Ever since the ‘60s, the Mini has found favour among all walks of life. We found out if it could repeat the trick with legendary hypercar builder, Pagani.
We travel to Modena in Italy to check out the latest addition to the Pagani fleet, a 1998 Rover Mini Cooper Sport.
When we say we’re in Italy’s famous Motor Valley region to speak to Horacio Pagani, the genius behind the legendary Zonda and Huayra hypercars, you’d be forgiven for thinking we’ve got our magazines confused. With their stunning mix of technology, beauty, performance and incredible attention to detail, Pagani’s creations are among the most revered and exclusive in the world. And yet, here we are to talk to him on rather more familiar terms about the latest addition to the Pagani family fleet – a humble Rover Mini Cooper.
But before we meet Horacio, we‘re immediately bowled over by Pagani’s awe-inspiring new premises. It’s an incredible facility where the factory floor has been designed to recreate a traditional Italian piazza, and even the sink basins and taps in the toilets are made from carbon-fibre!
It hasn’t always been this way of course. When Horacio first
pitched up at Lamborghini in 1982 on the recommendation of Formula One legend Juan Manuel Fangio, he had little more than a pushbike and a tent to his name – the continuation of an inspiring tale that had begun in his native Argentina.
Born in a small town with no real culture for design or cars, he was inspired by his parents’ love of the arts. His mother was a painter and played the piano, while his father, who worked as a baker, was keen on jazz. But at the age of six or seven he began to pay more attention to the cars on the local streets, and became fascinated by their engineering and dynamics. The balsa wood models he made still sit proudly on display today.
ART VS SCIENCE
As he entered his teens, Horacio was faced with the dilemma of whether to either dedicate himself to the arts or pursue a more scientific education. It was at this point he would read a magazine article that would define his life. It included Leonardo Da Vinci’s Renaissance claim that art and science could ‘walk together hand in hand’, and it’s this philosophy that has influenced Horacio and his company’s work ever since. The aesthetics alone for the Huayra took five years to develop, and every single component could justifiably be mounted in a display case.
Though his approach would appear to be at odds with Alec Issigonis’ belief in form solely through function, there are striking parallels. Both men left their native country at a young age, and in the Mini and Zonda, both have created cars that are the obsessive works of a sole individual. Technology has moved on immeasurably since Issigonis first sketched the Mini, but there’s still room for a proper drafting table in Horacio’s office.
While eyeing up fantastic Pagani creations past and present, including a Formula Two single-seater racer designed when Horacio was just 23, we’re greeted by his son, Christopher. The Mini is his new daily drive, purchased from Marco Pinzauti at Just Minis in Milan. It’s not the first time an iconic Italian carmaker has been associated with the Mini of course – it’s no secret that Enzo Ferrari was a big fan – but this isn’t the ‘60s anymore. Here is a car originally designed as a utilitarian transport, and seemingly the complete opposite of the rest of the exotica surrounding us. What role did it play in Pagani’s world? The answers would surprise and delight us.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. What are your first memories of the Mini?
Horacio: There was a magazine in Argentina named Automundo. It normally featured racing cars, with a few pages dedicated to motorsport in Europe – Formula One and so on. When a new car was coming out, they also had a few pages covering it. I was born in 1955, and started reading these magazines when I was about 10 years old. I’d seen that the Mini Cooper was winning rallies like the Monte Carlo against much bigger and more exotic cars, and I fell in love with the design. It was small but very clever. And of course, Cooper was known for building the first F1 racing car with the engine in the back. It was very emotional to see Mini and Cooper together – it was a perfect combination.
A 1998 MPi Cooper Sport, the Pagani Mini is in great condition.
Horacio, Christopher and Marco discuss Mini mechanics - a little more basic than a V12 AMG motor!
The main man himself, Horacio Pagani.
Not quite as low-slung as a Zonda...