The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Power trip
(From top) The Gallardo; the Murcielago and the Diablo roadster

Last week, we charted the journey of Lamborghini from its humble beginnings as an agricultural machinery maker to its roaring triumph as a manufacturer of world class cars. We touched upon many milestones, among them the very first Lambo, the 350 GTV, and of course the Miura, often considered the world’s most beautiful sportscar. We continue to trace the Lamborghini saga with a look at what the marque is currently offering car-lovers.

What followed in the years after the 350 GT and the Miura, were cars that were competent but not much more. Yes, they were well up on the performance front but that was about it. Stylistically speaking, some designs were good while others were amazing. The Marzal, for instance, was a four-seater based on a stretched Miura chassis with a rear-mounted engine, located transversely. Again a Gandini design, it had gull-wing doors and used glass right down to the sill level. It had a different engine ' a two-litre straight-six, developing just 180 hp. But sadly, it never went into production.

The next car to zoom out of the Lamborghini stable was the Islero, a rather expensive 2+2 coupe with a 300bhp engine beneath the bonnet. It was elegantly styled but when compared to the other Lamborghinis, considered to be a bit on the staid side. Moreover, at the time, the Miura still ruled the roost and it was the car to be seen in ' A-list celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin liked to race about town in it. What was successful however, was the Espada, which had design influences from the Marzal. One problem faced by Lamborghini, though, was the inordinately long time taken to go from prototype to production.

In 1968, the Islero 400 GT was launched, as was the Espada four-seater (inspired by the Marzal). After these, in 1970, the P400S, a revised version of the Miura was launched. The Jarama 400GT came after that as a replacement for the Islero. Two years later, Lamborghini unveiled the Urraco P250 at the Turin Motor Show. This was another exciting car, a mid-engined 2+2. It had a 2.5-litre engine designed by Stanzani, with a single overhead camshaft and great handling qualities. This was the car that went up against Ferrari’s Dino.

More important, though, was the first Countach LP400 prototype shown in Geneva. It had revolutionary styling. The story goes that when Lamborghini’s test driver, New Zealander Bob Wallace, was putting the car through its paces in the Alps, a local saw the car and said ‘Countach’, which means ‘That’s it’. Gandini located the radiators at the rear of the car so as to make the front end very low. The whole car took up very little garage space, being just 3 feet, 6 inches tall. It was also 13-and-a-half feet long, and six-and-a-half feet wide. If the car looked menacing, it had the performance to match. One version had six Weber 45 twin-choke carburettors feeding the 4-litre V12 engine. The Countach had a relatively long life with the LP500 S debuting in Geneva in 1982 ' this one had electronic ignition. The Countach was involved in a horsepower race throughout its life, taking on Porsche and Ferrari ' the Quattrovalvole version actually revved up to 7000rpm and developed 455bhp.

When Lamborghini completed 25 years in the business of fast cars, the Countach bowed out in 1988 after a commemorative version had been produced. Then came Project 132, which had been under development for some time. When it came to naming the car, the name settled upon was Diablo, a bull made famous after a legendary battle with a renowned bullfighter in 1869 in Madrid. The Diablo was again, designed by Marcello Gandini and had gull-wing doors and aluminium body panels. It also had a 5-speed transmission that linked to a 5.7litre V12 engine developing 485bhp ' enough to give the Diablo a top speed of 326kph. Although this was a two-wheel drive car, a four-wheel drive version was waiting in the wings. This was the VT, which stood for Viscous Traction. All it did was direct power to the front wheels as soon as the rear wheels began losing grip.

The Diablo, which also had creature comforts like air-conditioning and power steering, could go from zero to 60mph in four seconds flat. In 1994, the SE30 anniversary edition was launched, with 525bhp on tap. And if that wasn’t enough, there was also a special Jota version with 580bhp, bigger brakes and a top speed of 336kph. The final evolution of the Diablo for the new Millennium was presented at the Detroit Motor Show in 2000, and had a 6.0 litre, V12 engine pushed into it with a corresponding power increase to 550bhp and a carbon fibre body.

Lamborghini is today part of the Audi Group and at the moment, there are two very exciting cars being produced ' the Murcielago and the Gallardo. Both are from the pen of Luc Donckerwolke, a Belgian designer who’d worked on other designs for the Audi group as well as the Skoda Octavia and Combi. The Murcielago (named after a Spanish fighting bull) is internally known as the L147, and was launched in 2001. The body is made out of both steel and carbon fibre and features a V12 6.2-litre aluminium engine. With a maximum power at 580bhp at 7500 rpm and maximum torque at 650 Nm at 5400 rpm, the Murcielago goes like a bat out of hell ' 0-100kph in 3.8 seconds, quite appropriate if you consider that ‘Murcielago’ means bat. It also features an e-gear option that replaces the sequential paddle-shift system. It gets inputs from sensors on the clutch and gearbox, and the engine management and traction control systems. So gear shifts are precise and fast. The Murcielago has 245/35 ZR 18 tyres at the front and 335/30 ZR 18 at the rear.

The L140 or Gallardo came in 2003 and is considered the Murcielago’s baby brother. Nevertheless, it has a voice of its own, thanks to the 500bhp V10 engine with variable valve timing that takes it well over 300kph. It also features permanent four-wheel drive to handle the power. A compact, two-seater sports car, the Gallardo is an exciting car, especially on the racetrack. Both the Gallardo and the Murcielago uphold the tradition of Ferrucio Lamborghini, even though it is just his name that is involved with the cars today. At the Frankfurt Motor Show, Lamborghini launched a new Gallardo, the Spyder. This is an open-top version of the coupe, with a fabric roof stored in the engine compartment when it is down. The 10-cylinder engine now develops 520 hp (382 kW) at 8,000 rpm. Together with revised gear ratios, the Spyder does 0 to 100kph in 4.3 seconds and can do 307kph or 314kph depending on whether the roof is down or up.

My dream car

Rajeev Khandelwal,

I would love to buy a powerful, racy SUV, but my ultimate fantasy car has always been and still is the Hummer. I visited Dubai recently and had the opportunity to drive one — an unbelievable experience, to say the very least. The Hummer is a powerful, tough vehicle and it holds onto the road courtesy its huge tyres and their amazing grip. The entire console at the steering makes you feel like you’re in a tanker.

But even though the Hummer is my dream car, I don’t think I’d really buy one, even if I could afford it. That’s because it’s just not suitable for the roads in our country, never mind that it’s a tough-as-nails vehicle. The roads are more often than not in an awful state, especially in Mumbai. So right now, I drive a 1.6cc Hyundai Accent. It’s a powerful vehicle and I love driving it even though I have a driver to take me around town.


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