Bull Run

We cel­e­brate 50 years of V12 Lambo su­per­cars

Motor (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

What bet­ter way to cel­e­brate 50 years since the Miura than with a mi­dengined V12 fam­ily re­union?

WHEN YOU drive a Lam­borgh­ini Aven­ta­dor SV the world stops – five hun­dred-and-fifty-two kilo­watts and a sound like a Lexus LFA and a Shelby Co­bra duet­ting on a Black Keys cover will do that. Drive an SV slowly and peo­ple will freeze, rooted to the spot, and stare open-mouthed. Drive an SV fast and cars will dis­ap­pear past the win­dow like a streak of rain­drops. And you do drive it fast; it’s im­pos­si­ble not to. Speed lim­its dis­ap­pear in a blur of in­dul­gence and ve­loc­ity. The SV’ll get there so quickly you’ll find your­self in­dulging again and again, where ev­ery ounce of your com­mon sense tells you that you’ll get caught. Re­sis­tance is fu­tile so press the pedal, live for the mo­ment – ev­ery mo­ment – and soak up a sound that’ll have the en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious amongst us wince.

Thirsty, pol­lut­ing, an­ti­so­cially over­pow­ered and dan­ger­ously fast in the wrong hands, a V12 Lam­borgh­ini is the crys­talli­sa­tion of why you first loved cars all those years ago, and why you still do. A blend of clas­sic supercar charm and mod­ern tech, Lam­borgh­ini’s most ex­treme pro­duc­tion Aven­ta­dor is a wor­thy re­cip­i­ent of the fa­bled Su­per Ve­loce badge. But is it the best Lambo ever?

One look at the Miura is enough to fill you with doubt. It’s a tiny car in the metal; 86mm lower even than the Aven­ta­dor, as beau­ti­ful and del­i­cate as a spi­der’s web, but it re­fuses to play by the ac­cepted Lambo rules of supercar de­sign: the slide rules. They’re an­gu­lar and an­gry. But the Miura is soft, cur­va­ceous, warm, sen­sual. If it were a Bond girl it’d be Thun­der­ball’s Clau­dine Auger to the Coun­tach’s Grace Jones. Money can hardly ad­e­quately cap­ture the value of this girl. This one, just re­stored by mar­que spe­cial­ist Colin Clarke, is worth over $2.4m. That value is as much to do with the Miura’s sig­nif­i­cance as its ethe­real beauty.

You know the story: suc­cess­ful in­dus­tri­al­ist gets sick of his un­re­li­able Fer­rari, rows with the boss, claims he can do bet­ter, and cre­ates his own car com­pany to do ex­actly that. He starts with a bug-eyed GT with an en­gine com­mis­sioned by dis­grun­tled ex-Fer­rari man Biz­zarrini, and then turns the world in­side out with the mid-en­gined Miura. Pre­sento, il supercar!

Tech­ni­cally, the Miura’s a bit of an odd­ball. It’s con­structed of steel rather than alu­minium and the V12 en­gine, though lifted from the ear­lier 400GT, isn’t merely mounted in the mid­dle but twisted through 90 de­grees and mounted on top of the trans­mis­sion, just like BMC’s ’59 Mini. The first slim-hipped P400

cars (P for pos­te­rior, or rear; 4 for 4.0) pro­duced 257kW, later bumped to 272kW for the 1968 P400S. But bar­ring the one-off Jota, it’s the 1971 SV, the car we’re driv­ing, that’s the ul­ti­mate in­car­na­tion of the Miura. That was the first out­ing for Lam­borgh­ini’s now fa­mil­iar Su­per Ve­loce name, back then not a stand­alone model, merely an evo­lu­tion­ary step, but a hugely more se­ri­ous Lam­borgh­ini all the same.

Fat arches cov­ered wider but still plump-walled rub­ber, the ear­lier car’s ef­fete head­lamp eye­brows gone and the V12 teased to pro­duce 283kW. Ap­proach the Miura’s driver’s door and you re­alise just how much it hugs the ground, the roofline and doors so low that it’s like try­ing to op­er­ate one of those wheel­chair-ac­ces­si­ble ATMs.

Open the door and the slats, with their hid­den re­lease, come too. While it’s not as out­landish as the Coun­tach’s scis­sor doors, from the front it mim­icks the name­sake of a rag­ing bull, horns and all. The view from the other side of the glass is just as cool, the wind­screen pil­lars so ves­ti­gial you feel like you’ve got trinoc­u­lar vi­sion from the re­cum­bent seats.

There’s lit­tle in the way of dash­board be­yond the air­craft-themed con­sole loom­ing over the open-gated shifter, its six small gauges sup­ple­ment­ing the two main clocks that seem to float in the ether ahead of you. Twist the key (no starter but­ton here, they were for un­couth rac­ers) and in­stead of the grand­stand­ing roar you’re ex­pect­ing the V12 gen­tly, al­most apolo­get­i­cally, bum­bles into life.

Hefty to be­gin with, the thin-rimmed steer­ing wheel shrugs it off once you’ve eased the heavy clutch pedal out, wow­ing with del­i­cacy and com­mu­ni­ca­tion that you didn’t ex­pect as the front tyres feel their way along the road. There’s no red­line on the Jaeger rev counter but in def­er­ence to this car’s freshly re­built mo­tor I ease into the ride, loathe to push it too far. The noise is im­mense un­der load, im­pos­si­bly so by mod­ern stan­dards, a thun­der­ing wail of valve train, gear noise and in­duc­tion roar from the brace of carbs sit­ting be­hind your head.

It’s more than blus­ter. Even just dip­ping a toe into the meat of the power band, this Miura feels rapid. Con­tem­po­rary tests put the 0-100km/h time at six sec­onds and the top speed at around 274km/h – am­ple go given the fee­ble brakes im­bue it with all the stop­ping per­for­mance of a road train. You want to be able to flick it around like a Fer­rari Dino but the Miura is miles less ca­pa­ble as a driver’s car than its wedgy suc­ces­sor.

The Coun­tach is a very dif­fer­ent beast. Harder to get into and see out of, but much eas­ier to send down the road. The 322km/h claimed top speed was pure bull, but to a na­tion tuck­ing into the ter­mi­nally te­dious new Mor­ris Ma­rina in 1971, the Coun­tach cer­tainly looked more than ca­pa­ble.

Though again de­signed by Mar­cello Gan­dini – and bor­row­ing heav­ily from his stun­ning 1968 Alfa Carabo con­cept – the LP500 pro­to­type’s crisp sheet metal and out­ra­geous scis­sor doors broke all links with the swoopy Miura. The chas­sis was now a steel space­frame, and the V12 turned through an­other 90 de­grees – Lon­gi­tu­di­nale Pos­te­ri­ore – but with the trans­mis­sion tucked un­der the tun­nel fac­ing for­wards, un­like most mid-en­gined cars.

The early 272kW LP400 pro­duc­tion cars – nar­row of body, wob­bly of chas­sis and now worth al­most four mil – might be clos­est to Gan­dini’s blue­prints but it’s cars like this black LP500, all arch flares, deep-dish rims and ar­row-shaped spoiler, that most minds con­jure when hear­ing the word Coun­tach.

The 1978 LP400S was first to get those mods, but iron­i­cally it mated them to a 15kW meeker V12, a flaw reme­died on 1982’s LP500S when a hike to 4.8 litres re­turned power to the orig­i­nal’s 272kW. This is the ionic Coun­tach as we re­mem­ber see­ing it for the first time. Big, ballsy and ready to give any Fer­rari a black eye. To­day it’s here in the flesh, and, al­most un­be­liev­ably, the keys are in my hand, teas­ing me with its prom­ise of sheer driv­ing delight.

As with the Miura, you've still got an off­set pedal box and limited seat ad­just­ment to deal with, but with a steer­ing wheel that ac­tu­ally had er­gonomics in mind. It still feels like a Lam­borgh­ini. Flat wind­screen. No in­di­ca­tion where the nose is. Slightly scary. It may not be friendly to drive at first; the con­trols are heavy – even on the move the steer­ing is weight­ier than the Miura's, the gear change stiff – but the chas­sis is so much bet­ter bal­anced.

The Miura might have been the first supercar, but the Coun­tach is the first that looked and drove like one in the mod­ern sense. You can sense the shared DNA be­tween Lam­borgh­ini's sec­ond supercar and its lat­est, even if it's more philo­soph­i­cal than tech­ni­cal. Even if it doesn't have the kick of the later QV, this 500S (or 5000S as it's some­times called) pulls im­pres­sively hard, push­ing you deep into that strange but­toned ther­a­pist's couch that passes for a driver's seat, the claus­tro­pho­bic cabin re­ver­ber­at­ing with a mix of ex­haust beat and the vo­ra­cious slurp­ing of six twin­choke carbs. Pe­riod tests told of 5.6sec to 100km/h and 274km/h-plus top speeds with­out the op­tional wing, which held it back by 16km/h.

Most buy­ers bought it any­way, and kept buy­ing the Coun­tach long af­ter its Fer­rari Boxer neme­sis had given way to the Tes­tarossa. Con­stant evo­lu­tion was the key, the fi­nal four valves per cylin­der 5.2 Qu­at­trovalv­ole it­er­a­tion de­liv­er­ing a mighty 336kW – mon­strous power for the time.

By 1990, Lam­borgh­ini again asked Mar­cello to draw its next supercar but new boss Chrysler didn't like the re­sult, judg­ing it too fussy, and re­worked the de­sign. The Di­ablo's raw ma­te­ri­als weren't that dif­fer­ent from those of the Coun­tach, but that V12 was boosted to 5.7 litres and 367kW for a 325km/h top speed. A four­wheel drive VT ar­rived in 1993, and then more than 20 years af­ter bow­ing out, the SV badge made a re­turn in 1995. This time it was a stand­alone model; more dy­namic than the stan­dard car and – in­cred­i­bly – for less money, some­thing un­think­able in mod­ern times. With more power and rear-wheel drive (rather than the all-wheel drive VT), it was lighter and faster.

Among pre-facelift cars (recog­nis­able by their popup lamps), the SE30 and its track-ready Jota were even fiercer, but they couldn't com­pare to the evil looks of the GT; the wider wings cov­er­ing those three-piece OZ rims, the huge bon­net vent, that mon­strous rear dif­fuser. When the en­gine's run­ning you're con­scious of not get­ting too close to the giant roof snorkel – just in case the V12 snorts you down whole. Stretched to 6.0-litres and de­liv­er­ing its 430kW ex­clu­sively to the rear wheels, this ex­am­ple is run­ning straight-through pipes: they sim­ply hold the door open as a stam­pede of V12 noise charges through from the ex­haust ports.

While it's tempt­ing to dis­miss the Di­ablo as the mid­dle child, lack­ing the orig­i­nal­ity of the first mod­els or the fi­nesse of the mod­ern stuff, the re­al­ity is much bet­ter. Af­ter the cramped Coun­tach, the Di­ablo, with its strangely droop­ing win­dow line, feels bright in­side, the GT's gor­geous car­bon-backed buck­ets lock­ing you in pace in front of the leather­wrapped, al­can­tara-bossed wheel. The ad­di­tion of power steer­ing trans­forms the ex­pe­ri­ence; low speed ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity feels less like a fit­ness test, and at higher speeds it's much eas­ier to flick it about.

Yet de­spite that as­sis­tance, there’s still feed­back aplenty, the wheel gen­tly wrig­gling in your hands, and suf­fi­cient trac­tion from the 335mm rear rub­ber to han­dle that mas­sive 430kW. This car is the sur­prise of the day. I’ve driven a GT be­fore but this one is even bet­ter than I re­mem­ber – a bril­liantly judged blend of clas­sic old school Lam­borgh­ini scari­ness and mod­ern us­abil­ity. How­ever, gen­uine mod­ern tech­nol­ogy didn’t re­ally come un­til two gen­er­a­tions later with the ar­rival of the Aven­ta­dor in 2011.

Although the Mur­cielago and to­day’s Aven­ta­dor might look out­wardly sim­i­lar, they’re to­tally dif­fer­ent beasts be­neath the skin. Where the Mur­cielago fol­lows the Coun­tach’s lead, hid­ing a steel space­frame chas­sis be­neath its skin, the Aven­ta­dor is built around a car­bon­fi­bre mono-cell. Where the Mur­cielago uses an evo­lu­tion of Biz­zarrini’s four-decade-old V12, its suc­ces­sor’s V12 is gen­uinely all-new, a scream­ing short-stroke mo­tor worth 515kW in stan­dard form and stretched to 552kW for the SV. In­stead of con­ven­tional coil-sprung sus­pen­sion, the lat­est Lambo uses rac­ingstyle in­board pushrod dampers.

But let’s not for­get the Mur­cielago’s huge con­tri­bu­tion to supercar his­tory, bring­ing car­bon­fi­bre brakes and the hugely pop­u­lar e-gear pad­dleshift trans­mis­sion to Lam­borgh­ini’s V12 supercar and with Audi bums now firmly on the board­room seats at Sant’Agata, qual­ity was miles bet­ter too. The great­est fear was that Audi’s steady­ing hand would erode Lam­borgh­ini’s char­ac­ter, but a drive in any Mur­cielago proves those fears to­tally un­founded.

In its swan­song out­ing the ven­er­a­ble V12, by now 6.5 litres and 493kW, is an ab­so­lute be­he­moth. Noisy, raw, shak­ing the cabin with feed­back, that V12 dom­i­nates the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. New­com­ers will be first in­tim­i­dated, and then blown away as the rev counter lunges for 8000rpm. Zero to 100km/h takes 3.0sec, com­pared to 3.4sec in the stan­dard LP640, but the top speed fell from 340km/h to 336km/h – or climbed to 341km/h with the smaller stan­dard wing.

There’s no mis­tak­ing the SV for a lesser Lambo: blackout com­pos­ite aero parts fea­ture front, back and side, along with a black coat­ing for the wide 18in wheels. What you can’t see is that Lam­borgh­ini had ditched 100kg of kerb weight with those changes, or how sweet it was to drive, or how strong those car­bon brakes are. But nei­ther can they tell you how much bet­ter the Aven­ta­dor SV is than even that.

The new-gen V12 en­gine is so much smoother, revs flar­ing with the barest flick of the throt­tle. It makes the whole car feel like it is with­out in­er­tia, a sen­sa­tion that the older cars can’t match. Fat pil­lars im­pede your view and the seats feel like they’re fash­ioned from slabs of gran­ite, but get the SV rolling and it’s a rev­e­la­tion. Not sup­ple, de­spite the adap­tive dampers lesser Aven­ta­dors so des­per­ately need, but nim­ble, flick­able, and in­cred­i­bly be­nign.

Although it re­tains an all-wheel drive lay­out, there’s so much less un­der­steer than in the Mur­cielago — a pussy­cat in tiger’s skin. It’s easy to sense how Pirelli test driver Marco Mapelli was able to pull off a 6min 57sec lap of the Nür­bur­gring. Res­o­lutely se­cure on the road, it’s more than happy to let you tease the grip on track. No V12 Lambo supercar in the type’s 50-year his­tory has been so en­ter­tain­ing, so for­giv­ing.

Does that make it the great­est Lam­borgh­ini? While it’s cer­tainly the most able, a Lam­borgh­ini is more about emo­tion than dy­nam­ics. Which you’d grab the keys for first might well rest on the gen­er­a­tion to which you be­long, which poster you had on your wall, whether your favourite film was The Ital­ian Job, Can­non­ball Run or, er, The First Wives Club (Di­ablo fans re­ally suf­fered for a fix). But over 40 years af­ter it was launched, the Coun­tach re­tains some­thing truly rare in the car world, a true cross-gen­er­a­tional ap­peal. It’s the ori­gin of the supercar as we know it, and in our eyes the great­est Lam­borgh­ini of them all.

Wing slowed traf­fic dra­mat­i­cally but it did the same to the Coun­tach, cost­ing it 16km/h of top speed thanks to the sig­nif­i­cant drag Three sep­a­rate gen­er­a­tions but the com­mon an­ces­try is clear. And noth­ing at­tracts at­ten­tion like a Lam­borgh­ini

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.