The Fastest Car in the World You've Never Heard Of

OK, circa 1953. And if you’ve never heard of Spain’s Pegaso before, prepare to be surprised at what you find … Pegaso was born just after WWII in the former Hispano-Suiza factory under the watchful eye of Wilfredo Ricart. Initially, they only produced trucks, buses, and the like. Then Ricart had his Ferrucio Lamborghini moment, and decided to outdo his former rival at Alfa Romeo, one Enzo Ferrari. So Pegaso started a short but remarkably accomplished run as a sports car manufacturer, with the various incarnations of the Z-102 being its only offering. The Pegaso for sale here (no asking price, unfortunately) is an early production “prototype” (since I’m not an expert, I’m going to put that in quotation marks), with one of Pegaso’s excellent 4-cam, all-alloy V8s up front. The early Pegaso body is reasonably attractive, and the early cars were good for an 8.5 second sprint to 62 mph. That means this example is at the very least going to be an extremely nice vintage gran turismo.

Z-102 bodied by Touring, courtesy
Of course, I’d be a fool not to mention the later variations of the Z-102, which are generally regarded more fondly than the arguably “dumpy” early cars. (I think they’re only dumpy if you put the early cars right next to the later, coachbuilt ones, but you’re free to differ.) The gorgeous Touring-bodied cars, like the blue one above, recall some of my favorite early Ferraris. And the evil-looking Saoutchik coupes, below, are wonderfully sinister.
A Saoutchik coupe, image courtesy
But the ultimate version of the car, the one that you SHOULD know about, was the supercharged Touring barchetta. Using a 2.8 liter version of the engine fitted with desmodromic heads, in 1953 this Z-102 broke the world standing kilometer speed record for a production automobile at nearly 152 mph, toppling the old record set by the XK120. While a modified XK140 later apparently beat it, some sources say the record stood until the Mercedes 300SL broke it at around 160 mph. Regardless, the Pegaso Z-102 had a moment in the sun, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Just think about it for a second – it’s 1953, Europe is just crawling out of the ruins of a horrible war, Spain is a backwards, totalitarian country … and they produced a world record supercar sporting a 4-cam, supercharged, desmo-freaking-dromic V8? Ay dios mio!
A Touring barchetta, like the world record car.
(Is it complete sacrilege to point out that this looks a lot like a Datsun Fairlady Sports?) Anamera

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