What the Lamborghini Design Chief Dreams About
Few people are lucky enough to grow up and live the dreams they dreamed when they were 13 years old. (This is probably a good thing given what many 13 year olds dream about.) There are those special few, however, that not only had big dreams at such a tender age, but grew up to fulfill them. As current Head of Design at Lamborghini, Mr. Filippo Perini is one such lucky man.
AB: How did you get into cars?
FP: When I was 11 or 12 years old, there was a rich man in my hometown of Bobbio, Italy, who owned a beautiful Miura. I was standing with my little bicycle in front of the light blue car and its magnesium gold rims. It was so impressive! The owner came and turned on the engine—when I heard the engine’s sound I thought, “This is not a car—it’s a dream!”
AB: How did you get interested in car design?
FP: I started sketching Lamborghinis when I was 13 years old, and I sent these sketches to magazines. One Italian magazine called Gente e Motori, published my sketches and told me to keep going forward with what I was doing, so I did.
AB: When you landed this job as Head of Design at Lamborghini, how did you feel?
FP: I remember the day really well. When I first drove through the Lamborghini gates in September 2003, I started crying. I was driving my car, crying and honking my horn. It was crazy—it was a dream that became real. I’m a lucky guy, because I can have fun doing my job every day. I feel like a soccer player or something like that—it doesn’t feel like work.
AB: What’s been surprising about your job?
FP: The surprise is that as the years are pass by, I am continually changing. This happened last year: I was concerned about my age and thinking maybe as I get older I’ll lose my creativity, but it doesn’t happen, since I try to stay close to my colleagues, especially those who are younger than me. This is the fun part of the game.
AB: We did a short film called When Outrageous Was Possible, where the owner of a Countach talks about the design of the car and how such an extreme design was only possible in an era before all the regulations that exist today, a time when you had a lot more freedom in design. With the unveiling of your new Veneno model, you prove us wrong and once again demonstrate a beautifully outrageous design despite all the homologation requirements. Can you talk about what it’s like designing today and having to navigate all these legislations that affect design?
FP: This is the tough part of my daily job. Homologation really impacts my daily job, because every day it’s getting worse. There are a lot of rules, and since we are producing cars worldwide, they have to be homologated worldwide. It’s important to note the clear division between style and design. A designer has to understand technology, homologation, performance, aerodynamics, and has to consider all these constraints as a challenge. A designer has to make a slalom through all these obstacles to reach a level of creativity. The Veneno was done this way. With the Veneno, we started with the platform of the Aventador, thinking the Aventador is the absolute ultimate Lamborghini supercar that’s homologated for the road. Then our task, given to us by the board, was to produce three cars that were completely free of any regulation constraints. They wanted to see something extreme, something clear out of the production limitations. This is how we designed the Veneno.
AB: But in the end, the Veneno is road-legal, right?
FP: Yes! This is the funny thing. When you really know how homologation works, you can design something unlike anything you’ve designed before, having a totally different design philosophy. You can see in the Aventador we have a solid, monolithic design with stretched surfaces, on the other hand in the Veneno is divided and edgy, like a skeleton.
AB: Are there any designers of the past that you consider your heros that have been inspirations for you?
FP: Yes. Franco Scaglione. For me, Franco Scaglione was one of the best designers in the history of the world. Many years ago, he died in Tuscany, completely unknown. I feel he was truly a genius. He designed two or three cars that I consider among the top ten designs of all time.
AB: Which ones are they?
FP: The design I like most is the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale.
AB: You’re speaking my language! I love Alfas.
FP: Yeah, me too! Scaglione also did the Sprint Speciale, the 2000 Sportiva Coupe, and if you remember, all the Alfa Romeo BAT concepts. Beautiful! I like him more now, because I’m in a company that began with his design. If you see the 1963 Lamborghini 350 GTV you can recognize his influence. There is the cockpit in a water-drop shape from the top view. It’s a very beautiful design. For this reason, I left Alfa Romeo with his design in my eyes, and I arrived at Lamborghini with his design still in my eyes. It’s a continuation, the same journey, more or less.
AB: The current Lamborghini designs have a lot of jet fighter influence. Scaglione had studied aeronautical engineering and was fascinated by incorporating aero design into his cars. Are we seeing his influence, thanks to you, on the current Lamborghini line up?
FP: Yes, he was always working in exactly the same way. The Alfa Romeo BATs were done with an eye to aeronautics. We do the same, because aeronautics are always more forward-thinking than automotive, because they have to address complex functionality. For example, take the stealth fighter—it presents two very competing requirements: one is to be very fast and maneuverable in the air and the second is to be invisible. It’s this mix of two opposites that makes the end result so beautiful.
AB: So, can owners of modern Lamborghinis feel assured that the police radar will not detect them?
FP: Haha! No comment!
AB: Since the first car you fell in love with was that Miura in your hometown, would you say the Miura is your favorite Lamborghini design of the past?
FP: Yes, for sure. The Miura is still today a masterpiece of beauty. My first project at Lamborghini was to “rebuild” the Miura for the Miura Concept [built on the Gallardo platform]. We worked together with [Walter] de Silva [Lamboghini design chief at the time]. It was so beautiful, because touching those Miura proportions and preserving them in a totally different platform was amazing. It was the best time, and I learned a lot.
AB: What do you wish for yourself career-wise? Is this ideally your last job?
FP: I find myself thinking tomorrow it will end, because I have this idea in my head that I am not good enough and will not survive in a place with this kind of heritage. I’m always trying to improve the job we’re doing. I always ask my team, “Are we really sure that this is enough? Is this design good enough?”
Perhaps because of this fear that I have, I’m still surviving. I don’t know, I never think about the next job. I have to follow my dream; it will end sooner or later, but for the moment I don’t need another dream!