San Cesario sul Panaro, Italy - Horacio Pagani believes, as did Leonardo da Vinci, that machines should be a combination of art and science.
And that applies most of all to performance cars, shaped as they are by to slip sweetly and smoothly through the air. Performance cars such as the Pagani Huayra, first shown at the 2011 Geneva Show - and which immediately became an icon of form and function, alongside the Lamborghini Countach, the Ferrari Dino and the Jaguar E-Type.
But more than a year earlier Pagani had begun work on a roadster version of the Huayra. At first he went the conventional route, sawing off the roof of a Huayra coupé, bracing the underbody and fitting conventional doors in place of the coupé’s gull wings. It worked, but it just didn’t look right - and to Pagani, that wasn’t good enough.
So, after two years of battling with the modified coupé body, he scrapped the whole project and started from scratch, designing a whole new car that would be unmistakably a Huayra, with a strong family resemblance to the coupé, but with subtle styling differences that would make it look just right as a roadster.
Built like a jet plane
The front treatment is bolder, framed by wider, more sharply flared wheel arches, the interior trim has been totally redesigned to be permanently on display, rather than visible only at close quarters by the occupants, and the roll bars (which the coupé doesn’t have) have been subtly shaped to echo the curves of the engine cover - which is, of course, totally different to the sweeping fastback of the coupé.
It takes its inspiration from jet aircraft design, with the two roll-bar fairings tapering in towards each other to form a single channel for the four tailpipes, mounted high up so that the exhaust gases form part of the planned and shaped airflow over the car and its split rear spoiler.
It’s a complex work of art, and needs to looked at from several different points of view in order to grasp its subtleties, which is why our gallery contains more than the usual number of rear and high-angle shots.
The Huayra coupé was the first production car with a computerised active aerodynamic system; that’s been further developed for the roadster, with two front and two rear flaps, and active front suspension, working independently to keep the flat bottom of the car parallel with the ground all the time.
Asking the impossible
Pagani also designed not one but two removable roofs, the first a gently curved carbon-fibre frame with a large central glass panel, smoothly extending the curve of the windshield and A pillars to a line just above and behind the roll bars, while the second is a simple fabric cover with carbon-fibre bracing rods, that can be rolled up and carried in the boot, ready to be quickly and simply installed if it starts raining while you’re out on the road.
And then he threw a curve ball at his engineers: he wanted the roadster to be both lighter and stiffer than the hard-top. This is theoretically impossible because the underfloor bracing required to minimise body flex on a roadster is, of necessity, heavier than the roof it replaces.
They did it, but they had to invent three new materials to get it right. The first is a carbon-fibre moulding reinforced with titanium, the second a composite material reinforced with a mix of carbon fibre and a newly-developed filament called Triax HP52, and the third a new aluminum alloy called HiForg, which is used to make suspension components 25 percent lighter than the equivalent parts on the coupé.
As a result, the roadster weighs in at 1280kg dry, about 80kg lighter than the coupé, and the torsional rigidity of its tub is actually higher.
The Huayra’s 5980cc twin-turbo, narrow angle V12 with dry-sump lubrication is built specially for Pagani by Mercedes-AMG, and has been upgraded using the development data for the limited-edition Huayra BC coupé to deliver 562kW at 6200 revs (23kW more than the standard Huayra coupé) with more than 1000Nm already on tap at 2400rpm.
It drives the rear wheels via a seven-speed transverse sequential gearbox (chosen because it’s 40 percent lighter than a double-clutch transmission capable of handling the same power and torque) specially developed by for the BC with carbon-fibre synchromesh rings and a built-in electronic differential.
Brembo developed special six-piston front and four-piston rear callipers for the brakes - 380 x 24mm carbon-ceramic discs all round - to reduce unsprung weight, and the Huayra roadster rolls on 20 inch front and 21 inch rear Pirelli PZero Corsa tyres, specially made for the roadster incorporating 12 different rubber compounds, enabling it to pull an incredible 1.8g of lateral force.
The Huayra Roadster will make its world debut at the Geneva motor show on 7 March. Only 100 will be made - because in terms of Pagani's agreement with Mercedes-AMG, he can only buy 100 Roadster engines - and they will sell for a reported $2.5 million (R32.5 million) each. But that's academic, because they're all sold anyway.