Ferruccio Lamborghini may have had a blue-collar upbringing (actually purple collar,because his parents were wine makers), but there are few, if any, surnames that can more quickly evoke the image of bombastic perfection.
For 50 years, the world-class manufacturer he founded, Automobili Lamborghini, has been a pack leader of engineering and design, sometimes creating jaw-dropping masterpieces, and other times avant garde head scratchers.
But whatever they come out with, two things are always true:
- You probably can't afford it
- You want nothing more than to take it for a test drive.
With the newest model, the Centenario, unveiled Mar. 1 at the Geneva Motor Show, only one thing has changed: Even if you can afford the $1.9 million price tag, all 40 of these one-off limited edition super cars are spoken for. But damn, do you still want to take it for a spin.
The Italian word centenario translates to centennial or centenarian; April 28th will mark the one hundred years since the birth of Mr. Lamborghini in the Northern Italy town of Cento, which also means 100. There could be no finer tribute than this sleek carbon fiber specimen, which Lamborghini president and CEO Stephan Winkelmann believes "perfectly combines tradition and innovation."
Able to accelerate to 62 mph in 2.8 sec, the Centenario falls only.3 sec behind the fastest car in the world, the Bugatti Chiron. The Chiron has almost twice the horsepower, 1,500 hp, compared to the Lambo's 770 hp. Bugatti's beauty tops out at at least 261 mph, while the Centenario maxes out at 217 mph.
Visit here to get the complete list of technical specs.
Photo: Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A., PRESS DATABASE
As sexy as the design is, any fan of innovation should find the story of the man it honors just as important.
Ferruccio Lamborghini started out working on farm equipment, a career interrupted at age 24 by World War II. He was drafted into the Italian Royal Air Force, where his mechanical aptitude was put to use in the vehicle maintenance division on the island of Rhodes.
After the war he started manufacturing tractors, a business that became so successful he could afford several of the most modern super cars available, including a few from Maserati and Ferrari.
Lamborghini felt there was an engineering imperfection in the Ferrari clutch. He brought this complaint to Enzo Ferrarri himself, which looking back, is like DaVinci criticizing Michelangelo's brushstrokes.
As legend goes, Ferrari treated Lamborghini like a persnickety dilettante, dismissively saying, "“What does a tractor maker know about super cars? Go back to your farm and leave the supercars to me."
Instead, Lamborghini went home and solved the clutch issue himself using tractor parts. Then he assembled some of the greatest engineering minds around to create the 350 GTV, which debuted at the 1964 Geneva Motor Show. The production model, the 350 GT, became available soon after, and the two companies have been in competition ever since, proving that sometimes spite can also be the mother of invention.
And it all comes full circle with the Centenario.
"It is the most fitting tribute to Ferruccio Lamborghini in his centenary year: a man who created an exceptional brand, believed that anything was possible, and produced extraordinary, iconic cars," Winklemann says.
Here's a snapshot at how Lamborghini has changed over the years:
(Top Photo by Harold Cunningham, Getty Images)