Scribing a Line

Sant ‘Agata Bolognese oversteps the mark. 

Lamborghini LPI 800-4 ‘Countach’. drivesection

Heritage is a highly lucrative business model amid the upper echelons of the OEM motor industry. For carmakers with a history to plunder and a reputation to uphold, there are seemingly unlimited numbers of what are politely termed high net worth individuals with bank accounts fit to burst, seeking super-priced, super-exclusive, supercar nirvana. For those at the sharp end, cost, it does appear really is not an object, but execution is, heritage is, provenance certainly is and authenticity, not to mention bragging rights very definitely are.

Given the strictures, regulations and privations currently visited upon carmakers, finding new and profitable revenue streams has become the very stuff of life itself. Currently there appear to be two main prongs to this end of the market: The limited run series, (or one-off), which largely tend to be based upon contemporary designs, utilising crash structures, chassis and running gear of series production models, or on the other side of the equation, the slavish, to the last nut and bolt reproduction. Some, like Aston Martin for instance, have attempted both.

For some time now, Automobili Lamborghini have been doing good business catering to the high-end collector market by producing small runs of ultra-Lambos. Emboldened perhaps by the success of their Ad Personam Studio, and no doubt casting an envious eye towards their Maranello arch-rival (who appear to be quite literally printing money with its ongoing series of bespoke offerings), Sant’ Agata Bolognese has embarked upon a new course – retreading past glories.

Maybe not so new. Lamborghini was here or hereabouts before, having created a latterday interpretation of the seminal Miura in 2006, designed to commemorate the model’s 40th anniversary. Addressing press speculation that the carmaker would put the Miura recreation into production, Lamborghini CEO, Stephan Winkelmann at the time stated: “The Miura was a celebration of our history, but Lamborghini is about the future. Retro design is not what we are here for.” So far, so equivocal.

2006 Lamborghini Miura Concept. topcarrating

Fast forward ten years and something of a change of heart at Sant’ Agata, or at least a partial one. The Aventador Miura Hommage was introduced as a limited run of 50 examples by Lamborghini, and to be fair, it was patently an Aventador with a light dusting of Miura appliqué, for those who like that kind of thing. Equivocating somewhat from its decade-old position, the carmaker claimed that “the Aventador Miura Homage proves that Automobili Lamborghini looks to the future without forgetting its roots“. Deftly swerved.

2016 Lamborghini Aventador Miura Hommage: seriouswheels

Therefore, given its central position in the Lamborghini iconography, it was unthinkable for the Bolognese hypercar maker to neglect marking the Countach’s 50th anniversary in appropriate fashion.

By happy coincidence, the Polo Storico or Lamborghini Classic division had received a commission in 2017 (by an extremely wealthy collector) to recreate the very first Countach; the 1971 LP500 Geneva show prototype, which caused such a sensation at its debut, but was destroyed in crash testing during certification for production in 1974.

Taking over 25,000 hours of painstaking labour, and only completed recently, it made its public debut at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Italy earlier this month. As homages go, an exacting cost-no-object one-off recreation of a hitherto lost prototype would probably be as respectful as one might hope for. Lamborghini’s great and good certainly made all the right noises at its showing; design director, Mitja Borkert gushing, “The LP500 is of paramount importance to Lamborghini because it gave rise to the design DNA of all subsequent models.” CEO Stephan Winkelmann simply describing it as “something extraordinary.

2021 LP 500 Countach recreation: automotonet

Extraordinary is an adjective one could employ to describe Lamborghini’s own homage to the Countach, but in this case, it is for reasons that neither reflect well upon either Sant ‘Agata management nor its stylistic leader. Shown in August of this year at Pebble Beach in California at an event marking the Countach’s anniversary, Lamborgini previewed a Sián-based vehicle, dubbed LPI 800-4, designed not only to evoke the Countach of yore, but assume its mantle.

While the 2016 Aventador Miura Hommage by contrast seemed a bit of harmless milking of the super-rich, the LPI 800-4 comes across as a far more cynical product. With a price tag of $2.5 million a pop, and a limited run of 114 cars, we’re talking revenues in the region of $285m, minus development costs of course, so one can see the business logic. Unsurprisingly, all have been pre-sold – money as always proving no arbiter of taste.

In a statement which tells you where the current management sit in relation to their heritage, the carmaker claims that the LPI 800-4 Countach is “an even more visionary and futuristic design destined to once again change the rules of the game…” Taking post-truth to hitherto uncharted depths, they go on to claim “the new Countach LPI 800-4 reinterprets the distinctive silhouette of the classic model with an even cleaner and essential line, making it immediately recognizable“.

Now is probably a good time to remind you of Mr. Winkelmann’s 2006 pronouncement; “Lamborghini is about the future. Retro design is not what we are here for“. Oh dear.

Here is where matters become somewhat more intriguing. As PR reversals go, last Friday’s press release from Marcello Gandini was almost as much of a sensation as the legendary car designer’s output during his Stile Bertone heyday. For not only does the man responsible for establishing the modern Lamborghini visual identity dismiss the LPI 800-4 in creative terms, he intimates that Lamborghini mislead him as to their intent. 

In June this year, at Sant ‘Agata’s request, an in-person interview was filmed between Lamborghini design chief, Mitja Borkert and Gandini, to discuss the original Countach in the context of its anniversary. During the presentation, Borkert describes how much he had wanted to reinterpret the Countach for the modern era, showing Gandini sketches and a scale model of the LPI 800-4, which he then presents to his quite evidently bemused guest. 

Mitja Borkert waxes lyrical about the LPI 800-4 while Marcello-Gandini looks on: dlitetech

In his written communique, Gandini asserts that he believed this car would simply be displayed as a one-off for the Pebble Beach event, the statement saying, “Neither earlier, nor during the interview was it stated that the car was scheduled for limited series production“.

This video clip was subsequently used by Lamborghini to promote the introduction of the LPI 800-4, lending a tacit impression that it was fully endorsed and approved by maestro Gandini himself. This, the Italian designer was at pains to refute, stating, “Marcello Gandini would like to reaffirm that he had no role in this operation, and as the author and creator of the original design from 1971, would like to clarify that the makeover does not reflect his spirit and his vision.

Gandini is then quoted as saying, “I have built my identity as a designer, especially when working on supercars for Lamborghini, on a unique concept: each new model I would work on would be an innovation, a breaker, something completely different from the previous one“, before going to state, “as far as I am concerned, to repeat a model of the past, represents in my opinion the negation of the founding principles of my DNA….” The statement ends with Gandini lending the diametric opposite of a benediction.

This ought to be a matter of huge embarrassment to Sant’Agata, considering the significance Marcello Gandini represents to Lamborghini in design provenance terms – a matter of no small importance when one is selling high net worth individuals witheringly expensive automotive trinkets. If your design lodestone and the creator of the original Countach shape disavows your car, where does that leave you? Perhaps the 114 LPI 800-4 owners won’t care, but one suspects that a subset of them will. But the question now must be, whether Lamborghini does?

The so-called mood music suggests otherwise. Perusing the design section of Lamborghini’s website, one is struck by how the carmaker makes abundant use of Gandini’s vision in reference to car designs like the Miura, the Marzal concept and Countach, yet without a solitary reference to their stylistic author. Meanwhile, Centro Stile Lamborghini and its lead designer are cited liberally. One could almost be forgiven for thinking that Lamborghini want their customers to believe they designed all of their cars in-house.

As Marcello Gandini noted in his missive, “it is clear that markets and marketing itself has changed a lot…“, and there is no doubt, they have. Furthermore, it is without question that Mr Winkelmann is under immense pressure to maximise revenue at a time when the VW mothership is facing unprecedented pressures. However, this frankly unconvincing reanimation displays a mystifying lack of respect for its own heritage.

reviewsunlocked

Lamborghini have denied that they mislead Signore Gandini, but seem to be hoping to ride the wave of negative PR, on the basis that it will most likely be quickly forgotten amid the fast-paced news agenda. Never explain. Admit nothing. Change the subject.

Whatever one’s view of Marcello Gandini as a creative, wheeling out one of the 20th Century’s truly great car designers, to whom Lamborghini owe a great deal in reputational terms and yes, provenance; patronising him with warm words and flattery, as though he was simply a marionette to be carelessly plonked back in his box when no longer required is not the act of a respectful nor particularly smart curator of heritage.

So is it any wonder that the veteran designer felt it necessary to draw a line?

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

36 thoughts on “Scribing a Line”

  1. I’ll say here I’m not against retro remakes myself; I’ve seen some really nice remakes of old video games – from Alley Cat to Goody and from Head Over Heels to Deflektor, and these are either graphically and sonically faithful to the original or modernized. There’s also a very active homebrew software community that makes fantastic new games for old 8-bit and 16-bit machines, from the Atari 2600 to the Amiga 500, including (of course) the ZX Spectrum and even the Commodore PET (check out PETSCII Robots). GOG (Good Old Games), a subsidiary of the controversial Polish company CD Projekt RED, has successfully made older games (from the later MS-DOS years all the way to the Windows XP days) easily and legally available.

    Of course, it’s totally within Lamborghini’s rights to revisit its older designs. If other companies can do it without being shouted at for it, why can’t Lamborghini? I don’t remember seeing many raised eyebrows when BMW introduced the revived Mini; ditto with the Fiat 500. I remember myself lusting after the 2003 Lancia Fulvia prototype. Of course, “Greek Al” Issigonis and Dante Giacosa are dead, and if Piero Castagnero is still alive, he was, in all likelihood, 81 years old and retired when the Fulvia concept car was displayed. And of course, all these designers were in-house designers, so the Mini, the 500, and the Fulvia Coupé were/are corporate IP.

    Gandini, on the other hand, wasn’t a Lamborghini employee, so the Countach isn’t solely Lamborghini’s IP. Aesthetically, I don’t mind a revival of the Countach, although it may be seen as redundant and an easy, lazy publicity stunt, given that its DNA is evident in practically every Lamborghini supercar design that followed it. Let’s face it, from the general shape of Lamborghini’s supercars, to the way the doors open, and from to the general shape of the tail-lights, the Countach’s influence is obvious. Gandini voiced his opinion because he has a moral right here. It’s his IP, too. Do I agree with him? Not entirely, as is evident from my stance on this car. But do I see a bit of cynicism in VW/Lamborghini’s decisions? Yes.

  2. Let me fully agree with your commenbts, Eóin: ultra-limited editions and one-offs are the new gold mine of high end OEMs, a practice not necessarily linked to good taste or respect for their own heritage.
    Regarding the “new” Countach: where are the NACA ducts or the boxy air intakes above the rear wheel arches?
    Firts time I saw a real Countach I was scared: a black one, on a rainy night in Munich, it looked like an evil thing coming from another world. When I saw the “new” one I smiled: white, soft, liked a cuddly toy based on the real one.

  3. Good morning Eóin. Your piece raises an interesting question for me concerning the merits or otherwise of ‘recreations’ (pure copies) versus ‘reinterpretations’. Regarding the former, an acquaintance of mine, discussing the 1929 Bentley ‘blower’ 4 1/2 litre, quipped that only 128 of the 50 originally built remained on the road! Regarding the latter, Lamborghini paid for the original design so is free to do what it likes with it.

    Ignoring questions of propriety, I think the LPI 800-4 is actually rather well executed. I’ll take mine in this colour, please:

    I suspect the sort of people who have bought it are unlikely to be unduly bothered by Gandini’s rejection of the car.

    I’ll get my tin hat…

    1. I’m inclined to agree. I like its relative calmness and restraint compared to other recent Lamborghinis.

    2. As Lamborghini Diablo VT homages go, this is no bad effort.

      Personally, my main issue with recent Lamborghini design is that the outrageousness has become utterly predictable. Edgy scoops and oodles of hexagons do neither excite, nor shock me. I can live with a Lamborghini that’s not to my taste, but a Lamborghini that leaves me indifferent (which they mostly do) is a true disappointment.

      For those reasons, I applaud any obscenely expensive hypercar that dares to be genuinely different, even if it does so at the price of leaving the boundaries of good taste behind it. Which is why I genuinely like the Aspark Owl.

    3. Good morning, Christopher. The Aspark Owl was unknown to me before reading your comment. Wow!!! An all-electric hypercar producing 2,012bhp (1,480kW), accelerating from 0 to 60mph in 1.69 seconds, with top speed of 250mph (400km/h) and it looks just marvellous!

      Here’s the company’s website and a introductory video:

      https://asparkcompany.com/aspark-owl-the-fastest-full-electric-hypercar/

      Of course, I’d kill myself in about five minutes in it…

  4. Is there a point at which the luxury overlords decided that all major design positions should be occupied by thick-necked Germans in tacky tailoring? The minute I scrolled down and saw such an example pictured with Signor Gandini I knew something bad was in the offing. Ruining marque codes and throwing away decades of brand integrity is just what they *do*. At this rate, we’re only a couple years from Gordon Wagener “reinterpreting” the Geländewagen in his groundbreaking “bar-of-soap” design idiom.

  5. The Countach redesign reminds me of another controversial redesign from a few years ago:

    Also, I wonder if they resprayed the LP500 remake from yellow to white in the photo with the LPI 800-4 in the foreground or if it was Photoshopped?

    1. Good to see the lethal sink plunger survived the cut…😁

    2. And the egg-whisk. Daleks may have been ruthless killers but, my word, they were useful to have around the house.

      I’m not keen on retro recreations in general, as I think things ought to progress, but to be fair to Lamborghini, most of their ‘homages’ don’t look much like the original, intentionally or not. Here’s the short video referred to in the article.

    3. The bit in the Christopher Eccleston series where a Dalek crushed a guy’s skull with the plunger may be my favourite Dr Who moment ever: The Daleks finally became actually scary.

      Not a fan of the redesign. The Countach isn’t bad though. 😉

    4. In the same way band make more money performing live than they do selling recording, I see companies like Lamborghini and Aston (Martin) making more money doing limited-runs and ones-off rather than trying to sell 1500 editions with a 20,000 GBP margin. One could perhaps entertain the idea of a specialist firm re-making (“performing”) certain cars now discontinued. Fancy a new Alfa Romeo 75 3.0? Or a box-fresh Lancia Aurelia? All you have to do is get an existing copy and reverse engineer it. I presume 5 million euros ought to be enough to get something along those lines.
      John: the re-designed Dalek is not bad apart from the rather crude box from which the arms jut out. That part needed a 1 cm chamfer and possibly a larger chamfer on the edges in line with the Dalek´s motion.
      Apcca: I don´t really like the “thick necked Germans” bit. Corresponding terms might be “double-chinned Brits” and “greasy skinned French people”. It´s not unimportant that Germany still has a) an indigenous car industry and b) excellent centres of design education.

  6. For me, the creative value of the LPI 800-4 is something of a sideshow. So little did I think of it when it was first presented earlier this year that I had no recollection of it at all when this missive from Maestro Gandini came my way at the weekend. Mind you, the stark contrast between the quality of Lamborghini’s painstaking one-off recreation of the 1971 LP 500 prototype and the seemingly careless appliqué approach to plastering Countach cues onto the pre-existing Sían design really is striking.

    Of course, one could also cite the Anniversary version of the Countach as being an example of Lamborghini treading water at the very least, since it was in effect a wholly new car, wrapped in a familiar, if lamentably disfigured shape.

    I am not the world’s greatest Marcello Gandini fan, nor do I particularly approve of the unquestioning deification notable figures such as he are lavished with in some quarters. Indeed, one could nit pick and suggest that the 2000 Stola S81 concept, which reprised the Lancia Stratos in spirit saw Gandini revisit one of his past masters, or even more pedantically, that his reuse of certain design features, especially later in his career. However, such was the quality of his work during the late 1960s that his position in the pantheon is unquestionable and deserving of the highest praise. Gandini at his height was truly extraordinary. What really rankles in my view therefore is the woeful lack of respect Lamborghini have demonstrated to someone to whom they owe so much.

    “Lamborghini has been saved, but will be destroyed. It will be diverted from the magnificent catastrophes that have so enlivened its history. What has gone is purpose and intent. With infinite slowness and enlarging melancholy, Lamborghini will fade.” Not my words, but those of writer and commentator, Stephen Bayley in 2007.

    Could not have put it better…

  7. Richard, my intent was reference a certain archetype, not stereotype an entire nationality. You could substitute “dudebro” for “thick-necked” and achieve the same result. My apologies for any offense.

    Sincerely,
    A hamburger-eating American

    1. Jolly good! The reason I notice this is due to the repercussions of living on the receiving end of UK-sourced prejudices in the 1970s and 1980s. I tend not to like nationality-based generalisations.
      Among the most memorable eating events of my half century on Earth so far was a hamburger consumed in a brasserie in New York city in 1992. It consisted of two buns, a patty and a gherkin with some Heinz ketchup. I can still see it now. On precisely the same plane, my other most memorable eating experience was in a 1-star Michelin restaurant in Montelimar around 1989. Again, a stellar gustatory event. Words don´t describe the flavour of the jugged hare.

  8. If a “Supercar” is an expensive, exotic mistress, with no useful purpose other than to delight the senses, then the Miura is the template. Subsequent mid-engine Lamborghinis, with their semi-horizontal windscreens and cab-forward design miss the mark entirely.(there needs to be some distance between the door and the front wheel-arch).
    The McLaren F1 trumped the Miura by being slightly more practical for road use, and highly effective as a racer, but couldn’t quite compete as an object of desire.
    For Lamborghini, the Miura was an impossible act to follow and they haven’t come close – although I hope one day to see a Murcielago up-close. ( I believe they had cooling flaps above the rear wings that could move like gills when the car was stuck in traffic ?)

    1. Mervyn: there´s probably a limit as to how far each archetype can be pushed. The Diablo landed on that limit. To follow your analogy, the Diablo was like the most extreme plausible human form with all the most important structures expressed to the fullest degree; later supercars were like plastic-surgically enhanced freaks. Or in food terms, like a 1.3 kilo hamburger. The McLaren could not go further than the Diablo in terms of physical expression of speed but did improve markedly on performance. It was a like smarter super-model who was a dab hand at accountancy.

  9. I look at these two and think Axolotl and Salamander:

    The Axolotl lives in a paedomorphic state, in most cases retaining most characteristics of its larval stage for its entire lifespan. The are mainly water-dwelling, and while they never metamorphose under natural conditions. However certain conditions can induce metamorphosis resulting in a form similar to the land-based amphibian salamander.

    The bland Miura tribute looks like the larva of the 1966 original, which is a far more richly developed design.

    1. Good morning Robertas. That is very well observed. Even though I’m very much in the ‘less is more’ mindset when it comes to automotive design, the Miura concept is just too stripped back and lacking in detail, even for my taste, and completely lacks the delicacy and finesse of the original.

      Moreover, my eye is drawn to that body-coloured ‘winglet’ at the end of the front spoiler, which looks very much at odds with the rest of the design. If it’s aerodynsmically necessary and not just a styling flourish, they should have left it black.

  10. Hi Eóin, well put, fully agree. The LPI800-4 isn’t necessarily all that bad, but it’s indifferent. I struggle to see its distinction from the rest of Lambo’s line up and singularly fail to see the spirit of the original in it. Something the 500 and Mini did better in my opinion – given that they were never going to be utilitarian vehicles like the originals, they do capture some of the joy. The LPI800-4 doesn’t (although “joy” would in this case be more like “dread”). Having Nikita Mazepin reduce the Countach to a NACA duct and narrow headlamps in front of the creator himself feels tasteless to say the least.

    Don’t mention the war… I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it…

    I remember a Car piece some years ago where they grouped all the VAG group heads of design together to talk about the individual brand identities they represented, informed by history and nationality. All of them, literally all of them, were middle aged German men. Fortunately Car got quite some stick for that article (it was rather gushing). VAG has felt to me like a recycling plant for design identities for some time now, and that article (or rather, the accompanying photo) fully confirmed that. Not necessarily bad design identities, mind, but the starkly imposing Skoda Octavia and Superb remind me very much of previous-generation Audi designs.

    1. Tom V: In fairness to Mitja Borkert, he can’t really do a lot about any putative facial resemblance to certain crash-prone Russian F1 drivers, but I will accept that his taste in attire may have been part of the reason for Snr. Gandini’s rather pained expression in the clip shown above – although I suspect the vehicle dangled in front of him was primarily responsible.

      Generally speaking, I’d rather not get too bogged down on certain nationalities. There are German car designers doing fine work; I would single out Michael Mauer at Porsche, who is overseeing consistently good work at Zuffenhausen. There are signs of light at Ingolstatdt, albeit very, very faint ones, although whether Mr. Lichte is the man for the job remains somewhat questionable. On the other hand there are plenty of senior designers from elsewhere who can equally be accused of overarching vanity and a lack of perspective. Mediocrity transcends borders or passport identities.

      On the subject of Skoda, it is my belief that the design overseer for the current Superb and previous generation Octavia was one Jozef Kabaň, a Slovakian incidentally. (Both cars were excellent in my humble opinion, but yes one could envisage the four rings of Auto Union upon them). Having endured a troubled sojourn at the Vierzylinder for a couple of years, Kabaň is now back at Wolfsburg, where his talents will I hope be appreciated. And heaven knows they need all the help they can get right now.

      But if we’re going to take a pop at anyone, the CEO level is where one should aim. The ultimate responsibility nearly always lies with them.

    2. Being a head of styling for one of the VW Group marques must be a deeply frustrating job, given the restrictions placed on you by the shared group architectures. Imagine having to stand up in a press conference twittering on about the unique and innovative styling of the SEAT Tarraco when it’s blindingly obvious to your audience that it’s a Škoda Kodiaq with a nose job and different rear quarter window.

    3. I’m unaware of the Car piece in question (I stopped reading the magazine about a decade ago), but I find it quite unlikely that only German designers were featured.

      Off the top of my head, a hardly insignificant list of non-German VAG designers come to mind:

      VAG: Walter de’ Silva (Italian, though Italians tend to claim he’s actually German)

      VW: Walter de’ Silva

      Audi: Walter de’ Silva

      Seat: Walter de’ Silva, Luc Donckerwolke (Belgian), Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos (Spanish), Jorge Diez (Spanish)

      Lamborghini: Luc Donckerwolke, Filippo Perini (Italian)

      Bentley: Dirk van Braeckel (Belgian), Luc Donckerwolke

      Skoda: Dirk van Braeckel, Jozef Kaban (Slovakian)

    4. True, all. It must be hugely frustrating to be a car designer in almost any large conglomerate because you’re always juggling the emotional story of the brand you represent, usually centered on a long-gone independent history, with the harsh economic reality of platform sharing. I do not envy their position.

      To be clear: I was not trying to take a punt at Germans (or any other nationality). There is far too much finger-pointing at single groups (or even individuals) for whatever ill is being discussed. Maybe that wasn’t clear, so for anyone who interpreted my comment that way: I’m sorry.

      About the Car article: Twitter to the rescue… (how often do you get to say that, nowadays?). Apparently it was September 2018, more recently than I thought:

      https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DkqdGjiX0AAncD6?format=jpg&name=large

      You can just make out the names. They’re not all Germans, but a good many of them are. Again, not a dig at Germans or the VAG group, but at the impossible juxtaposition I mentioned above: the usually slightly embellished history of an individual brand steeped in independence and (again, usually somewhat embellished) idiosyncrasy against the harsh economic and regulatory realities of today. Having almost a two-page spread of Germans wax lyrical about a very diverse set of brands or continents (there are a few regional design chiefs there as well) just puts a spotlight on the loss of independence for many of those brands. It also comes across as a bit crass, like Borkert’s reduction of the Countach to a few elements probably wasn’t meant to be disrespectful but easily comes across as such. Another succesful German designer I’d mention is Peter Schreyer, by the way.

      How many of the greatest stories of car history including recent ones on DTW are about cars that were either conceptually brilliant but brought down by underdevelopment, or brilliant because their creator lacked funds and simply had to be creative (a few Fiats spring to mind)? A large conglomerate eases the problem of underfunding and – to an extent – underdevelopment, but at the cost of independence. I don’t think there is an ideal solution, neither is it a homogeneous problem: groups like VAG or erstwhile PSA do some things very well, some things quite badly.

  11. How the mighty are falling.

    The decay is evident all though this matter. Designing an inferior copy of the Countach was in poor taste. Producing it and deploying it to obtain huge money from interesting sources was in bad taste. Pimping Gandini in an underhanded way was in most poor taste. All of this is bad by design, accomplished by people who ought to know better (and to some extent probably do).

    Why did they fall this way?
    – Financial stress- Lazslo Toth once wrote about vultures circling an ailing skunk in the desert, possibly an apt image to bear in mind for Euro-industry, of which VAG is an important part.
    – European politics and the present state of its political culture.
    – Lack of leadership and courage right across senior management and middle management.
    -Severe lack of innovative and artistic talent in styling/product development. This is key. It is a consequence of many failures, from education right through to the working environment. It is a consequence of what is being nurtured and grown.
    – Management/technocrat/marketers operating in a bubble (one with internally mirrored so the occupants see little or nothing outside).
    – Lack of understanding of the context and history of the brand, its product and what that all means to other people (or once did mean to other people).
    – Not really caring anyway. Cynicism. Poor attitude. Low personal standards. Lack of integrity.

    The one who comes out of this affair intact is Gandini. Good to see he clearly understands what this is about. Impressive to see an Italian gentleman issue appropriate response in the way he did. Now THAT is style and good manners besides. VAG could learn a great deal from him about many things.

  12. Nobody has mentioned that Gandini effectively disowned the Diablo.

    Firstly I don’t deify the man, he certainly had a streak of brilliance which for me ended around the Ferrari 308GT/4, and then with the Rainbow, I suddenly don’t understand his vision for Ferrari, or with the Ascot, which I like, but I am nearly certain it is not a “Jaguar” in any universe we are familiar with. Let’s put his later work aside for a while since nobody seems to either understand it nor like it, myself included, it garners some interest, then again so does a train wreck.

    But it is his middle period which fascinates me the most, because I thought I understood the direction he was trying to take Lamborghini in.

    What I saw in the spy photos, and what I see today still is an attempt to separate the car into two functional modules that have separate functions and are melded as one. This is not a wholly original idea. I note firstly Luigi Colani’s experiments with separating the passenger compartment from the mechanical “sled” that carries it. There was a GM turbine truck concept in the mid 1960s too which I think influenced Colani. A second influence on Gandini’s P-140, which eventually became the Diablo would seem to be the Testarossa, also bisected by a flowing and rising visual break line, above which is a habitable space for two, below which is an brutally angular power module dominated by the huge straked intake.

    I expected more of this on the Diablo. Perhaps it is evident to others in the prototype, do you see the egg shaped passenger compartment on top of the wedge shaped power module? Note that I don’t get a real sense of this from the Cizeta, but conventional wisdom be damned, I don’t think I am imagining things. From what I can piece together, the Cizeta style was another attempt by Gandini to placate Chrysler, also rejected.

    So Chrysler wasn’t satisfied it seems with any of the directions Gandini thought this car might pursue. Such are the tribuations which characterize Gandini’s relationship with Lamborghini during this period that the Diablo as we know it is only a semi-Gandini design. It’s final form is more a smoothed out evolution of the 25th Anniversary Countach than the old Sant’Agata spirit of shocking the senses, being jolted into the future.

    I wish to illuminate here that VW was not the originator of the dilution and reduction of the Lamborghini brand into a pastiche of Gandini-esque cues. The template for what we see today was well established by Chrysler. It doesn’t help matters that Chrysler fashioned a very attractive concept sedan for its exotic Italian ward, the Portofino, which went on not to inspire a generation of ground breaking Lamborghinis but rather Chrysler’s large American sedans. And perhaps by that time, nobody needed to wonder why Chrysler sold Lamborghini, since the thread, the plot, the spirit of the whole thing was quite entangled in their web of corporate marketing driven design, appropriated for whatever purpose might serve marketing in the short term, heritage notwithstanding.

    But there was new hope in the mid 1990s because Lamborghini was sold and the new owners, Megatech had the insight to hire an outside carrozerrie, Zagato. Once again we saw a sort modular type design emerging, almost as if they had read the works of Gandini and Colani and understood where the train had derailed and were prepared to put things back on track… Let’s look for a moment at the Canto, because VW actually used quite a bit of it, it seems. To me the Canto form basically consists of two blobs, one containing the passengers, the other dominated by these outrageous rear scoops, it’s not unlike the concept I referenced before, but instead of an angular power module, both parts are ovoids. Also I note in the Canto, it’s most obviously outrageous feature, those huge air scoops, which I want to point out as a call-back to the Silhouette/Jalpa’s ear-muffs. Do you remember those cars? They were derived from the Urraco, I am not certain how much Gandini contributed to the subsequent facelifts that comprised the Silhouette/Jalpa, but they all bear Gandini’s design DNA.

    Personally I think there was a bit too much 1990’s chubby softness in the Canto, if only it were tempered a bit by some Gandini-style angular elements.

    But as soon as Lamborghini fell into the hands of VW, what did they do?

    1. You’re quite right in describing the Diablo as only 50% Gandini – Tom Gale’s team having added a considerable degree of, depending on one’s viewpoint, professionalism or tedium to Gandini’s original design.

      I still vividly remember seeing spy shots of the Canto in a German car magazine, back in the day, and seeing all my prejudices confirmed – for better and worse.

      https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/proxy/-Jglas_5LWHSs46Jxbgx1c0pupHXPmM8LLyxDOJHiEy1v-eMYC4cYajW8B42hDU132GGh-IVXWJgm7FxXzgIvrfvnxvl

      In that context, what would you make of the Calà, which combined graphics similar to the Canto’s with a more conservative body architecture?

    2. VW applied the same formula as Chrysler had ten years before. Observe how the Murcielago has the exact A-pillar, windscreen, and side glass of the would-be Canto. But the rest is changed to be derivative of the Countach, Diablo, even the Silhouette/Jalpa (ear flaps, repurposed as bat-wings). VW simply stole Chrysler’s playbook for commercializing Lamborghini, once again drawing upon established Gandini design cues, updated, made more livable, roadable, civilized. But hardly as impactful and earthshaking as their storied predecessors. And then they did it again with the Gallardo.

      What followed was a stream of tasteless derivations, exemplified by the vile, vulgar, tasteless, Veneno. And frankly, even the Aventador, seems to be in terms of design: a Murcielago with Cizeta air scoops grafted on for the sake of drama, Gandini on top of Gandini! thus at least not completely bereft of aesthetic attributes.

      Well, this latest appropriation of Gandini, even dishonestly plying a falsely obtained endorsement (following on the appropriation of the hexagon motif from his Stratos Zero, which is not even a Lamborghini) is certainly a step too far, and nobody can blame the man for speaking out.

      Somehow it seems like the corporate mien isn’t compatible with Ferruccio’s creation, and that I think is the problem, not VW specifically but that Lamborghini needs far less emphasis on marketing and short term thinking. VW can do “Latin” Seats just fine, but they never were really exposed to the Lamborghini of Ferruccio, Stanzani, and Gandini, and they have neither a feel nor impetus for resuscitating a spirit that had already departed long before they were involved, as long ago as 1975.

      I wonder why VW cannot grasp what they are missing? They see something in Mate Rimac and in their own Bugatti brand that I find compelling, they haven’t ruined Porsche yet. I still root for them. But they fail at Lamborghini, Ital Design… I must end with some sort of conclusion. Not that VW are incapable or incompetent but perhaps they have bitten off a bit too much, too many brands?

    3. Hi Christopher, I’ve been thinking about the Cala too. I would like to see it in the metal because I am not certain, at first (when it was first shown) I was very enthusiastic, but I vacillate so much on it. Firstly, I didn’t want Lamborghini to die, and I thought they needed this car. Secondly, the Jarama etc. are not the most thrilling… so there is precedent for a less stunning car under the flagship. The angle it is photographed from in the photo you linked is rather flattering, but now I could see how Mitsubishi could have made it. I’m not certain whether it is one of Giugiaro’s masterpieces, I guess that depends on what one expects a Lamborghini to be.

    4. Perhaps it’s the case that VW are perfectly happy to sell slightly sanitised and anodyne Lamborghini branded cars that are mainly bought by those with little experience of ‘real’ Lamborghinis (and little patience for their highly-strung, temperamental character) but simply like the image of the marque?

    5. Gooddog,

      don’t forget that ItalDesign had a hand in the Gallardo…

    6. My eyes do love the Gallardo. However, my heart lies elsewhere. Regarding whether Lamborghini’s current business model is sustainable: If only Richard Hammond had destroyed one and barely survived…

  13. goodog writes, “What I saw in the spy photos, and what I see today still is an attempt to separate the car into two functional modules that have separate functions and are melded as one. This is not a wholly original idea. etc.”

    Those most excellent guys at International Agency Design created a car separated into two functional modules. This was back in 1986. The car was the IAD Alien. It did get a lot of attention.

    Not a Lamborghini, but it would have been a welcome sight on the road. I wouldn’t have minded driving one of these (assuming it had the performance to back up all the drama of its appearance).

  14. gooddog

    Thanks for the link to the article.

    I like the Alien. At one time there was talk that an outfit in the UK was developing a kit-built version. Seems nothing came of it though.

    More recently there was a report that Colani’s “bi-body” Miura had been found and was being restored. Sounded like it had found a good home. The photos showed it to be in very rough shape and needing plenty of work.

  15. Eoin an excellent article, thank you, and a very well informed and informative discussion to follow.

    I am way behind on DTW at the moment because I can’t skip the ever growing comments section.

    Lastly – your closing line is a cracker

    “So is it any wonder that the veteran designer felt it necessary to draw a line?”

    Chapeau – or whatever is the Italian for hat!

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