“….The Lamborghini Gallardo is dead,” TopGear.com told me. My heart couldn’t help but feel the weight of what I just read.
The final Gallardo may have rolled off the production line late this November but the legacy the Italian supercar manufacturer has created has been staggering. After ten years, just over 14,000 (with ever so slightly less variants) Gallardo’s have been built and it’s not difficult to see how popular it really was. Lamborghini have always had a sight for making great cars. With the likes of the V12 LP700 Aventador; the insanely expensive Veneno; the equally bizarre one-off showcase Egoista; and going further into the past; the Diablo and of course the car that started it all; the Miura, it would be correct to assume that Lamborghini has the means of making something the other manufacturers can’t seem to match. The Gallardo it seems fits nicely in with all these crazy speed-machines that captured the balance between civilised and not so civilised.
After Lamborghini fell into financial trouble in the late 80’s, American car giant Chrysler took hold of the hallowed Italian marque. No matter what Chrysler did, there were still problems and cars such as the Diablo missed production deadlines and Countachs were hurried out of the factory instead to make up for any loss. The American market didn’t help; they just weren’t interested in fire-breathing, hard to drive wheel-demons and so Chrysler, it seemed, had a dying breed on its hands. They had to let go of Lamborghini. An Indonesian company called Megatech acquired the name and it started to make a difference. With the profit, Lamborghini could start again designing cars and called off the Diablo at the end of the century and had a few aces up their sleeve. Megatech then sold everything to Audi, and with a bit of German common sense, the ideas they had begun to flourish. Two new cars were in works; The Murciélago and the Gallardo. The Murciélago emerged in 2001 and the Gallardo came a few years later in 2003. The Gallardo was designed to be the ‘Baby Lamborghini’ to give the company two tiers of supercar, in much the same way Ferrari had the 360 and the Enzo and Porsche had the 911 and the Carrera GT. The Murciélago was fitted with a V12 whereas the Gallardo had a V10 powerhouse but was just as furious as its bigger brother. This meant that customers could have the Lamborghini experience for a fraction of the price without having to shell out on £300,000+ supercar. The Gallardo would then go onto outsell and even outlive the Murciélago. It’s no small wonder why this car has found its way into not just mine, but also a lot of people’s admiration.
I have actually driven a Gallardo as part of a track day. I had to choose one of four cars out of either a Ferrari 360, an Audi R8, the Gallardo, and even more painful, an Aston Martin DB9. For a car-fanatic like me, the decision wasn’t easy. I wanted something special. I thought about the Ferrari but as much as I love Ferrari, I thought no. It’s not the most powerful out of the four cars, it only had a V8, it’s a bit old and it’s a bit showy and too ‘play-boy’. So what about the DB9? Well, the Aston, as beautiful as it is fast, had the biggest engine; a 6 litre V12. “Yes” I thought “however…” that V12 was mounted in the front and that kind of turned me away from a car-maker I so dearly love. I wanted the engine behind my ear so the Audi and the Lamborghini were left. Technically, the R8 and the Gallardo are very closely related. Both are made by Audi (no doubt), both have four-wheel drive and both are built on the same essential platform. The Audi ticked all the right boxes but there’s something too sensible about it. I have no qualms with the R8 but the Gallardo just seemed more fun which at the end of the day is why people like Lamborghini. The Gallardo is also a rarer sight to see on the roads. You notice the bright red Ferrari’s and people think and know it’s a Ferrari. The R8 seems too familiar but the Lamborghini’s aren’t in the spotlight all the time. So, with a 5.2 litre V10 producing more than 510 horsepower and a top speed of 190mph, I strapped myself into a bright orange Spyder with a 7 speed semi-automatic sequential gear box. Starting the engine was a joy in itself, I was happy to just do that to hear every one of those spark-plugs and pistons work together in a crescendo of noise as the entire thing shook under its own ferocity. Crawling it out onto the track I had this amazing sense that I was driving a £130,000 supercar and was still in awe. I was wise to choose a mid-engine car as the sound of a wailing V10 reverberate around one eardrum from behind put you in a strange position. It sounds like the thunder is angry at you but no matter how far you plant your foot into the carpet, you can’t escape it. And then there are the brakes. Those carbon-ceramic discs are incredibly sharp and I couldn’t help but feel the car squirrelling and squirming ahead of the bends. Couple that to short, sharp growls when downshifting, where the throttle is slightly initiated to give the engine a tiny increase in power for a smoother gear change, creates a sensation that makes you think this possibly couldn’t be a car that people can buy and go to ASDA to get shopping with (if you really like). Despite the fire-breathing, demonic demeanour that doesn’t pump oil and petrol but adrenaline, the Gallardo out of all of the vehicles I have driven with an internal-combustion engine – and admittedly that isn’t many – was the easiest. And that’s even comparing it to a ride-on tractor mower! It was like driving a very big, very loud go-kart. It was incredibly simple and it’s something that’s going to be with me forever. I now want one. I feel like Baron Bomburst from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when I say it but ‘I want that car!’ If I get the opportunity to drive another car like it then I doubt my opinion will change because the impression it had made on me will be around for a long time.
The Gallardo leaves behind a long line of amazing cars and its bonkers off-springs. There’s the LP560-4 which increased the power from the standard; then there’s the 550-2 Balboni, which gave rear-wheel drive thrills and added a stripe in honour of Lamborghini’s test driver; and then there’s the 570-4 Superleggera which refines everything and puts the car on crash diet to lose a few kilos; not forgetting the Super Trofeo; the Tricolore; the Bicolore; the Noctis; the Nera; the Bianco Rosso; a fleet of GT3 and American Le Man race cars; and the last of the last, a Spyder Performante to name but a few as well as a face-lifted version that came just last year. But in the automotive world, we have to remember that this isn’t a sad occasion because the Gallardo had leave to make way for a brand new supercar to be born. It’s how they car makers spice everything and keep it fresh and exciting. The new car – speculated to be called the Cabrera and currently being hidden under the guise of ‘Hexagon Project’ – is set to capture the same essence that made the Gallardo so appealing. Test mules and prototypes have already been made and taken around various test tracks so Lamborghini are continuingly heading forward. With styling cues from both Aventador and Sesto Elemento, this is going to another interesting blast from the Italians that is definitely going to be worth the couple years wait.
As it stands then, the Gallardo may have gone but it surely won’t be forgotten. It has made a huge impression being the centre of movies, videogames, songs etc. It continued to be held in high regard by motoring journalists such as Top Gear and AutoCar for being sublime and adding a bit of sparkle to the otherwise computer-precise Ferraris or sensible Mercedes-Benz and Porsches. Like the Countach and Muira before it, the Gallardo is going to be one of those cars that no matter what – be it ten years, twenty years or fifty – it will always be regarded as a timeless classic that will still look as epic as it did in any boyhood poster and heralded also as the ferocious, stampeding bull it was.
Words by Jimmi