Crushing on cars: How Lamborghini went from tractor maker to supercar producer
Star signs. I’ve never been much of a believer.
Barring a passing exception in my teens of carefully postured pretence suggesting an elaborate command over Linda Goodman’s writings essentially to win the flittering attention of girls whose names I still strangely remember, I haven’t ever glanced at horoscopes or Marjorie Orr’s annual predictions.
Don’t ask me how I know her name. I’ve never read her work. Seriously.
I do however like the symbol I was born under. The bull.
Brooding. Solitary. Muscular. Earthy. Dominant. Rugged. Intense. (Gosh. I sound like a vacuous deodorant commercial.) All essential attributes of the sign nonetheless, and one that you’d instantly accept as being valid after taking a look at me without the crutch of tin-can retained spray. My wife is wiping hearty, pain-in-the-tummy type laughter-induced tears as I read this aloud. It isn’t on account of my subtle witticism, I suspect.
Rock you like a Huracan
A punctured ego notwithstanding, the symbol has played a presiding role in my life. One of my earliest memories from the wonder years was having a picture taken with a local celebrity and his fancy supercar. A group of friends and I – ardent brats all – were made to stand by height along the line of the car’s beautiful silhouette, and being the runt of the litter meant I stood right at the front, facing its painfully sharp nose. I actually don’t remember very much beyond staring at the logo on that fire engine red beauty. The logo was that of an absolute beast that was brooding, solitary, muscular, eart…umm, you get it.
It was a Lamborghini Countach and it remained my dream car for the longest stretch of miles till about two decades later, when I finally drove one. It was as impractical as gets at so many levels, I’m amazed at how anyone drove it with a smile intact. Such an anticlimactic screeching halt to the reverie, really.
Now this isn’t to say that my experience with all the previous generation models have been damp squibs.
Quite the contrary, in fact. The V12 Murciélago is a remarkable drive, despite the fact the one I usually drive is my friend’s daily drive with an odometer that would rival a two-decade-old Mumbai yellow-black cab. Its younger sibling, the Gallardo, is even richer as an experience with its brilliant manual gearshift – the last Lamb model to sport one, and its full-time, super-grounded four wheel drive. For me however, it all comes together in the Huracan – we’ll race towards that shortly.
A quick sidestep is required here to respond to a question that is doubtless playing in your mind. How outrageously expensive is a Lamborghini, and can regular mortals actually buy one without signing a pact with the devil? To quote former US president Barack Obama, “Yes, we can!” It isn’t as frightfully priced as you’d think. You could get the Lambo Nitro 100 Tractor for just a little under $95,000. So what if it’s a tractor – it’s still a Lamborghini.
Born of a sneer
That’s how the firm got its start – supplying farmers with a robust workhorse that served them well. And served the founder, Ferruccio Lamborghini even better, elevating him to one of the most powerful and wealthiest industrialists in post war Italy. So how did the gear shift from tractor maker to supercar builder?
It took a Ferrari. Lamborghini’s Ferrari, to be precise. (Yes, I realise how strange that sounds.) You see, he drove a white Ferrari for a few years and wasn’t a particularly happy customer for all that while. There was a conversation between Enzo (of Ferrari) and Ferruccio (of Lamborghini) that involved a not-so-subtle suggestion on part of the latter that the former could make vast improvements to his supposedly outstanding car, to which the former’s response was for the latter to remember that he was, after all a farmer who knew little beyond tractors. Famous last words on the subject, with the world being treated to the launch of the outstanding 350GT in 1964, the first car under the Lamborghini label to be mass-produced. And what followed was a lineup of exceptional cars, each one a visual delight, and a treat to all senses. (Except for a certain Countach I might have mentioned earlier.)
To think happier thoughts instead, the finest Lamborghini I’ve driven is, rather promisingly, amongst the most recent rollouts – the Huracán EVO. While I’m fully familiar with the customisation capabilities available under their Ad Personam programme (over 30,000 possible trim and colour combinations available, if you have a Sunday off to choose), these are still external submissions. The EVO has a brain (yes, I realise once again how strange that sounds) called the LDVI (Lamborghini Integrated Vehicle Dynamics) – think of this like Tony Stark’s Jarvis, only sexier and far more real. It establishes a connect with the driver, anticipating her/his every need, whim, want and tic, personalising the drive experience to an unparalleled high. In practical terms, you can make no mistake as the driver if you’re in the good books of LDVI (that you usually are, since you’re in the seat of command).
A field of raging bulls
Now call me an ignoramus if you please (and you probably will, after reading my following confession), but I’d visited Bologna four times – yes, FOUR times, before it finally dawned upon me that there was something beyond the city than that divine mortadella, the finest prosciutto crudo, the richest ragù, that spectacular squacquerone - the perfect partner in crime with my beloved piadina romagnola – and gosh, the crostini! There was the Lamborghini museum not far around the bend at Sant’Agata Bolognese that I should have visited before I even considered partaking my first meal upon my first arrival in the city. Big brand fan, indeed! (Between meals and wheels, it’s usually the cuisine that wins.)
I finally visited that holy shrine recently, and spent far longer there than I should logically have. My family abandoned me within the opening two hours of our (actually only my) super excited arrival. I found them late that evening in a tiny restaurant off the Mercato di Mezzo, huddled over a large serving of tortellini. They’d kept a seat vacant for me, and without pausing from the meal, gestured for me to join in. All was well with the world soon after.
Is this car meant for Indian roads, you ask? Well, I hear the brand has clocked the sale of its 50th Urus within 12 months of its launch – a sparkling testament to the success of the raging bull on our roads. My experience with the Urus has been nothing short of remarkable – I’ve driven it in four countries, in entirely varied conditions – mild dunes, reasonable level of snow, lashing wet weather, and moon-crater pot-holes (no marks for guessing the latest destination) and it performed beyond compare in each. Apart from its superlative drive capabilities, the Urus does score some resounding wins, particularly for the Indian mindset: you ascend to climb in, as against descending into a tight Lamborghini cockpit – something that is a prerequisite for a wide (pun unintended) section of potential buyers. You race towards a speed-breaker, as against driving your super-tuned race track ready car at the speed of 2.2 km over those monstrosities. Fellow drivers actually look up to you (literally) despite the fact that you are in a Lamborghini. As might be obvious, the Urus is a whisker close second favourite for me, following the EVO.
Someone asked me the other evening what he believed to be the equivalent of the “are you a dog person, or a cat person?” question in the world of supercars:“Are you a bull or a horse?”
Hmm. I think I’ll go with the one that is brooding. Solitary. Muscular. Errr…fine, I’ll stop.
Arvind Vijaymohan is the CEO of Artery India, an art intelligence and sales advisory firm. Follow his daily grind on Instagram
From HT Brunch, October 20, 2019
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch