2009 Lamborghini Gallardo

Roy Ritchie

The guys working around me are similarly speedy, and we encounter no problems building the very first production LP560-4 - an impressive feat. The new car is designed to be easier to build than the last one - and everyone seems to agree that it will be, in time. There are a few areas that are more difficult at first - the rear suspension has a few bolts that are quite difficult to get to, for one - but it's nothing that can't be sorted out later. After all, it used to take 350 hours, start to finish, to build a Gallardo; now it's down to 115 hours.

Physically building a Gallardo isn't difficult - in fact, it's much less painful than it will be to work on the car later. We complete the majority of the production process using the same hand tools that I have in my garage - lots of ratchets, wrenches, and cordless screwdrivers. I wish I had the same big rig that we use to lower the pre-mated engine and transaxle assembly into the car - although the weight of the V-10 would probably collapse my house. Mounting the doors is no backbreaker, either - we use hydraulic lifts to support heavy items. And the cars are transported from station to station (lifted and lowered automatically, and even turned on their side) by carriers suspended from above. I expected to be sore, sweaty, and worn out when lunchtime came around, but that wasn't the case.

What I didn't expect at all, however, is to have a meal in the factory that would put Wolfgang Puck to shame. For about a buck a day, the company-subsidized cafeteria serves ultra-thin-crust pizza baked on-site in a wood-fired oven; pasta topped with light, incredibly aromatic sauces; and savory roasted meats. Fresh fruit is offered for dessert, and just about everyone hits the espresso bar on the way out. (Friendly advice: don't order a cappuccino after 11:00 a.m. in Italy. According to Italians, only freaks, nutjobs, and Americans do that. Proudly being all three, however, I shamelessly enjoy every last supercaffeinated, frothy drop.)

As I follow the car through the factory, I get to frustrate each and every team as I slowly screw a few new parts together. I see that the rear suspension features an additional link per side, which is what makes it so difficult to install. The wiring harness is completely different from last year's, too, and the exhaust is all-new. The gauges use a different font, and the row of switchgear on the center stack now looks like knurled aluminum.

We arrive at the last station right on time, and I decide I've done enough "work." I stand back and watch as the guys remove all of the plastic protective panels, and I can finally see the car as a whole. The new rear end is much more aggressive, more modern, and more Ferrari-like, with quad chrome exhaust outlets. The LP560-4's taillights, which feature Y-shaped "flux-capacitor" elements like its big brother Murciélago LP640, no longer wrap up and onto the horizontal plane of the rear. Up front, the headlights are shorter than before and now have Y-shaped LED daytime running lights. The front bumper is new and bears a family resemblance to the Murciélago and the Reventn. These updates make the LP560-4 even more stunning than the old Gallardo.

I have only a few minutes to stare at the finished product before nine gallons of gasoline are pumped in and it's time to start the engine. Strangely, I'm the only one who seems nervous. Every time I've started a new engine in the past, it's been in my garage, where you could measure my blood pressure with a fuel-pressure gauge; my friends and I stand around, sleep-deprived, covered in grease, and bleeding, poised to run for our lives should a flaming connecting rod come shooting through the block. Not this time - the engine was handbuilt and bench-tested right here in the factory; somewhere in a binder a few feet away lies a top-secret dyno plot verifying this en-gine's output. Di Netta is standing calmly right next to the car, and although his hands ask us to step back a few feet (just in case, I guess), it's time to turn the key.

The starter motor turns over the engine for less than a second before all ten cylinders catch and the big V-10 settles into a quiet, smooth idle. There is no thirty seconds of cranking filled with misfires, backfires, and stumbles as the fuel system pressurizes. There's no smoke. No mushroom cloud, either. In fact, since the new exhaust system's valve no longer completely bypasses the muffler, there isn't even the ferocious bark that causes bystanders to flinch anytime an old Gallardo is started. That a vehicle as utterly spectacular as a Lamborghini could be brought to life for the first time without me messing something up is shocking. For that, I thank the Germans.

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