Sant’Agata Bolognese is not the type of place you’d think of as home to one of the world’s most highly respected supercar manufacturers. With its bucolic landscape of rolling hills and country farmhouses, it better fits Ferruccio Lamborghini’s original business as a builder of tractors. And although Aventadors and Huracans are a long way from farm equipment (just ask the locals who see them testing out on public roads every day), Lamborghini’s headquarters and assembly plant are still on the same plot of land they were on in 1963. Ferruccio wanted to be as close as possible to the production site, after all.
I managed to score myself a private tour of the museum while on vacation in Italy, and I can’t recommend enough that you pay a visit there as well. Aside from the thrill of seeing the womb of Italian super cars, there’s a lovely museum next door where you can find some of the most significant (and gorgeous) models from the Lamborghini playbook.
The big metal and glass structure that Lamborghini uses today is the result of parent Audi’s desire to modernize operations following Volkswagen Group’s acquisition of the Raging Bull in 1998. Audi brought a very German precision to the manufacturing process, as well as much-needed improvements to the facility, such as a resin-based factory floor.
“Nobody used to care about things like that,” says Simone Mollica, communications rep for Lamborghini. “We don’t forget about history though,” he is keen to point out, motioning us to admire the one square meter of the original floor that’s been preserved.
To our left we can see two production lines—one for the Huracan and one for the Aventador. Big signs mark each as either the V-10 or V-12 line, which is how the factory’s 600 workers refer to them. There are currently 24 stations on the factory floor, which, when working in concert build 12 cars per day. Workers are timed for each task, and given a maximum of 33 minutes to finish before the clock runs out. Like I said, Audi put this system into effect. All elements of the V-12 line are built in Italy and assembled here. Workers can build as many as five V-12 engines per day, but chassis production is limited by the amount of raw carbon fiber the factory’s specialized CFRP parts production facility can source from Japan.
When Lamborghini adds the Urus line t later this year, the factory will grow its staff to nearly 1,500 to meet the additional demand. Mollica tells me that although the atmosphere was quite a bit more uptight under the management of outgoing CEO Stephan Winkelmann, nowadays the feel is much more like a big family. That’s the handiwork of current CEO Stefano Domenicali, who took the reins in 2014. Since he took over, the big banners depicting the vehicles alone have been replaced with banners of the workers, all crowded together around the fruit of their collective labors.
At the moment, though, it’s awfully quiet. “Every time I bring a journalist here, the workers are on a coffee break,” sweats Mollica. I can’t help but laugh. It is the day before a national holiday, so employees are itching to get out of work a bit early. Nevertheless, 10 minutes later, the factory floor is teeming with one last surge of activity before the place empties out. Presumably jacked up on biscotti and ristretto, workers are now expertly assembly body panels, testing tolerances, and in a show of manufacturing mastery, marrying a full powertrain to its waiting chassis like a foot in a very tight shoe. For such emotional machines, there’s a sensibly human touch to what goes on behind the scenes.
Well, almost all of it is human. A little yellow robot on wheels zips by—the only non-human helping out with assembly. Its name is Robert, and it reminds me of the boxy little repair droid that scuttles around spaceships in the original Star Wars trilogy. Robert is in charge of carrying heavy weights from station to station, saving time and reducing risk for workers.
We head over to the interior department, where a cadre of women are there to greet us with questionable stares. Here we take note of the precision and attention to detail that goes into every piece of leather, Alcantara, and hand-sewed stitch. Even if you don’t opt for Lamborghini’s Ad Personam customization (30 percent of Huracan buyers do, versus 50 pecent for the Aventador), you can believe that each vehicle is the product of many experienced hands and hearts. The most memorable request Ad Personam has had recently? One buyer wanted his family crest stitched into the headrest. Lamborghini asked what color he wanted it in.
Roughly 60,000 to 70,000 people visit the factory annually. If you have a vehicle on order, Lamborghini will even host you for a few days so you can watch it be built step by step. For everyone else, it’s 75 euros per person, and it’s recommended you book far in advance to ensure your spot.
We make our way out of the factory, past the original gate from 1963, and into the museum. On the menu is everything from the tour de force that was the original Miura to the outlandish Countach and 90s-tastic Diablo. Lesser-known beasts like the LM002 SUV are also on display, right alongside modern marvels like the Asterion hybrid concept. Once I’ve had my fill downstairs, I steady ourselves and climb the stairs to the second level, where the museum is currently hosting a spectacular exhibition on Ayrton Senna, on view until October 9th, 2017.
Anyone within spitting distance of Bologna—or making the pilgrimage to nearby Modena and Maranello to see the Ferrari side of things—would do well to make some time to see the Santa’Agata Bolognese factory and museum. When you turn in for the night, half in the bag between the crisp Malvasia and the handmade pasta, you’ll dream of Huracans, Aventadors, and Miuras in rich and delightful detail.