|Vehicle:||1954 Pegaso Z-102 Cabriolet|
|Original List Price:||$29,500|
|Tune Up Cost:||$1,050|
|Chassis Number Location:||Engine bulkhead, stamped into metal|
|Engine Number Location:||Intake side of block|
|Alternatives:||1954 Lancia Aurelia B20 GT, 1953 Maserati A6G/2000, 1953 Fiat 8V|
This car, Lot 28, sold for $990,000, including buyer’s premium, at Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance sale on August 16, 2014.
The Pegaso is arguably the most exotic car of the 1950s. It had an alloy, dry-sump, 4-cam V8 engine with desmodromic valves that produced a healthy 240 horsepower. This car is also fitted with rack-and-pinion steering, dual-circuit brake system, torsion-bar front, De Dion rear suspension and a limited-slip rear axle underneath bodywork from Carrozzeria Touring and Saoutchik.
Dodging war and designing cars
These were certainly not everyday cars. Wifredo Ricart’s departure from newly democratic Italy for the more-familiar comforts of fascist Spain at the end of World War II could have meant that one of the greatest and most creative minds in technical design might not have been able to continue to work in the automotive business.
Ricart originally fled Spain for Italy during the late 1930s because of the Spanish Civil War. He found a welcome home at Alfa Romeo, where the full-on push for armaments construction had created the need for a sure, firm hand over the aeronautical, truck and auto engineering staffs.
At Alfa, he soon indulged his passion for complex, high-performance engines with the development of the 16-cylinder supercharged Alfa Tipo 162 grand prix car — his answer to the all-conquering Silver Arrows from Germany.
Ricart also oversaw the creation of the heroic Tipo 1101 radial aircraft engine. This 28-cylinder, 50-liter beast developed over 2,000 horsepower and came just in time for the Alfa factory at Portello to be bombed during World War II. At the same time, he was busy developing what was hoped to be Alfa’s first new post-war car, the 6C 2000, a very modern small car with a new twin-cam, 6-cylinder engine and a 4-speed transaxle like the one that would be seen in Lancia’s Aurelia in 1950, but with a pre-selector control.
After Ricart’s departure from Alfa at the end of World War II, time and money were in short supply for tooling up for a completely new car, so the Alfa 6C 2000 sank without a trace.
A welcoming return
The opportunity to realize his creative fantasies with the deep pockets of the Spanish government-owned ENASA truck firm must have seemed like a gift from heaven to Ricart. That he also got the opportunity to create the world’s most sophisticated and capable GT and race car — and to show the Italians exactly how it should be done — was doubtlessly very pleasant as well.
In any event, the Pegaso Z-102 was a bit too complex, too heavy and too expensive to be the world beater it might have been. But Pegaso spurred Lancia, Ferrari and Maserati to advance their products a bit faster than at least the latter two were inclined to do.
From cabriolet to coupe to cabriolet
Turning to our lovely Pegaso Z-102, it’s often said that you should never buy a car with stories. That’s not strictly true, as it depends on the tale being told, when and by whom.
Our subject car started life as a cabriolet, became a coupe, then a cabriolet again. And I do love the story of why it was converted. Chassis flex? The idea of driving this car at any speed over undeveloped roads is a bizarre one indeed.
However, if you want to be practical and have a Pegaso as well, compromises must be made. Nevertheless, this car has never been abandoned, crashed, burned or otherwise maltreated during its life.
That counts for a great deal in my book.
The sum of its parts equals magic
I find all Pegaso cars fascinating. Any car that has an example named “Thrill” has got to be pretty special. “Thrill’ is the moniker for a swoopy coupe bodied by Carrozzeria Touring in 1954, which, like many Pegasos, features styling that has many awkward details that somehow still combine to create something truly magical — even if not conventionally beautiful. And I think every one of the 86 or so built, even those with the ugly-duckling in-house design, have an aura and feel that sets them apart from their very stellar competition.
Well-traveled and well sold
When this car appeared at the 2013 RM Auctions Amelia Island sale, it carried an estimate of $1.25m–$1.75m. It failed to sell at a high bid of $700k.
It then appeared in Paris at Artcurial’s Rétromobile sale on February 7, 2014, where it was reported sold at $970,812.
In between Amelia Island and Paris, the Pegaso had been treated to another cosmetic restoration which brought it back to the correct original light-blue shade it carried when first delivered. It seemed as if this most flamboyant of road cars had found its place not far from where it was first bodied. But that Paris sale apparently unwound, and here it was at Pebble Beach on offer again for the third time in 2½ years.
Okay, I will have to admit that this car is much more a park-and-shine than drive-and-thrash, but nevertheless it’s pretty neat to imagine blasting with your very significant other through the roads in the Bois de Boulogne on an otherwise quiet Sunday morning before driving up the Champs-Élysées for breakfast at the Ledoyen restaurant in the shadow of the Grand Palais. Why worry about the dirt and stone chips inside the open fenders — that’s what your chauffeur and an open account at Saoutchik was for.
Given that BMW 507s, Mercedes-Benz Gullwings and Lancia Aurelia Spider Americas sell for many hundreds of thousands more than this car, you could be pretty sure you’d never run into another Saoutchik Pegaso cabriolet on your drive.
Well sold, yes, but also appropriately bought. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Gooding & Company.)