In 1953, for a few brief weeks, the fastest road car in the world was all-Spanish. The Spanish designer Wilfredo Ricart had fled the Spanish Civil War to Italy, where he was Technical Director and worked with Enzo Ferrari at Alfa Romeo.
By the end of the 1940s, he was back in Spain working for the government bus and truck company ENASA (Empresa Nacional de Autocamiones SA). Franco’s government sensed a PR coup and backed Ricart’s proposal for a Spanish supercar to dominate all European rivals. They even gave him the former Hispano-Suiza factory to work in.
The Pegaso Z102 began as a demonstration of technical and engineering brilliance. Ricart’s forte was engines, and he created a fire-breathing hellhound out of a mere 2.5 litre V8 upstart (though he allowed for it to be increased to 2.8 and even 3.2 litres) using four Weber carburetors (one of very few non-Spanish parts) to suck in the necessaries. Ferrari’s horse pranced. The winged Pegasus flew.
The Pegaso Z102 was all but a Grand Prix lion dressed as a frisky lamb. The trouble was that nobody could actually see the technological beauty under the relatively lumpen exterior — ENASA, with the best will in the world, was still accustomed only to making trucks and buses. On his second visit to the Paris Salon, Ricart finally attracted at least professional interest by showing the Z102 with a clear perspex body, revealing his inmost secrets.
For styling, he turned to Superleggera Iburing in Milan, and Saoutchik of Paris, who made the handful of cars we think of when we think of Pegaso. Touring made perhaps the most beautiful, the one-off Z102B ‘Thrill’; but Saoutchik made the two-seat cabriolet and two/three seat Berlinetta whose surviving examples conjure up the same passion and excitement as their inspirational ancestor, Hispano-Suiza.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1951 (until 1958)
2,816 cc V8
Top speed of more than 100 mph
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Pegaso was dogged by really bad luck, with accidents and technical misfortunes outside its control that deterred its backers. Even its world speed record only lasted a few weeks before a Jaguar XK120 (described as ‘mildly modified’ which doesn’t help) blitzed the ‘Flying Mile’ at 173 mph (278 km/h).