Sometimes, it takes a battle to achieve something great � and it was a battle of words that gave birth to an automobile great called Lamborghini, and a fabulous, almost legendary story of one of the most famous automobile vendettas.
Once upon a time, in post-war Italy, a tractor manufacturer was planting himself solidly in the agricultural business, building tractors. The tractors, called Lamborghini Trattori were unique machines, that bore a unique birthmark, a charging bull, inspired by the owner�s birth sign, Taurus. But tractors were not enough for Ferrucio Lamborghini, and like all passionate speed obsessed Italians, he built himself a sports car.
The little piece of work was quick enough to attract orders, and thus a passion was born for Lamborghini, but Ferrucio�s ambitions really went skywards - he wanted to build helicopters. Until his famed argument with Enzo Ferrari.
Ferrucio was a happy Ferrari customer, till one day he went over to tell Enzo Ferrari that the clutch on one of his cars was unsatisfactory. Enzo was proud of his ponies, and did not want to be told how to build sport cars, especially not from Ferrucio Lamborghini. �What does a maker of tractors know about supercars?�
Not one to take things lying down, Ferrucio fixed the clutch himself and decided that he would show Enzo a thing or two about sports cars. With that, his helicopter dreams came crashing down, and he built his factory at Sant Agata, poached Bizzarinni, formerly with Ferrari, and one of the best engine designers in Italy, just to build a GT that would touch 150 mph.
The war of words was just the beginnings of the conflict between the established master and the upstart challenger. And no matter how extreme a Ferrari is, there�s always a Lambo that�s pushing the envelope a little more.
The rest is, as they say, history. I went all the way to Italy to bring you part of it.
The result of Ferrucio�s decision and his tie-up with Scaglione, the first designer at Lamborghini was the 350 GT. The 350 GT Lamborghini first broke out of the factory in 1964, and its name was derived from its 3.5-liter four-cam V12. Then came the 400GT, named for similar reasons as the 350, produced until 1968.
But it was the stunning mid-engined Miura, produced from 1966 to 1972, that catapulted Lamborghini to worldwide fame and fortune. Lamborghini made a number of other models, such as the four-seat Espada and various V8 sports cars, such as the Urraco, the V12 Islero, the Sillouette and the 4 seater jalpa. Also created at the factory at Sant Agata, were a few concepts that never made it to the production floor � like the twin cabin concept S and the 4 by 4 Hummer like LM 002, that was way ahead of its time. Ferrucio�s engine even powered Formula 1 cars and professional racing boats.
Still, after the Muira, it was the mid-engined supercars that identified the marque. Cars like the untamed Countach of the 70s and 80s and the diabolical Diablo of the 90s, were instantly recognizable as Lamborghinis, with their sinister styling by Marcello Gandini promising equally outlandish performance. The Countach had a wildly successful anniversary edition, which helped the company through difficult times but did not manage to save it from changing ownership.
The Swiss and even the former Indonesian presidential family, who owned the company briefly. Eventually, Chrysler purchased the company during its diablo days in mid-80s, until its current owner Volkswagen/Audi took over in 1998, and have been the proud owners ever since.
The only thing that did not change with all replacements in management was the charging black bull, that became the chief billing of the company. Most cars were named after some aspect of the bullfighting tradition. One such Lamborghini great, is the one named after a bull with a fighting spirit that became world acclaimed over a century ago - Murcielago.
Well you never know how its spirit is till you drive it, so I took it for a spin in the Italian countryside.
My pulse is already racing with the thought of powering this splendid car about the Italian countryside. Armed with a roadmap, courtesy Lamborghini and a few deep breaths, I take off, driving into the heaven that surrounds Sant Agata. I�m nervous because you can�t see the nose of the car, or the rear, and the notch system on the transmission takes a little getting used to. Four or five gear shifts later, thumping G force pushing me back into the seat, I have a smile on my face that threatens to break my jaw, and nothing else matters anymore.
Well now that I can breathe and the excitement is a little controlled, let me tell you a bit about this beast. The car is a 6.2 litre V-12 produces 580 bhp and 650 Nm of torque and with the perfectly matched gearbox and engine and this car accelerates like a Saturn V rocket. The 0-100 just flies by in 3.8 seconds.
Now normally, in a low-slung open top sports car, 100 kmph feels like a double ton, however the stiff chassis and double wishbone suspension with electronic dampers, makes this feel so muscular and well planted. More often than not, the road ahead seems so easy and its until you look in the rear view and see the countryside whizzing by at an incredible rate, that you realise the insane speeds that the Murcielago handles with agility. The clutch and steering are a tad heavy and both ensure you get full bodywork out on a drive like this.
You�d have to try really hard to drive yourself off the road in one of these cars - an Limited Slip Differential will take power away from any spinning wheel, an electronic throttle that will cut off gas if your wheels are in the air, and the rally snazzy star wars spoiler deploys once you edge past 130 kmph. Now this is no ordinary spoiler - it changes its angle of attack to 70 degrees for more downforce, past the 220 km mark. The 245/35 ZR front and the massive 335/30 ZR rear tyres just add to the incredible handling of this monster.
I�ve raving about this car, however it does have its problems. Those scissor doors, as beautiful as they look, are the biggest spoilsports - making you contort to get in or out.
But still, this car makes people gasp as it passes by. You�d think that every Italian is used to sportscars, but evidently not as heads still turn. Seamless was the directive to design this car, and seamless it is.
A few fish gill vents down the sides, break the singular lines. Being a mid-engined car, the huge V12 sits behind you, and even the interior compartment is a work of art, though the interiors were not. These were a notch or two down on the Gallardo Spyder, pretty basic and spartan, though once you�ve driven the Murcielago a 6 CD changer and climate control won�t matter anymore.
This car is a wonder of aerodynamics - a great wedge that looks like it�s cutting through the air even while standing still. So adept are the aerodynamics, that even with the top down and at 100 kms an hour, it felt like a mild breeze inside, just enough to rustle my hair, instead of the biting wind chill.
Through the drive, the sweet, brutal melody from the exhaust exhilarates with every blip of the throttle, with every gear change the engine resonates in my ears. Time flies when you�re having fun, and I had to leave the mountains and head back to Sant Agata to take a peek, at where these drool quotient cars are produced.
With a combination of machines and handcrafting, the workforce of 800 at Lamborghini manages to assembles about 2,000 cars a year, which perhaps half of Ford�s total daily output. It�s only when you see the process first hand, that you realise the amount of painstaking effort, that goes into making these cars.
It all starts with the basic body shell, being fitted onto the chassis, covered carefully with plastic shields to protect it. It's from there, that the car starts coming together, bit by bit.
It�s quite fascinating to see that the each leather seat cover is handcrafted using a single hide, with many different colour choices. Once everything is fitted, the spanking new car makes its way to the rolling road testing chamber, a virtual test track, where the car can be fully tested without having to leave the factory.
But I decided to give a spanking new car a test spin anyway, and who better to do it than Valentino Balboni, one of Lamborghini�s longest standing in-house test drivers. This has to be one of the best jobs in the world, where your work desk is the business seat of a Lamborghini.
These cars have arrived in India but it will never be enough. Ferrucio once said that he was the first Italian Japanese. Combining the best engines to create something even better. They�ve come a long way since Ferrucio�s days, and there will always be a next step - a faster car, and more dynamic design, and a cooler name.
Is this the best sportscar in the world? An Aston Martin Vanquish or a Enzo�s Ferraris have over time, given these cars a run for the money. Still, the Lamborghinis have Feruccio�s free spirit and fierce passion, that�s hard to let go off. To prove my point, here�s something to think about - a recent poll concluded that there are more Lamborghini posters hanging on a schoolboy�s walls, than any other cars!