The legend behind Lamborghini’s creation is always a fascinating one to tell, offering a window into the soul of Italian passion and vengeance. Ferruccio Lamborghini was an entrepreneur who made his money in tractors. He was deeply fascinated by mechanics, having played with whatever machinery he could get his hands on as a young man, and as his wealth grew, he came to own many cars. Like many rich Italian businessmen of his era, his collection included several Ferraris, which he liked but still found many problems with.
In a 1991 interview, he said that he took some of these complaints to the head of Ferrari himself, Enzo Ferrari. Shockingly for a guy who ran his company with an iron fist, Il Commendatore wasn’t too happy about that and allegedly told him to stick to tractors as he would “never be able to handle a Ferrari properly”. Whether or not this was the sole inspiration for Lamborghini pivoting away from tractors and towards luxury grand tourers and sports cars is unknown, but you wouldn’t put it past an enterprising Italian to do something so grand purely out of spite.
The great industrialist helped build numerous models bearing his name, but the company’s future was never really secure until Volkswagen took over in the late 1990s and put Audi in charge. They quickly released the Murcielago, Lamborghini’s first new car since in over a decade, which immediately received rave reviews and reassured diehard fans that the company was in good hands, even if they were German.
But something was still missing. Talk of building a new ‘baby Lambo’ had been thrown around since the late-80s, when the idea had been to replace the outgoing Jalpa with something new. The idea promptly disappeared before too long, occasionally coming in from the cold but never materialising into anything solid. Unsurprisingly, Audi weren’t interested in continuing this tradition and finally breathed life into the baby Lambo in 2003. They named their creation Gallardo, keeping with the time-honoured Lamborghini tradition of being obsessed with bullfighting.
Lamborghini Gallardo Just as good-looking in orange as it is in yellow. Credit: Curimedia
Under the hood lay a V10 engine, meaning it was the first Lamborghini not to be powered by twelve cylinders. But the Gallardo was no slouch, with the smaller engine still good for 493 bhp and a top speed of 192 mph, figures that would steadily improve over its lifetime. It was a resounding hit, critically and commercially.
In its first year the newest member of the Lamborghini family sold over 900 units, more than the original Diablo had managed in its entire eight-year run. The combination of Italian flair and German engineering had proven to be pure catnip for customers looking for a £140,000 supercar.
The coupe was updated in 2005 with 20 extra bhp, revised suspension and a new sportier exhaust. A year later, the Spyder convertible arrived, and the year after that so did the racy Superleggera model. 2008 gave us a new revised Gallardo, called the LP 560-4, which was pointier and more powerful thanks to its larger 5.2 litre engine.
Lamborghini took a break in 2009, but the year after that saw the release of the LP 550-2 Coupe, the LP 570-4 Superleggera and the Bicolore. And so it went on, with Lamborghini designing countless new models, many exclusive to a certain country and designed as commemoration for historical events or the anniversary of Lamborghini cars being sold there. Taiwan got some special LP 570-4 Superleggeras for the Republic of China’s 100th birthday, Singapore and Hong Kong got a few modified LP 550-2’s for the anniversaries of Lamborghini’s presence in their countries, and outside of the Americas and Africa we all got the LP 550-2 Tricolore celebrating 150 years of Italian unification. Limited edition Gallardos were also offered in Japan, India, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4 Presented at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, this updated Gallardo swept to 60 in 3.7 seconds and was good for 202 mph. Credit: Dan Santos
With the success of the regular models, and the constant release of limited-edition versions, it’s no surprise that the Gallardo very quickly became Lamborghini’s best-selling car. When it was eventually put to rest in 2013, to be replaced by the even spikier Huracán, it had sold over 14,000 models. At the time, that represented almost half of all cars Lamborghini had ever built.
The roaring success of the Gallardo was hugely important. A dud could have killed off the early 2000s momentum that the Murcielago had built up and slowed or stopped the progress of other later models. Thankfully, it turned out to be one of Lamborghini’s all-time great cars, worthy of being mentioned in the same space as the Miura and the Countach. Even today, it more than holds up against modern favourites like the Aventador Superveloce. Not bad for a baby Lambo.
Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Edizione Tecnica This snappily titled Lambo was one of the final to be produced.
Credit: Nan Palmero
By Andrew Shaw at 30 Oct 2018, 00:00 AM