Within the deluge of modern Supercars, the limited-production series-1 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera has managed to secure a well-earned and respected entry within the upper echelons of this ever-evolving breed of motorcar. The Superleggera being a ‘lightweight’ derivative of the (by then, rather successful) Gallardo line originally launched in 2003, its introduction in 2007 was spawned from a timely Lamborghini tradition of producing a limited lightweight (and slightly faster/louder) variant to appease customer demands and to… well, show us what they really do best.
After all, a Bull that snorts and howls a bit more ferociously whilst blazing a slightly embellished visual trail aimed towards the even-more extroverted enthusiast still remains an enticingly visceral recipe.
Thanks mostly to the sheer multitude of carbon fibre (door panels, console, seat-backs, wing mirrors, rear diffuser, engine-cover, rear wing and sills), magnesium (the stunningly beautiful ‘Skorpious’ lightweight alloy wheels being forged from the stuff), titanium (wheel nuts) and lightweight Alcantara upholstery stitched… well, everywhere… the weight-savings were clearly on display.
Yet they didn’t end with the glossy black stuff either. Behind the front wheels were lighter/thinner driveshafts and propshaft. The engine cover’s glass window was replaced with clear polycarbonate and the near-horizontal rear window was swapped with something called Macrolon… All in all, a rather dedicated effort put forth towards shedding some of the plump – a nicely-rounded 100kg to be exact – bringing the total mass down to a commendable 1420kg. Nice.
Power was up a smidge (by 9 bhp) thanks to a remap along with new intake and exhaust manifolds assisting the snarling exhaust to expel the deafeningly demonic sounds that the monstrous 522bhp V10 exhumed. But still left intact was that heavily debated ‘fly in the ointment’ – a massive 50kg one at that – the front-driven wheels.
Lamborghini decided to stick to their newly-hardened AWD ethos for the Superleggera, resulting in snippets of criticism that fell forth on the company’s decision to retain said (heavy) layout within a ‘lightweight’ version that had already gone to great lengths in lopping-off the excess. ‘So’, it was asked, ‘why not eradicate the front-driven axle and assorted gubbins to set- free an extra 50kg…?’
What’s interesting to note is the 2009 follow-up with the sadly limited (only 250) LP 550-2 Balboni, created to commemorate the retirement of legendary Lamborghini test-driver, Valentino Balboni. His personal insistence with this ‘raw’ Lamborghini bearing his name being that it sends power exclusively to the rear wheels.
Here then, laid forth a tantalising prospect, albeit one deprived of the finely focused weight-saving measures laid forth by the Superleggera yet highly praised for its old-school attributes and increased levels of feel and communication. Alongside its bonkers brother, the ‘leg’, both cars finely examined the unique idiosyncrasies that both drivetrains offered any keen driver fortunate enough to experience their wrath.
And that wrath is something this particular scribe cannot, and will not, ever forget. The very Arancio Borealis (er, Orange) Superleggera you see here on this screen has forever embedded itself within my eternal automotive psyche as a useful reference when asked about vehicular experiences of the more shockingly explosive sort. Let’s not mince words here – It’s a land-based Italian (and slightly German) rocket propelled by a Molotov-like mixture of mechanically theatrical whizzes and whirs offset by random hissing, clonks and gratuitously violent bangs… It’s a bloody maniac, yet an easy maniac to drive – strange that.
It was impossible to bumble around a suburban ‘hood in this theatre-on-wheels without grinning and chuckling like a sneaky comical cat. The hell-raising sounds exerted by the blip on downchanges alone will actually scare you at times, nevermind those that aren’t even yet within view of the ‘audible Armageddon’ closing in on their humble territory (ask my Mum…). Despite the relatively ease-of-use nature, it still managed to tick those essential boxes. So then, by traditional extrovert-laden old-school standards, a proper Lambo then…? Mostly, yes.
After lowering yourself into the heavily bolstered Alcantara seats, clicking yourself into place and grabbing the thick-rimmed Alcantara steering wheel, you giddily smirk along with the helium-giggled sounds of the starter-motor… everytime. Shortly thereafter, a rapturously thunderous BOOM explodes the V10 into life. And if it’s 7am, you’ll gently sink a bit further down into the seat, knowing that you’ve probably awakened every living soul within a 2-mile radius.
The driving position is spot-on, save for some questionable absence of lower-back support within the oddly curvaceous seats, but otherwise it’s an ergonomically pleasant place to be. Select a gear within the E-Gear tranny using the paddle (I so wished this example had a proper manual), hear what sounds like two miniature workmen lifting and slamming down various metal objects inside the gearbox, and then you’re off. Well, sort-of. Until the mechanicals warm-up, you’ll be lurching and lunging your way slowly down the lane. Oh, E-Gear.
Despite the AWD layout (and its criticisms) you can’t help but feel a slight notion of added (and aided) performance in knowing that the front wheels are clawing away for grip as you exit a corner and get back onto the huge swell of power. You can actually feel it nibbling away at the tarmac too. Plus, it’s not the intrusive downer that you’d assume either, as the drive-bias is rearward and genuinely feels like a rear-driven, mid-engined leviathan with its front wheels providing some help with your accuracy-of-line. Plus, most drivers nowadays couldn’t even begin to comprehend the necessary, lightning-quick steering/throttle applications required to rein-in 522bhp from a short-wheel based, RWD Lambo – 90% of all Gallardos would be in ditches… let’s be honest.
So then, why have we come here, to this very nip of forest, to capture these fog-engulfed images..? Simple. In my younger years, when I regularly rode my BMX throughout the varied trails and paths that traverse these immense woods, it was on a damp and foggy February day back in the 80’s that I found myself dead-stopped in my tracks to witness first, the chilling yowl, then the shockingly alien-like blur of a be-winged monster popping and banging on the over-run as it scythed its way in between the trees of this tragically-short snippet of roadway… It was an Orange Lamborghini Countach.
I was floored then… even a bit scared. So when some rarely-seen fog rolled in to greet our region recently, I instantly knew where I wanted to capture the orange Superleggera beastie you see here. As I quickly snapped away before impending ‘traffic’ concerns, a father and son emerged from the forest to gather a closer view of what they’d just heard. The young lad was suitably gobsmacked at the sights and sounds. He had just re-lived my youth, completely. A moment of motoring fright… His open mouth and eyes said it all… Rather happy to report then that new-school, flamboyant orange Lambos still retain an enigmatic and tantalisingly absurd impression on the young ones.
Words and Photos: Blake J.