Pegaso Z-102, the unknown Spanish supercar

It is customary to say that Ferruccio Lamborghini created his brand after a big dispute with Enzo Ferrari. We know less that he would not be the first to have delivered such a response. He was certainly preceded by a Spanish engineer, Wilfredo Ricart. Brilliant engine manufacturer, he was indeed often at the forefront, designing for example an engine with 4 valves per cylinder from the 1920s, creating a very efficient racing car, the Ricart 226, or working for the prestigious manufacturer Hispano-Suiza. Nice resume, right?

Wilfredo Ricart will participate in the creation of ENASA, which will produce the Pegaso trucks, and will above all be the man behind the Z-102. He also participated in the establishment of Seat.

While he fled the Spanish Civil War of 1936, this allowed him to enter Alfa Romeo, where, appointed director of special studies, he designed aircraft engines. Then, he finds himself in the Biscione racing team, after it bought it from Enzo Ferrari. Consequently, Ricart finds himself working with the Commendatore, with whom relations are so execrable that the latter leaves with a bang in 1938. Ferrari likes reliable solutions that work, Ricart extreme sophistication… In 1939 he will design the very sophisticated Alfa Romeo 512 racing, mid-engined, which will be a victim of the Second World War…

The first Pegaso Z-102 produced, which will be exhibited in 1951 at the Paris Motor Show.  Modern, but a little clumsy, this factory bodywork.
The first Pegaso Z-102 produced, which will be exhibited in 1951 at the Paris Motor Show. Modern, but a little clumsy, this factory bodywork.

After the hostilities, Ricart returned to Spain and after a detour via the Studebaker subsidiary, took over the management of ENASA, Empresa Nacional de Autocamiones SA, created in 1946 from the rubble of the Spanish subsidiary of Hispano-Suiza to manufacture the Pegaso trucks. He also manages to obtain substantial funds from the government in order to design the ultimate car which would become the technological showcase of Spain (that must have pleased Franco).

It was the Pegaso Z-102, laden with advanced solutions, which created a small sensation when it was presented at the 1951 Paris Motor Show. Ferrari just have to behave yourself! Especially since the press is bursting with enthusiastic comments: “the purest jewel of automobile mechanics” writes Automobile Magazine.

Several ways to dress a Pegaso Z-102: the Touring coupé in the foreground, that of Saoutchik to his right, accompanied by its convertible variant just behind, and in the background, the factory bodywork.
Several ways to dress a Pegaso Z-102: the Touring coupé in the foreground, that of Saoutchik to his right, accompanied by its convertible variant just behind, and in the background, the factory bodywork.

Moreover, while Ferrari produces cars with very basic suspension (rigid rear axle, leaf springs), Ricart does exactly what he likes: he dives into hyper-technology, giving the Z-102 a semi-independent De Dion rear axle, then very advanced. A peccadillo, however, facing the monument enthroned under the hood: a V8 with 4 overhead camshafts, made entirely of alloy and equipped with a dry sump.

This 2.5 l develops 180 hp in the S version, the most muscular, ie a specific power of 72 hp/l, very unusual for an atmospheric block of road car at the time. The box, 5-speed please, is installed at the rear, for better weight distribution. With its longest final gear, it allows the Pegaso to reach 230 km/h. Clearly, this technological monument is the fastest passenger car in the world! But that’s not all: it is also adorned with a neat interior, equipped for example with a height-adjustable steering wheel.

The magnificent 4-shaft V8 of the Pegaso Z-102, driving the coupé illustrating the article.  It even has the right to sodium valves!  On the cars sold, the displacement was increased from 2.5 l to 2.8 l, for more torque.  Credit: RM Sotheby's.
The magnificent 4-shaft V8 of the Pegaso Z-102, driving the coupé illustrating the article. It even has the right to sodium valves! On the cars sold, the displacement was increased from 2.5 l to 2.8 l, for more torque. Credit: RM Sotheby’s.

If the factory body, admittedly modern with its “pontoon” look, lacks elegance, buyers can have the car dressed at Touring, and customize it exactly as they wish. However, this still adds to an already colossal and completely unwelcome price in a Spain that was then very poor and autarkic. Result, sales do not take off. More seriously, while the car remains rather unknown, it cannot count on the competition, for lack of funds, to acquire the notoriety which it lacks, exactly the opposite of Ferrari.

Luxurious cockpit for the Pegaso Z-102 Note the original shape of the gearbox control, this one with 5 gears.  Credit: RM Sotheby's.
Luxurious cockpit for the Pegaso Z-102 Note the original shape of the gearbox control, this one with 5 gears. Credit: RM Sotheby’s.

It is certainly involved in prestigious races, such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but its lack of development prevents it from being competitive, or even finishing! In addition, it beat a speed record on the Belgian Jabbeke motorway, at 241 km/h in 1953. However, it was equipped with a compressor, so it did not correspond to the model marketed and the record will not be approved.

The Touring body is perhaps the one that best suits the Pegaso Z-102.  It was offered from 1952 to 1955.
The Touring body is perhaps the one that best suits the Pegaso Z-102. It was offered from 1952 to 1955.

Also, if the Z-102 is the most modern and fastest car in the world, nobody knows it and it misses its shot, that of being a locomotive for the Pegaso truck firm. If a Z-103 variant, simplified and therefore cheaper, is launched, it will only be sold in a handful of copies. ENASA stopped the costs in 1958 and thanked Ricart in 1959 (he later established himself as a consultant). The fact that the Z-102 is almost entirely produced in Spain, with little focus on export and the establishment of a real network of distributors, did not help either.

84 Pegaso Z-102 would have been manufactured, mostly dressed at Touring and Saoutchik, which remains anecdotal. Shame. Ricart was too preoccupied with technology and not enough profitability, so lacked pragmatism in automotive matters… Exactly the opposite of Enzo Ferrari in short, but there, for the worse.

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