THE LION IN THE LAMBO
Lamborghini Supercars 50 Years
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Wed, Sep 30, 2015
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
LA CAR BOOK REVIEW
LAMBORGHINI SUPERCARS 50 YEARS
From the Groundbreaking Miura to Today’s Hypercars
Written by: Stuart Codling
Photos by: James Mann
Foreword by: Fabio Lamborghini
Hardcover: 224 pages
ISBN: 9780760347959 (September 2015)
Published by Motorbooks, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group
$65 / £50
Review by Doug Stokes
50? Fifty Years? Have these wonderful, wild-assed, wizard cars called LAM-BORE-HEE-KNEES really been around and among us for FIFTY years now?
Yup—and every variation of every model of this now (GOTCHA!) half-century old marque is on display in “Lamborghini Super Cars 50 Years” 200+ pages of very informative copy and featuring a superb collection of dazzling photos (taken from about every imaginable angle and perfectly in line with the totally bedazzling nature of the Supercar biz) of all of the variations that serve benchmark 50 years of the bullish breed.
Understand, please. There is absolutely, positively, flat-out, unequivocally, not one iota of socially-redeeming value in any car that has ever carried the name Lamborghini. And, of course that’s what makes them so very wonderful. There’s no pretence of any sort of real world automotive usefulness. These are beautiful, expensive, crazy, imaginative, unreasonable, wild animals and we need them in our lives to keep us awake and excited about cars.
I love the litany model names*: Miura, Contach, Diablo, Murciélago, Gallardo, Reventòn, Aventor, Egoista, Huracán … and I can’t wait for more. It was almost a rite of passage for young men everywhere to learn to say “Koon-Tosh” (which we find, is a VERY colloquial Piedmontese expression/sound that guys are said to let out when they see a beautiful woman)**. The other names all have similar unlikely pedigrees with a number of them coined in honor of a covey of brave Spanish fighting bulls.
Yes, on almost every page, every photo in this book is more cool, more macho, and more punched-up than the next. But the real heart of this one is the writing. This briskly-written book is brimming with details, both technical and historic.
The inside story of Lamborghini that’s so well-told here is one that’s rife with plot twists and turns at the wheel for (as this review is being written in late 2015) five (count ‘em, five) different dynasties of ownership. The fact of the matter is there are about as many switchbacks in this marque’s ownership queue as there are in the Brenner Pass.
They start in 1981 when the former farm implement company founded by Mister L. just after the war went bankrupt and his company was purchased out of hock for (what seemed like a lot of money back then ($3 million dollars) by the Franco-Swiss Mimran brothers. In ’87 Chrysler acquired the company but sort of “lost interest” when Lee Iacocca left in ’92. In ’94 a consortium of Indonesian interests (including the son of then President Suharto) is said to have paid $40 million for the marque. Of course we all know what happened to Suharto … So, enter the Volkswagen Group (that includes their Audi imprint) in ’97. With the German mark pumped to the max, VAG (that already owned the Bugatti nameplate and had just bought Bentley) went shopping and came home with Lamborghini.
The above highly-condensed ownership information in a single paragraph takes many chapters to play out in the book and the fun and games that go along with each ownership change are something of a morality tale. The car business, the supercar business in particular, is really not about cars at all. Some understand that and act accordingly and some simply chose to ignore the physics and push on. And that’s really what the 50-year celebration of this marque is all about. Hell, these guys even ventured into Formula One when it only cost tens of multi-millions (not hundreds) to field a team.
Along the way in “50”, readers will meet up with and hear from (or about) a number of names both familiar and destined to be so. Early-on there’s Enzo Ferrari of course, but the litany goes on and on. Gulio Alfieri, Valentino Balboni, Nuccio Bertone, Giotto Bizzarrini (an even better name for a Italian super car than Lamborghini!),Carlo Chiti, Gian Palo Dallara, Alejandro DeTomaso, Ron Dennis, Mauro Forghieri, Tom Gale, Giorgetto Guigaro, Lee Iacocca, Gerhard Larousse, Aldolfo Orsi, Ferdinand Piëch, Shah Pahlavi, and Nicholas Cage for good measure and among others. Fifty years of a car company that produces machines this intense is guaranteed to have a very mixed bag of players. They’re all here (and they’ve brought along a whole bunch of friends!) and they all are deftly woven into something that resembles an Italian Members Only jacket with those cool epaulets, slash pockets and corrugated collar.
This book trails off with the introduction of the 898-horsepower Asterion hybrid prototype with one 602-horsepower V-10 and three electric motors and the indication from the company president Stephan Winkelmann that it may, in the future, “… be forced to adopt turbocharged engines.” Tech Note: Whilst just about everyone else in the biz (and that includes the prancing horse peeps) have been blowing the P(iss) out of their engines, Lamborghini has always relied on the high tech effects of very advanced engine configurations (multi-valve, multi-cam stuff) and eschewed installing exhaust-driven turbochargers on their motors.
As far as I know they’ve never stated it, but I think that the sound-muffling qualities of that sort of pinwheel in the exhaust system go against the ownership’s love of the feral animal noises that Lambos have been emitting for their past 50 laps around the sun.
If and when they do, hanging a turbo on one of their beautifully-complicated V-10 engines will doubtless zing horsepower and keep the fantasy on fast forward. Of course, we all know that there will ever be more horsepower and shorter time spans to warp from 0 to whatever number blows your skirts up.
If Lamborghini is about anything, it’s about excess and the endless pursuit of it. There’s no going back, and, as far as I know, there’s no damn SUV, or starter model Lambo on the drawing boards.
Way, way too much has always been just right for these incandescent Italian machines, regardless of the nationality of the brand’s ownership.
As reported earlier, this handsome book is a true treat for the eye with all the right visuals … add Codling’s entwining text that’s almost mechanized version of the Decameron and you have Lamborghini at the big Five-Oh. – Doug Stokes
DOLLARS AND SENSE: Just to put a number on this story. In late August of this year, Lamborghini Miura serial number 4289, a 1969 P400S, was the highest-selling car at the 2015 Mecum Auction in Monterey, Claifornia, fetching a record $2,300,000. For my eye, the Miura was the most lithe, most graceful Lamborghini of them all.
PERSONAL CONFESSION: Some years back I was schedule to test drive a Countach for a business magazine. The drop-off guys brought it to my office, handed me the keys, and said, “Okay, Mister Stokes, we’ll be back for this one in a week, have fun. Oh, er, one little thing, we’re going to show you how to back the car up.” Huh?
At first I thought that they had heard about that little misadventure I had with a Maserati Biturbo and an unseen steel post in a Pomona parking lot. As it turns out they had not, but they were under orders.
As I sat in the car, even with the door swung open, it felt a little bit claustrophobic. I started to pull the door down to prove that I could back this one up and the nice delivery gents said, “No, Mister Stokes. Wait please.”
They were going to demonstrate the technique first. Seriously.
What an erstwhile driver was expected to do to back this car was (honest!) open the door up and hang one’s posterior half-way out on the rocker panel just dabbing at the clutch and gas while craning around to check one’s rearward progress. I never got around to enquiring about parallel parking.
Now many of you, many of whom had one of the aforementioned posters of this wild bull of a car on your childhood digs, will not understand what came next, but if you ever have the chance to sit in one of these nutball machines, you might at least get the idea.
I gave the keys (with that really cool gold-plated raging bull leather tag) back to the nice gentlemen, and said that I had changed my mind and did not want to drive their really cool car for a week, thank you very much.
I’m older (and wiser?) now, and if that green-gold Countach is still out there …hey, bring it by please, I’ll learn how to back the darn thing up.
*But, I think that, given the idea that the whole company was founded as a sort of a comeback to Enzo Ferrari disrespecting the ability of Mister Lamborghini to properly operate the clutch in a number of Ferraris that he had owned over the years, at least one of the Lambos should have been christened the “Vendetta”.
Maybe the next one, I think that it’s exotic-sounding enough, it certainly conveys more than “Countach” with translates as a rather crude Piedmonteian exclamation that semi-couth young men used when referring to hot looking chick.
** Speaking of which, it was close contest as to whether more young men has poster image of the Countach or Farrah Fawcett taped to their bedroom wall … I’m sure that many of us had both! - DS
*But, I think that, given the idea that the whole company was founded as a sort of a comeback to Enzo Ferrari disrespecting the ability of Mister Lamborghini to properly operate the clutch in a number of Ferraris that he had owned over the years, at least one of the Lambos should have been christened the “Vendetta”. Maybe the next one, I think that it’s exotic-sounding enough, it certainly conveys more than “Countach” with translates as a rather crude Piedmonteian exclamation that semi-couth young men used when referring to hot looking chick. ** Speaking of which, it was close contest as to whether more young men has poster image of the Countach or Farrah Fawcett taped to their bedroom wall … I’m sure that many of us had both! - DSGot something to say? Add your Facebook comment regarding this article here. To order this book on Amazon, click here.