An Afternoon With A Lamborghini Urraco
The message came through at around 2pm. “It’s a nice day today guys, want to meet up later? Paul – you can have a ride in old yellow”.
The message was from Lee and ‘old yellow’ is in fact a 1970’s classic Lamborghini Urraco. A car from a bygone era and completely different to anything that I’m used to. It’s mechanical. Old.
It’s an offer that is difficult to refuse as a petrol head and so a call was placed to the management (my wife) to ensure I had enough man-points in the kitty for a last minute exertion. The answer came back positive; happy days.
With other-friend Mike joining us a few hours later, I set off to Lee’s house. Upon arrival some sixty minutes later, I was greeted by a man-with-gloves, who was just about to commence the “pre-flight checks” on the Urraco. I joined him in the garage where the car was waiting, moreover a workshop with a VW bus in a state of operational repair at the rear, and tools lining every inch of the walls.
Transfixed at the wholesomeness of this man cave, with a Lamborghini at the helm, Lee offers a word of caution “Everything in here is dirty and you….are not” he smiles, referencing my office suit attire. It didn’t matter, this is a proper petrol head grotto and nothing in here that a good washing machine can’t sort if I was to touch anything too apparel damaging.
The black-slat covered engine lid was up, displaying an old-school carburettor engine. The complete mechanical ensemble joined together by a few wires and not much else. “It’s a very simple engine”, Lee informs. “There is an engine management system over here,” referencing the type of electronic box you’d see in an 80’s computer hall, “but that’s it, everything else is mechanical”.
There was also a fire extinguisher in the boot. A cautiously wise investment for old cars, I’m told.
I step out of the garage, as Lee clambers into the driver’s side and beings the start-up process. A few moments pass and the world remains silent. “What I’m doing now,” he shouts from behind the wheel, sensing my waiting tension, “is pumping the accelerator to get fuel into the engine before I turn the ignition”.
The whole activity is somewhat comical but also adds to the occasion. After a few moments, the engine splutters in to life in a magnificent growl that only a car from the 70’s can. The wide Lamborghini is tentatively driven down the driveway, where I open the door and climb inside. Immediately noticeable is that people weren’t tall in the 70’s. This car doesn’t have much room for a 6’4” bloke. I look around for the seatbelt and notice it is affixed to the ceiling. “These are the basic seatbelts, which fix you in position, rather than extend and retract on demand,” Lee laughs. But that’s fine, my head is wedged to the roof so I’m pretty firmly in place.
We set off down the road and the sense of occasion is still apparent, even in an old car like this. The dials and speedo is from another era entirely, the seats are supportive only of my backside, but it feels classic. Classic and special. It is after all a Lamborghini. As the v8 grumbles down the road I ask Lee how it compares to his previous Ferrari 360 in terms of head-turning abilities; “It still get appreciative looks,” he tells me “It’s an unusual, old-school shape and those ‘in the know’ will give it more than a second glance. Plus, it is yellow, which is more obvious on the road than the silver 360. The 360 attracted more attention from kids, where the modern shapes are more what they want to see, but enthusiasts definitely watch you go by”.
The drive through the sheets of Manchester comes to an end all too quickly, but the added perk that we stop at a friend’s house to admire Lee’s other Lamborghini (the epic Gallardo), before departing back home. It has been quite an exclusive, if not entirely comfortable, ride: The extremely rare Lamborghini Urraco is an experience that few car enthusiasts will have ever enjoyed.
There is something magnificent about old cars that is simply lost in the new-world of automotive. The active-maintenance ethos, the expectation of breakdown, the surprise and delight of not breaking down and perhaps more importantly in the speed obsessed world that we live in, the sheer joy of cruising in such a car at low speeds. At 30mph the sensory excitement of something which suggests significantly more. The smell of petrol, the heat being dissipated from the engine onto your arm as you sit in the cabin, the noise of the engine, popping, coughing and spitting along with raucous intent as you drive along at 30mph. Perhaps now, more than ever before, these old cars actually make sense as a weekend experience, on roads without traffic.
Great fun. I’ll be back again in the future, you can count on that.