by Chrysler, Ferrari became a part of a major conglomerate, but the decision was made in 2015 to restructure Ferrari back to its own independent brand, by offering their stock to the market. The process was complete by January 3rd, 2016.

Ferrari did have enormous success in F1 racing gaining 16 constructors’ championships (the most of anyone) and having produced 15 drivers’ championship wins–again the highest number.

Testarossa

In the 1950s and 1960s, Ferrari allowed clients to personalize their vehicles straight from the factory. This philosophy added to the brand’s mystique. They went through a period of  Carrozzeria Scaglietti programme where customizations were standardized a bit, but the returned to their roots of building every Ferrari to an individual customer’s specification.

Ferrari’s production cars were also consistently successful. They made several popular models for the luxury sports car market, most noteworthy being the Enzo. F-60, or Enzo, came out in 2002. The company made 400 units (sold 399 and donated one to the Vatican.)  

Ferrari has produced 16 concept and special project cars beginning in 2008 and in the early 1980’s they went into supercars. There most iconic and perhaps most popular production car was the  Testarossa which went into production in 1984.

Lamborghini

It seems fitting to cover Lamborghini next, given it’s connection to Pagani. Lambo is currently part of VW group (there is probably an Axis joke in there but we’re too classy to make it.)

Ferruccio Lamborghini, an Italian manufacturing magnate, founded Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini S.p.A. in 1963 to compete with Ferrari, having previously founded Lamborghini Trattori, in 1948 to make tractors.

The line of 12 cylinder, a rear mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, luxury sports cars, sold well for about ten years, but the financial collapse and high gas prices of the early 70’s took there toll and in 1973 Lamborghini spun off their tractor division which still makes tractors today. The car division went bankrupt, was bought by Chrysler, sold to an Indonesian investment group or two, who ultimately flipped it to Volkswagen Group, who placed it under their Audi Division.

In 2021, the CEO of Lamborghini said that by 2024 all its models will be hybrid.

Lamborghini also makes Marine Engine, Motorcycles, a luxury SUV (the Urus) and racecars, but lets skip down to their iconic, and frankly sexy, luxury sports cars.

The company currently makes two models, the Aventador and the Huracán. The Aventador is a V12-powered sports car available in UltimateSVJ coupés, and roadster version. Lamborghini will phase out making this car by the end of 2022 so they can concentrate on their SUV…which may well be an attempt at suicide.

Murcielago R-GT 

The Huracan, is V10-powered and comes in  all-wheel-drive LP 610-4 coupé and Spyder, or low cost rear-wheel-drive LP 580-2 coupé and Spyder, or the track oriented versions of both.

Lamborghini is heavily involved in racing both GT3 and F1.

Also Lamborghini has created a number of Concept Cars, including Bertone’s 1967 Marzal, 1974 Bravo, and 1980 Athon, Chrysler’s 1987 Portofino, the Italdesign-styled Cala from 1995, the Zagato-built Raptor from 1996, but their very first was the 350GTV in 1963.

Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4 Spyder

Bullfighting is a key part of Lamborghini’s identity, beginning with Ferruccio visiting a Spanish fighting bull breeder in 1962 about a year before he founded his company with it’s raging bull emblem. The nomenclature of bullfighting is most seen in their naming conventions.

Lambo did name a couple cars alphanumerically, but grabbed three in a row from bullfighting:  Islero after a bull killed in the ring, Espada (and Estoc) are Spanish for the sword used to end a bull, and Jarama which is a region of Spain, famous for bull fighting (and car racing).

The Countach (/ˈkuːntɑːʃ/) is perhaps the most iconic of all Lambo’s and while it ironically doesn’t tie directly to bull fighting, it does come from a Piedmontese expletive roughly translating to “Holy Cow.”

Jalpa was named for a bull breed, and Diablo which means Devil is in reference to a famous fighting bull. And there are at least four other Lambo models that can be tied to bull fighting.

Two more noteworthy things about Lamborghini before we end: first, while the company was owned by Indonesian investors the name and IP were licensed to Mexican businessman Jorge Antonio Fernandez Garcia, which gives him the exclusive right to sell Lambos in Latin America, and to sell merch, and to manufacture certain models of Lamborghini locally. (Garcia means horse, which is Ferrari’s emblem, and that’s a joke we aren’t too classy to make.)

Second, there are two museums in BolognaEmilia-Romagna centered around the brand. One is Museo Lamborghini which targets the cars and company and Museo Ferruccio Lamborghini which targets the man, his houses and personal car collection.

Coming later this month we’ll cover Italian car makers that belong to the new mega, car-conglomerate Stellantis.

One thought on “Auto Makers: Italy (Part 5A)

  1. Pingback: Automakers: Italy (Part 5b) | The Kicker Blog

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