Test Driving Gandini’s Prettiest Supercars At Lamborghini & Design Concorso d’Eleganza
Photography by Rosario Liberti
Few companies make a car as exciting as a Lamborghini, and though the new ones are ungodly fast and high-performing in general, the company’s early efforts embodied the idea of the supercar best—and to boot, many would agree that the mid-engined Miura was the first example of such. Marcello Gandini’s design remains one of the prettiest mid- or any-engined automobiles, and the fact that he also defined the supercar in the following decade (and arguably the one after that, too) with the Countach speaks to his prodigious talents with a pen and a sketchpad.
All told, Gandini drew seven Lamborghini production cars during his time at Bertone and Italdesign, but the hat trick of halo cars—the curvy, feminine Miura; the extreme, wedged Countach; and the 200+ mph Diablo spaceship—are his most popular works. Three cars, three generations of kids with Lambos taped to the wall.
Gandini’s supercars are as mesmerizing as ever, but his other designs for the manufacturer—the Espada, Jarama, Urraco, and Jalpa—were getting their share of love at this year’s Lamborghini & Design Concorso d’Eleganza.
It’s not everyday that you see all the Lamborghini models from 1964 to 1991 in an underground car park, but Rosario and I were lucky enough to be invited to the second running of bulls at this exceptional event organized by the classic Polo Storico department of Lamborghini. On the route from Venice and Trieste, 36 classic bulls were reigned in for the weekend alongside a few contemporary models for good measure.
On Friday morning we were given the key to our first press car: a silver Countach 25th Anniversary. It happened to be my 37th birthday, and though they stop feeling as special as they did when you were a kid blowing out candles, this one was different.
We started off toward Trieste from Venice and covered about 100 kilometers before the lunch break, stretching mechanical legs on the highways and relishing the post-tollbooth excuses for acceleration (and the necessity of lifting the scissor doors to pay) on the way over. After we and the cars were refueled we left our V12 doorstop and swapped into an elegant blue Jarama S, one of just 152 produced. A wonderfully comfortable, compliant, and quick grand tourer that stood in contrast to the Countach, we gave it some bittersweet pats on the roof when we traded the Jarama later in the day for a yellow Jalpa, a car that surprised us with its America-esque V8 soundtrack and agile but smooth demeanor when pushed into a corner.
In the late afternoon our exotic herd arrived at Portopiccolo, near Trieste, where they were all parked up by the harbor to be exhibited to the public on the seaside. Split into three different locations, it was hard to decide whether the bobbing boats and coastline or the cobblestoned streets made for a better backdrop. The next day, on Saturday morning, the cars were judged by a selected international jury. They were still deliberating in the afternoon ahead of the evening’s awards ceremony, so we headed toward Trieste in something a bit quicker than the Jalpa: Rosario and I took an Aventador SVJ to Piazza Unità di Italia, where our convoy was overwhelmed by a group of locals and tourists eager to see the rolling display of Lamborghini history behind our modern marvel.
The event continued in the streets on the historic Trieste-Opicina hill climb course—that we completed in a Huracan EVO Spider—and, after briefly entering Slovenia, we ended with a return to Portopiccolo after covering 62 kilometers of gorgeous, sun-dappled roads that I’ll have a hard time forgetting.
Judges gave Best in Show to a 350 GT, chassis #102, owned by a Swiss collector, which also won Class A “Front Engine Dawn.” The car, restored with the utmost care and completely respecting the original features, is one of the pillars of Lamborghini’s history as it was the first car to be sold to customers. Today this car is the oldest existing Lamborghini model.
Class B, “Rear Engine Revolution” went to a 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 S. Class C, “Longitudinale Posteriore” was won by the one-off 1974 ex-Walter Wolf Countach, which was also later acknowledged as the car that represented the most important milestone in Lamborghini’s history. Class D, “Towards the future,” went to a stunning 1999 Diablo SV, while Class E, “Modern Dreams,” was given to a Centenario Prototype. Finally, Class F, “New Frontiers,” was won by a mint condition 1987 LM002.
It’s impossible not to feel a bit faint after getting sucked into a daydream for 48 hours, and we’d like to thank Lamborghini Polo Storico for putting on the event and inviting us to take part. The classic-focused department of the company was officially organized in 2015 in order to preserve the heritage of the brand, including the restoration and the certification of all Lamborghinis produced until 2001, as well as the reconstruction of spare parts for classic Lamborghinis, for which more than 200 new code numbers were introduced last year.