The Pagani Zonda Barchetta

The Pagani Zonda Barchetta is now officially one of the most expensive automobiles in the world. Dripping design and oozing sporty contours throughout, a Pagani Zonda is what you might buy after you’ve become bored with your Lamborghini,
writes Shannon Berkley.


A mid-engine sports car made by Italian sports car maker Pagani, the Zonda has wowed fans ever since it first appeared in person at the 1999 Geneva Motor Show. As evidence of its rarity, by 2019 only a small total of 140 cars had been built, being both two-door coupés and roadster variants, with the Barchetta the last in a line of carbon fibre animals on four wheels.

Originally destined to be named after F1 champ Juan Manuel Fangio as Fangio F1, when Fangio died in 1995 in Argentina, it was renamed as Zonda after a hot local Argentinian wind. With a mid-sized engine averaging around 6LT, Pagani sports cars are the last word in bespoke Italian sports cars, more rarefied than any other, and costing millions of dollars apiece.

Mark Zuckerberg drives a Pagani, although it’s not a Zonda Barchetta, the car that was first unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2017, being given as a gift to company founder Horacio Pagani on his 60th birthday. Its emergence was also coincidental with the Zonda’s 18th anniversary. The following year, Horacio Pagani showed the car off at Goodwood Festival of Speed in West Sussex, England, in 2018. Everywhere it goes, it wows audiences and gains fans. At a whopping $15 million price tag, very few are ever going to own one.


With a history of AMG-built engines of all sizes up to V12, Zondas have always been gutsy track huggers, and when you consider that the Barchetta’s top end is around 366kph, it’s the closest anyone off the track will come to track racing. That’s a speed not uncommon in F1 racing.

Of course, looks only go so far at that speed, and some serious Italian engineering sits beneath the car in the form of double wishbone suspension. It is made from an alloy called avional, a copper-aluminium metal more usually found in airframe construction. A series of rockers float the Barchetta nicely through gritty corners, and the roadholding is unlike anything a sedan could ever hope for. 

To Pagani’s credit, while they have engineered a street version of a race car, they haven’t simply given it speed and power. The handling is what you expect (and need!) from a car with this kind of performance.

The exterior styling is also superb, although it’s really in the smart marriage of racing design and interior comfort that the Zonda Barchetta shines. With forged aluminium wheels, the Barchetta is aware of its own strength. The average car might sport steel or cast-iron wheels, while more expensive and bespoke cars like the Barchetta tend towards a single piece, forged aluminium wheel. This gives the wheel extra strength, as in the forging process, the material is heated and pressurised into a stronger end product. 

At around 1.2 metric tons and pushing speeds that belong on the track, it was essential that Pagani add phenomenal stopping power to the car. This happens on the back of large Brembo brakes, and the braking system overall is matched to the rest of the car. The huge four- and six-piston ventilated disc brakes make braking as easy as accelerating, which is quite an accomplishment for those used to sloppier braking in other sports car brands. The Barchetta was always a racing machine, just one designed to look at home in suburbia.

P Zero Corsa tyres from Pirelli complete the picture, and here Pirelli have come as close as possible to making a racing tyre legal. Drawing design inspiration from the motorsports game, Pirelli are no strangers to equipping stylish sports cars. The Corsa tyres also have noise-cancelling technology in play, cutting cabin noise by at least 50%. They have amazing grip and roadholding ability, with cabin comfort, all in one.


The most basic chassis for cars has been either a ladder design, or its avantgarde development, the backbone chassis, basically a rigid sopine connecting the front and back of the vehicle. There are also skateboard, X-frame, and perimeter chassis options in play in cars, but the Barchetta skips over that body-on-frame architecture and employs a monocoque chassis. 

The monocoque chassis was pioneered by the Lotus F1 team years ago and has been a standard feature of Lotus cars ever since. The Zonda also has a monocoque chassis made out of a proprietary Pagani material known as Carbo-Triax HP52, a carbo-titanium composite, billed by Pagani as being even stronger (and lighter) than carbon fibre. Used first in the Zonda R and then the Zuckerberg car, the Huarya, the material helps Paganai shed hundreds of kilograms in the final product.

With the Barchetta, Pagani for the first time covered the back wheels, and to do that they employed carbon fibre. Remarkably strong and super lightweight, carbon fibre is also a pricey shell for any car. Most cars have touches of carbon fibre on them, just enough to show some bling while staying within the determined manufacturing costs. Pagani has been indulgent, aiming at a complete carbon fibre body build and hang the expense! 

The body sits on front and rear subframes of chrome-moly vanadium tubing, and overall, Pagani engineers have managed to emulate race car weight and performance, while maintaining the integral strength of the car through the use of both proprietary and racing best practice materials.

One of the most unmistakable features of the Barchetta is the wrap-around windshield up front. Adding the flair only the Italians can bring to an automobile, a huge amount of research (and expense) went into making such a stylish windscreen while still maintaining its strength and performance.

Top of the list for many as an impetus to buy a Barchetta is its exclusivity. As a boutique car maker, Pagani has always had an extremely limited production line by design, as Horacio Pagani knew from the outset that exclusivity and rarity would propel such a dynamic car into the upper echelons — assuming that he could get it to look as good as he hoped and perform as well as a race car. 

Lamborghini and Ferrari look like sell-outs in comparison to Pagani, as even years ago, when the Zonda S 7.3 Roadster emerged in 2003, Pagani offered only 40 of the cars for sale. That ethos has persisted, as when the Zonda F was released in 2005, only 25 cars were offered for sale.

Uber exclusive and making Barchetta drivers virtually unique wherever they are in the world, only three Barchettas were made to launch the model, with one being kept by Pagani himself. That’s exclusivity! It’s not to say that only three will ever be made, as customers can order the car built for them, but Pagani has managed to present the style and performance that justifies it, while pipping even Ferrari and Lotus for exclusivity supreme.


Buying a car for your purposes doesn’t get any more personalised than this. It’s extremely rare, and mighty pricey, but for those with the disposable cash, no other car can say “uniquely me” as does the Barchetta.

To be fair to the Barchetta, it’s not a snobbish wannabe without merit, as truly exceptional and highly detailed engineering has gone into its makeup. It can walk the talk; it can justify its price tag from a variety of angles. Not only is the design superb, but the materials employed are also some of the most space-age alloys in existence, while a carbon fibre whole body comes as an unavoidable expense. As any petrolhead can tell you, once you carry a stylish racing pedigree across a car’s makeup, every input becomes a high-cost process of R&D. 

The engine on the Barchetta is Mercedes-Benz V12, and comes engineered by one of the most respected performance engine houses in the world. Add the brakes, chassis build and suspension design, and you end up with a super stylish car that demands major expense and precision engineering in every corner.

Built to order, all Pagani cars are a personalised journey into the racetrack-inspired joys of supreme style and luxury, and each individual car is doted on and fussed over before leaving the factory. With a top-end price comes top-end service, and Barchetta customers will almost become part of the family when they buy one. That too is a major draw card for buyers, as for them, getting the same service out of your automaker as you do from your high-end tailor is the kind of next-level style and service.   EG