High Fives for the Pagani Zonda Cinque

Only five fortunate drivers will own one. Only five 2009 Zonda Cinque cars will be built at Pagani Automobili in Modena, Italy — hence the “Cinque” (Italian, “cheen-kway”).

You will need an armored car of American five spots, though, to own one of these carbon-fiber supercars, equal to the best of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. The ticket price for the svelte Italian mid-engine is $1.24 million.

This street legal version of the race-only Zonda R carries a 7.3-liter V12, detuned, if you will, to 678 horsepower from that rocket ride’s explosive 750. Still, the Cinque accelerates, in equally galactic style, 0-62 mph in 3.4 seconds and tops, the Pagani people say, at 217 mph.

Creator Horacio Pagani consulted with five-time Formula One World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio on the concept Zondas. In 1992, Pagani constructed a prototype; Dallara wind tunnel-tested the first model in 1993. Fangio then introduced Pagani to Mercedes, which agreed to supply its V12 engine.

Originally, the Zonda was to be named “Fangio F1,” but when the racing legend died in 1995, Pagani renamed the car after a fast-moving Argentinean air current wafting out of the towering Andes. Good choice for a car that will blow past many summit-level sports cars.

Pagani has been designing cars since he was 12, debuting with racers when he was 20 on a project for Renault. The great engineer Alfieri at Lamborghini put him to work. Before establishing his company, Modena Design, Pagani was involved in projects such as the restyling of the Jalpa and the design of the Countach Evoluzione (with a 100 percent carbon chassis), the Diablo, the Lamborghini P140, the L30 and the Diablo Anniversary. Modena Design has also collaborated with companies such as Ferrari and Aprilia.

The Cinque is the latest incarnation of the Zonda, which debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 1999. Altogether, about 100 vehicles, in coupes and convertibles, have been produced, beginning in 1999 with that first Mercedes-Benz M120-equipped Zonda.

Subsequent versions, advancing consistently in aerodynamics, power and light-weight construction, include the 2000 Zonda C12 S; the 2002 Zonda C12 S 7.3; the 2003 Zonda GR, with a terminal speed of 215 mph; the Zonda C12 S Monza, which debuted at the 2004 Paris Motor Show; the 2005 Zonda C12 F, with a special clubsport model producing 641 horsepower, which held the record for the fastest lap by any production car around the Nürburgring racetrack until that was recently bettered by the 2009 Corvette ZR1; the Zonda F, recalling Fangio; the 2006 Zonda Roadster F; and the almost entirely new 2007 Zonda R Clubsport.

Combining the upgrades of the Zonda F and Zonda R, the Cinque, created at the request of a Hong Kong-based Pagani dealer, is expected to be the final Zonda variant before the model’s replacement in a few years. The expected delivery date is June 2009 for the five cars. The new owners will receive track performance for the street, delivered by the racing specialists at Mercedes AMG. Performance details include an Inconel/titanium exhaust system coated with ceramic and a new central air intake.

For the first time in a Zonda, the potent powerplant connects to a Cima clutchless sequential gearbox, robotized by Automac engineering — resulting in shifts in less than 100 milliseconds. The driver will be able to control this by way of paddles on the steering wheel and a shift on the console.

The Cinque features traction control and ABS by Bosch with magnesium and titanium suspension components, developed with Swedish suspension specialist, Öhlins. Drivers will choose four different settings, with 10 adjustments each.

Pagani-logoed APP monolithic wheels, with titanium wheel nuts, are forged in aluminum and magnesium and shod with Pirelli PZero’s; fronts are 255/35/19 and rears 335/30/20. The Brembo brakes are carbon-ceramic: The fronts are six-piston calipers and the rears four-piston calipers with extra air intakes. That means the operator can brake from about 60 mph to 0 in about two seconds.

Because of the mid-engine design, weight distribution is excellent: 47 percent to 53 percent rear. With revised bodywork, such as a longer front spoiler and a new rear wing, a flat floor pan and new rear air extractors, the car creates 750 kg of downforce at 186 mph; that’s half its weight in downforce. What’s more, the Zonda Cinque generates 1.45g of cornering force — little wonder why the earlier Zonda performed so well on the challenging German track.

Key to the Zonda Cinque’s remarkable agility and performance is the construction. “The particularity of Zonda is in its special materials and processing,” Pagani explains. These aircraft-derived materials, combining technology and beauty, include carbon fiber, aluminum alloys, chromium-molybdenum sheets and the latest development in advanced composed materials made with threads of carbon fiber and titanium. First used on Zonda R and Zonda Cinque, this last combination will also be used on future generation models.

Because of the lightweight materials, the Cinque’s total weight is just 2,688 pounds without fluids — about 40 pounds less than that of the F model. Other cars in its class weigh from 30 to 50 percent more.

Pagani also attributes the Zondas’ uniqueness to the highly specialized workforce creating and manufacturing them: “Skill and passion merge for a mix of technology and art expressed more than 500 years ago by Leonardo da Vinci.” Then, too, these cars are extremely exclusive — about 20 annually — some five times higher than the requested number. The Zonda is a great wine: “It expresses in the right doses a philosophy, a Latin spirit and a taste of Italy.”

Although the car has been publicized in black, silver and red, the five owners can coordinate their interior and exterior colors with Zonda. All five Cinques, however, will be equipped with a carbon chassis, leather-covered carbon fiber Toora racing seats; a carbon fiber steering wheel; four-point seatbelts; molybdenum steel roll-bars with carbon fiber coating; and a rubber racing fuel tank with four fuel pumps and quick refuel filler similar to those on GT race cars.

Look for the five next year — but not too hard.