Nello Pagani was born in Milan. He was an Italian aristocrat and a motorcycle racer first and foremost, though he occasionally raced cars after the war. He started racing motorcycles in 1928 with an Ancora 125, finishing third at Monza. He won his first race in May 1931 at Monferrato but he fell in the last race of the season, the Varese-Campo dei Fiori, which not only put him out of action for 6 months but also caused permanent damage to his right arm. In 1932 he rode a C.M. and won the Sei Giorni Internazionale. In 1933 and 1934 he rode a 250 Rudge powered Miller that was prepared in the workshops of Enzo Ferrari.
He won his first Italian title in 1934 after wins on the Circuit of Parma, the Targa Florio, the Gran Premio Acerbo of Pescara and the Circuit of Valentino.
In 1935 Pagani continued to race for Miller on both the 250 and 500 and in 1936 along with the Miller, he also raced a 250cc Benelli and a 500cc Bianchi.
Then in 1937 he moved to Moto Guzzi and in a dominant season, won his second Italian 250 title with seven wins.
In 1938 he took a supercharged 250cc Moto Guzzi to Monza and set a number of speed records. That year he won the Italian 250 Championship for a third time.
In 1939 with the war looming he won the Germany Moto Grand Prix and the circuit of Lario, riding a Moto Guzzi Condor.
With the outbreak of war, racing stopped until 1945 when, for economic reasons, Pagani decided to sign to race for Gilera. Gilera had more money than the other manufacturers at the time and riding their 500 cc machine he won his first Italian 500cc title.
He tried his hand racing cars in 1947 while waiting for the air-cooled Gilera 4 cylinder, driving a supercharged Maserati in a number of races, taking a win at the Pau Grand Prix.
Nello Pagani and Carlo Bandirola both started 1948 riding for Gilera on the 500 but ongoing mechanical problems started to cause problems and Pagani switched to Saturno. He returned to Gilera, winning the Grand Prix of Assen and the Grand Prix “delle Nazioni” in Monza. He finished second in the championship by just one point to the English ace, Leslie Graham. In cars he won the Pau Grand Prix for the second time.
In 1949 he won the inaugural 125 cc World Championship on a Mondial and he finished second in the 500 cc class on an MV Agusta.
Racing for Gilera and Mondial in 1950, he finished 4th in the 500cc World Championship with 8 wins. He also drove a Maserati 4CLT/48 to seventh in his only motor racing World Championship Grand Prix appearance, at Bremgarten, and then took fourth at the non-championship Modena GP in a Simca-Gordini.
In 1951 Pagani won the Italian 500cc title for the second time. The following year, now 41 years old, Pagani was still racing a 4 cylinder Gilera and though he was no longer a works rider, it didn't stop him from posting some good results, winning in South America on his Saturno in 1952 and at Roubaix in 1953. He also took two wins in Yugoslavia thanks to MV. In 1954 he was given a 500cc MV and won at Castelfusano.
In 1956 he gave up racing and became the Sporting Director at M.V. Agusta managing the legendary team until 1960.
Nello Pagani passed away on 18th October 2003. He was 92 years old.