In 2003, I was only 11 years old, yet fully aware that Audi had recently purchased Lamborghini. In between worrying about which PS2 game to buy next, my thoughts were consumed by one other salient question: just what were Lamborghini going to release after the Murcielago?
The answer, as we all know, was the Gallardo. This model would go on to become Lamborghini’s most commercially-successful model ever, ushering in a new period of Audi-fied useability whilst still capturing (most) that was manic about the Sant’Agatan brand. Such has been the model’s importance to Lamborghini that over half the Lamborghinis ever sold have been Gallardos. That’s a staggering number, yet with 14,000 produced worldwide, the little coupe still managed to be special in a way that most 911s couldn’t be.
Early 2004 saw the Gallardo hit UK shores for the first time, and my first sighting of the black bull was in Heathrow whilst waiting for a flight. Offered as a prize in a supercar raffle, I asked the attendant if I could sit in it. With my head barely in line with the top of the steering wheel, my dad snapped a picture of me in the cockpit which I still have to this day. It would be ten years before I’d slide behind the wheel of a Gallardo again; gone would be the gleaming metal wand protruding out of the gearbox, instead replaced by the e-gear paddleshift. Despite this example being a bit rough, it was still a notable experience.
Looking at the baby Lamborghini in 2014, and it’s clear to see that it’s had – by modern standards at least – a very exploited production life. Whilst my obituary is a little overdue, I’ve tried to familiarise myself with the Gallardo-replacing Huracan before passing judgement on the original V10 model. To me, the Huracan is just too bloated and curvaceous to match the aggression of the original. Part of the Gallardo’s appeal was its relatively small stature, as its dimensions were not much bigger than those of a MkVI Golf. Facelifts introduced in 2008 and 2012 also reinforced the intimidation factor of the car, whilst keeping it fresh in the face of Ferrari’s F430 and 458 Italia. Lamborghini definitely struck the right chord with this car, as for ten years the same model was refined and honed whilst rival manufacturers released brand new models to compete with it’s 550-odd horsepower, four-wheel-drive lunacy.
Of course, Lamborghini’s resource-sharing with sensible parent company Audi helped massively. Audi switchgear and componentry did gradually yield to Lamborghini items, but without the Gallardo, the world would never have experienced the Audi R8. The passing of the Gallardo should be mourned: as a driver’s car, it was constantly evolving and spawned two gearboxes, dozens of limited editions and a gorgeous naturally-aspirated screamer of a V10. Furthermore, it allowed Lamborghini to strengthen their market position and push more capital into the development of the Aventador and Murcielago. But above all, it was the first Lambo that could truly be modified, as the folks at Underground Racing have ably proven:
Goodbye then, to a car that grew up and matured in parallel to my own development from car-loving child to car-loving man. If I ever own one, it’ll be a first-generation Superleggera or one of the last Super Trofeo Stradales, instead of the 1:18 Bburago model coupe that lives in the attic.