Let's take the clocks back to the year I was born, 1996. Back then, the McLaren F1 (the only road-legal car the company had ever produced) was the fastest car in the world, the name Pagani meant little to those outside Lamborghini, and Christian Von Koenigsegg wasn't quite the well-known automotive genius he is today. Times were simpler, and the Italian powerhouses of Ferrari and Lamborghini were much more concerned about each other than any rival companies aspiring to steal their beloved customers. Much has changed since then, so I would like to take a look back on how these companies have grown in the last 20-ish years and why I'm truly excited to see how they continue to grow in the future.
First, the English. After McLaren produced the earth-shatteringly-quick F1, they took a bit of a hiatus from the realm of stop signs and parking tickets to focus on what they really care about, racing. After years of success in Formula 1, McLaren decided to rejoin the road car game with their rival to the Ferrari 458, the MP4-12C, in 2011. The car was faster than the Ferrari, more efficient, more comfortable, and re-established McLaren as a supercar maker. After an open-top version of the 12C and a revised version with a bit of a power increase, the car with the least-catchy name ever was replaced by the 650S, a more powerful and redesigned Ferrari-fighter. With the introduction of the 540C, 570S and the 675LT, McLaren is really starting to develop a proper supercar lineup, with something for every wealthy enthusiast. But, of course, I haven't even gotten to the best part yet.
The McLaren P1, successor to the legendary F1 and member of hybrid-hypercar royalty, was released in 2013. After being back in the street-legal industry for less than a decade, McLaren unleashed a 903-horsepower monster that took the world by storm and (like pretty much all limited-production Mac's have since), sold out before a single one of its 375 customers had even driven it. McLaren as a company is obsessed with speed and track performance, and the future surely holds many more four-wheeled vessels to warp speed. As their engineers and designers constantly learn more from their F1 racing experience, their road cars will become more and more capable, which gets me more than a little excited for what's next.
Next, the Italians. 3 years after my birth in 1999, Mr. Horacio Pagani shocked the world with the introduction of the Zonda, the car that was poised to steal the show from the companies started by Enzo and Ferruccio. It did just that, and after countless variations, special editions, one-offs, etc., the Zonda is still regarded by many (myself included) as one of the supercar/hypercar greats. The Zonda's combination of look-at-me (yet beautiful) styling, mind-blowing speed and intoxicating engine note made it an icon. So much so, in fact, that Pagani didn't start producing another model until 2012 when they debuted the even quicker, even more advanced Huayra.
I was lucky enough to take a trip to Italy last summer, which included a trip to the Pagani factory, and it stood out beyond any other car factory I've ever visited (including, dare I say it, Ferrari and Lambo). The level of craftsmanship, attention to detail and effort that goes into making their cars is nothing short of incredible. Every room was full of workers hand-crafting individual components of the cars, with everything from name badges and interior switches to large pieces of the Huayra's carbon fiber bodywork being prepped. The fact that Pagani can keep up with the worldwide demand for its incredible cars, all while doing things the old-fashioned way, is an incredible feat. On the street or a track, Paganis can keep up with (if not pass) pretty much everything the supercar world can throw at them, all while Horacio and his work force go over and above what most other manufacturers do to make their customers happy. I'm confident that Pagani will continue to produce awe-inspiring cars for many years to come, and I can't wait to watch that unfold.
Finally, the Swedes. Arguably the most insane and unique of the three manufacturers I've discussed, the only thing Koenigsegg knows is ludicrous speed. Remember that McLaren F1 I mentioned earlier with its 243 mph top speed? Guess what knocked that out of the record books? Yep, a V8-powered beast that looked like a rocket ship, built in an old airfield in Sweden. Thus is the story of Koenigsegg, a story of cars that look like nothing else on the road, accelerate harder than everything short of a top-thrill dragster, and can all be enjoyed with the top down (other than the insane One:1). But it's not just the ferocious speed of Koenigsegg cars that gives them their identity, it's innovation. For years, engineer and company founder Christian Von Koenigsegg has done his absolute best to solve problems in the automotive world that many didn't even know exist. Koenigsegg's experimentation with different methods of aspiration, aerodynamics, fueling and production alone set them apart from pretty much anyone else on Earth. Who else 3D-prints their own turbochargers? Who else has a top-mounted, fully folding rear wing? Who else straps two superchargers on an engine and then tunes it to run on environmentally-friendly E85 for even more power? Who else develops a car WITHOUT A GEARBOX that can go from 0-248 miles per hour in around 20 seconds? Who else was poised to shatter the Nurburgring production car record before the speed limits were enforced? I think you'll get my point.
The people at Koenigsegg don't just push the envelope, they stick a piece of dynamite in it. That's why I'm excited for them. If there's one manufacturer out there that craves performance figures most people would deem completely unnecessary, it's them, and I love them for it.
In the time that I've been alive, these three manufacturers have risen from humble beginnings to become powerhouses in the world of high-performance and excess. They all do things their own way, and all produce cars that reflect that. As I look into the future, I'm extremely optimistic for all three of these companies as they continue to shatter expectations. Just look at how far Lamborghini has come since its first V12 supercar. The advancements made between the Miura SV in the 60s and the new Aventador SV are pretty astonishing to think about, so I can't imagine what McLaren, Pagani and Koenigsegg will be making in 50 years. What a thought that is.