Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder

Matters of moment

Andrew Frankel

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder
One of Andrew Frankel's life lessons has been that meeting your hero is often a let-down. Not any more...

During the 1970s and 1980s I was mad about Lamborghinis. There was a time when I could tell you exactly what type of downdraught Webers were used to fuel the V12 of a Miura SV, and the precise specification of the rear Pirelli P7 used by a LP500S Countach — a 345/35 VR 15 if memory serves. But as the '90s dawned, two things happened. First, and not before time, I grew up; second, I got a job at a car magazine and occasionally drove Lamborghinis.

One of the most memorable columns I have read involved Jeremy Clarkson describing meeting Chuck Yeager. The point he made was that if you ever get a chance to meet your hero, turn it down — they'll never live up to your expectations. And now I wish I'd never driven a Countach because, had I not, I might still think it was a great car. It's not — the LP500S was badly built, cramped, had poor handling and... was not even that quick. The Diablos were faster but required huge effort for disproportionately small rewards; only the stripped-out Diablo SV and limited edition SE30 came close to fulfilling my idea of what a Lamborghini should be like.

And then came Audi. Who'd have thought it would have taken a company that had struggled since the death of the Quattro to make a decent driver's car to make Lamborghini reality as good as Lamborghini theory? But they did it, turning the Diablo into the brutally quick and charismatic Murcielago and, most importantly, creating a bespoke V10 to power the new Gallardo.

In fact the early Gallardos weren't great at all. They felt antiseptic to drive. But for 2006 Lamborghini, as if realising their error, changed everything from the engine and gearbox to the suspension and steering. And now the Gallardo is the best car ever to wear a raging bull on its nose and, I would say, the first car in its history truly to have the measure of its rival, the Ferrari F430, a car clearly conceived and exquisitely well executed.

Most peculiar is the fact that the best Gallardo is the convertible. Emphatically, I am not a drop-top kind of guy. I giggle when I see people with more money than hair posing in convertible supercars and wonder why they elect to spend more to compromise their driving pleasure. But if the Gallardo Spyder is worse to drive than the coupé, you'd need them both side by side to tell it. Indeed the Spyder offers an enhanced driving experience, because the noise of the 520bhp V10 with the roof down beggars belief. It handles exquisitely, hits 60mph in less than 4sec and reaches 195mph, which should be enough for most.

What makes me happiest is to think there is some lad out there with pictures of Lambos all over his walls who, one day, will have enough money to buy one. And when he climbs aboard his first Lamborghini I hope it's a Gallardo. For he'll come away from meeting his hero not with a sense of crushing disillusion, but simply agog that the experience was better even than he had dreamt it could be.