I am shipping off to Boston whooooooo oooohh” could this be a coincidence? As I put my body to rest in the window seat of the American Airlines Boeing 747 and put on the headphones, the raunchy, angry voice of Dropkick Murphys’ frontman Ken Casey resonates through my skull, violently remembering me where I was headed. Yep, Boston, the home of NBA’s Celtics, lively American-born Irishmen and the only Pagani Zonda ever to be allowed to circulate overseas. Yes, you heard that right: there is a Zonda roaring in the U.S.A. and by the time you’ll be reading this she’ll probably be already back in Europe.
“I am a sailor peg, and I’ve lost my leg, climbing up the top sails, I’ve lost my leg!” goes on this unruly Irish-punk chant, yet thankfully I have lost none of my arms and legs and I am not shipping to Massachussets by sea. I am still able to walk and I am flying off to Boston to retrieve the charm of one of Italy’s most prized creations: a Pagani.
Why would I take an airplane to drive a car that I can “easily” find in Europe? Since I am a sinful hedonist I did so in order to enjoy the fall from the privileged perspective of a carbon fiber, wood, leather, and aluminium cocoon, cuddled by the melody of a Mercedes-Benz 7.3 liter naturally aspirated V12.
Our goal? To make the most intriguing Escape so far and the one that is unique and special. If the “sense of occasion” is what Pagani’s oozes every time you see one, picture driving the car to those tiny, unwary town on an early, frosty morning…in America.
After listening to the entire Dropkick Murphys discography throughout the 10-hour flight and feeling more like an Irishman than ever, it was time to deal with the jet lag, get the luggage off the plane and venture out to the adventure Escape on Wheels has been willing to do for quite some time at that point.
After getting off the plane, we stand in line at the car rental company’s offices outside Boston Edward Logan International airport to get our rental/support car (a brand new Fiesta ST, I love ‘Murica!) and then off to the secret location to see the car before we take it for a spin the following morning.
“The Spirit of America” the motto I see on every license plate is a constant reminder where I was landed: Massachusetts is one of America’s earliest states. This is where the U.S. Navy launched off its first ship in Marblehead, the USS Hannah, commissioned and paid privately by nonother than George Washington.
Could this be an Escape where we wanted to go to the very roots of America? Maybe, yet It wasn’t as we weren’t pursuing a historic trail, but in some way, history was following us.
After a night spent resting at a friend’s place in the western part of Boston, we woke up at a frosty 5.30 am in the morning to set the gear up and head on to the garage where the car was kept.
The thin mist that was floating just a few inches above the ground and the early rays were slowly setting ablaze the lively kaleidoscope of orange, yellow and red leaves. The beauty of the fall finds its best expression in this region of the world: the warmth of the colors clashes with the freezing cold, and the trees look like they were set on fire.
As we arrive at the garage we find the Zonda already outside, with its deep “giallo tristrato” color shining brightly. At a first glance, it almost looks camouflaged with the environment, looking like a giant, yellow leaf.
Certainly, the Pagani Zonda S Roadster needs no introduction to car geeks. It’s the 555 hp hyper-GT that has been making heads turn and hearts stop for more than a decade now. Its 7.3 liter Mercedes Benz-AMG engine is as musical as an engine can get: 7000 rpm maximum range doesn’t sound as much, but wait until you hear it scream and you’ll mistake it for an F1 car!
With the sun slowly setting, we slip inside the cockpit, greeted by the smell of the fine leather: the interior is more important than the exterior: it is the place where we spend our time while driving and has to be beautiful. As you could easily imagine, the one in the Zonda is, remarkably well designed. It’s a combination of precious materials, leather, alluminium and wood.. As I press down the “fire up” button on the gear lever and the engine settles down at idle, with puffs of steam coming out of the iconic Pagani’s quad pipes. Zondas are renown for their grumpy attitude when cold: after a few minutes spent warming up the engine it’s time to head out for the drive we’ve been waiting for. It’s quite a sensation, Massachussets looks even better behind the windscreen of this machine. With the engine still warming up and a gearlever which doesn’t want to slip into second (typical issues with cold engine transmission) we venture out towards the Middlesex, the County where the first skirmish between the British and the Americans broke out in 1775, in the town of Lexington. From the Belmont Area we passed through Arlington and then up towards Lexington and Concord, heading towards the town of Acton as a final destination. Speaking about real historic America….
The Zonda is a remarkably light car for the modern times, at around 1300 kg with fuel and driver and feels very solid going down the road. It is a refined machine that it’s a hybrid between a performance-focused machine and a refined GT. it cruises comfortably yet it holds the distinction of being very connected to the road and transmitting every input impeccably.
The Zonda has no filters as it absorbs the imperfections in the road very well yet it seems that it lets you know exactly what’s happening underneath its carbon-fiber skin. At each bump, you can feel the suspension’s arms moving up and down and the car reacting to it. Yet, the great suspension set up smoothes out the ride, which results refined and surprisingly supple.
As soon as the engines warmed up, it’s go time: push hard where the road allows it and the power comes with a violent, yet very controllable delivery. If you’re driven some less extreme V12s like those from Jaguar or Mercedes you’ll reckon that the Zonda is a GT on steroids: while retaining the distinct creamy and torquey powerband, it delivers all its 555 with unspeakable fury. It’s an engine unique to the Zonda, where all the best elements from an internal combustion engine come togheter to form something truly remarkable.
It’s incredibly agile and very communicative: you feel the giant rear wheels coping with the differential and the suspension. It’s the most luxurious go-kart on earth. It is always well planted on the ground and the steering feels great: precise, quick and properly weighted.
Hypercars are the early morning rooster for us car fanatics and are not that unappreciated by other either. As we pass through the sleepy town of Lexington, headed towards Concord, it is not uncommon to have one too many thumbs up by the few citizens around.
Passing through the tight roads with the mist fading away and with the fall colors brighting up it is a great feeling indeed. This is not Modena, nor the South of France and neither is some Swiss mountain pass or the Stelvio: this is U.S.A., a Country that doesn’t permit the Zonda to circulate. There have been 0 Zondas overseas, and this is the only one that ever laid its rubber on this soil. What a magnificent experience!
As we reach the town of Concord we stop for breakfast, for which it feels like a proper lunch: aside from the typical Yankee culinary abundance, we’ve been around for quite some time and that didn’t feel like doing breakfast at all. A giant cup of coffee with muffins and all-American apple pie is the perfect accomplishment to this escape.
The Zonda S doesn’t even need to rev its engine to put up a show as a crowd of curious people begun to gather around it. “Is it a Ferrari?”, “It’s a Bugatti!”, “Does it have a V8?”suddenly we find ourselves surrounded by interested folks who just enjoyed the sight of this Yellow beast.
I swear I heard some applause when we powered away, towards the few more miles that were awaiting us.
With the permit expiring at the end of 2016, this was the only opportunity we got to drive a car that we could have been comfortably found in the old Europe. The heart of U.S.A.’s history, in inland Massachussets seen with an open roof Pagani, is fabulous.
The car’s color blended in harmony with the foliage and with the sound echoing against the trees it was fabulous.
With the Zonda passing through some of the most historical places of the 1775 American Independence war we had a feeling to have finally brought an amazing piece of automotive style and engineering in one of the most historic places on earth.
For a hypercar that have made American car collector gone mad, it’s a shame it didn’t make it to be available for sale in the U.S.A.. We couldn’t have hoped for a better location for this Escape: not the Sunset Strip or Miami, but the very heart of America, in some of the most important places where it was created. 1775 marked the beginning of the American Revolution, and to honor that as proper car guys we embraced the freedom of experiencing out very own piece of history: a Zonda in the United States.