The Pegaso Z-102 was a technologically advanced sports car built by the Spanish in a truck factory between 1951 and 1958. It’s difficult to know exactly how the Z-102 managed to get approved by the accounts department in the Pegaso factory, but the fact that the chief technical manager of the company was Wilfredo Ricard – a former senior engineer at Alfa Romeo and the designer of the Alfa Romeo 512, likely played a significant part.
Ricard had a blank slate to develop a sports car that could race against anything in the world and win. It was quite the mission brief but rather than shy away from it, he took all of the most advanced sports car engineering principles of the day and rolled them into one vehicle.
Most of the work that went into the car, went into the engine. It was developed as an all-alloy V8 with twin double overhead cams, and 4 desmodromic valves per cylinder.
Power was fed to the rear wheels via a 5-speed transaxle, with the transmission portion behind the differential to improve weight distribution. Pegaso originally offered the engine as a 2.5 litre unit, but it was quickly offered in additional 2.8 and 3.2 litre capacities.
The first bodies used on the car were built in-house at Pegaso from steel, this caused a significant weight gain and largely negated any advantages that had been engineered into the chassis and drivetrain. It was quickly decided to outsource much of the coachbuilding to Carrozzeria Touring, Saoutchik and Serra – although Touring would eventually body most of the cars.
The designers at Touring created a new body from lightweight alloy that was mounted lower than the original steel bodies – improving GVW and CoG simultaneously. This new body transformed the Spanish sports car into a genuine world-beater, and in the early 1950s the Z-102 was the fastest production car in the world, with a top speed of almost 160 mph.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the Spanish car was the lack of funding for development, the model showed enormous potential but was hamstrung by the lack of additional engineering that could have been invested in the drivetrain to further improve handling and reliability.
The Pegaso Z-102 was raced in the 1953 Le Mans trials but crashed out at over 200 km/h, it also put in an exceedingly competitive effort in the 1954 Carrera Panamericana – but suffered another accident at speed which cost the car a podium position or even a potential win. In 1953 the model broke four official R.A.C.B. (Royal Automobile Club de Belgique) worldwide records including the fastest road car – with a speed of 243.079 km/h average in the flying-start kilometre.
By 1958 the funding for the exotic and exceedingly expensive car had begun to dry up, and the bean-counters were keen to end production and focus on the more profitable but less exciting business of building trucks. Pegaso did briefly experiment with a Z-103 but it was short lived, and the lifespan of the factory’s sports car division was just 8 years. During this time 86 cars had been built, and the surviving examples are highly sought after by collectors.
This particular Z-102 has had 4 owners and spent its entire life in Spain, it’ll be offered for sale for the first time in a generation at the upcoming December 10th auction due to be held in New York. The estimated value of the car is between $800,000 and $1,000,000 USD – and you can click here to read more or register to bid.
Photo Credits: Tim Scott © 2015 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s