A Lamborghini “passione”

By Mick Haven

The Author shares why he has a passion for Lamborghinis. 

It is 1969 and I’ve got myself a steady girlfriend. So on a Saturday evening we go out riding around in my little black Standard 8. This is no ordinary Standard 8. It had 5½ Js on the back, Pirelli Cinturatos, fish fryer headlamp guards, a Standard 10 engine with an 8 head, no hub caps or bumpers, a stick on front number plate and a remote gear shift from a Triumph Herald sourced from a breakers. To make it fit, I cut, or hacked, a hole in the floor so as to match it with the original gearbox. Naturally, the hand brake had to be bent around to the left to allow for the remote which sat between the seats. I digress.

On the night in question, we set off for London, a trip of about fifteen to twenty miles from home in Dagenham, Essex. We eventually found ourselves in Aldgate, at the top end of Commercial Road in London E.1. The road split here at a set of traffic lights. To the right it went via Aldgate High Street to Leadenhall Street, Cornhill and on to the heart of the City of London, i.e. The Bank of England. Taking the left fork, would take the motorist along a little street called Alie Street, to Tower Hill and across Tower Bridge to ‘sarf of the river’, the Thames that is. Many of the buildings in Alie Street still bore the scars from the intensive bombing in World WarTwo. As we turned into Alie Street, we saw on the left a small petrol station, with a forecourt and  some National Benzole pumps standing on a raised concrete island. Ok, there was nothing unusual about that, National Benzole were as familiar then as were Esso, Shell and many others. It was what was on the other side of the island that stopped us in our tracks. There was a small uninspiring showroom, and inside were of all things, Lamborghinis. We were speechless. We got out of the car and peered through the windows of the folding doors in disbelief at what we saw. Until then, a Lamborghini was a picture in magazine, or something to drool over at 1960s Earls Court Motor Shows.

Yet here they were in all their glory, albeit as untouchable there as had been at Earls Court. I believe the first one which jumped out at us was a Miura in lime green. Behind it, if memory serves me correctly, was an Islero and possibly a 400GT. The love affair with them started right there. It became a Saturday night pilgrimage, and subsequent visits saw most of the Lamborghini models of the period, the Espada, the Islero, and on one occasion a Miura in dark blue, with white leather, in right hand drive! How rare was that. But was it that one, or an orange one or the lime green one? Time sadly clouds the memory, but there definitely was one. Other colours in the range were also spotted as time went by, until they eventually moved out of there to South Godstone in Surrey, a far more acceptable setting for such stunning motors.

Around about 1970, CAR magazine ran an advert offering for sale a Lamborghini driving jacket. It probably wasn’t of course, but it did have a stick on Lamborghini patch. I had to have one, and I’ve still got it, the patch that is, not the jacket. I didn’t see Lamborghinis again until they came back to London, W.1 in the late 1970s, where I remember riding past and seeing through the showroom window, the huge presence of a red Countach. Ironically, of all the Lamborghinis I’ve had a passion for, one model which stands out is the Marzal shown at Earls Court in 1967. A concept car, it never went into production, there was only one ever made, finished in silver, and when it came up for sale in 2011, it sold for 2 million US Dollars. The car was almost certainly the catalyst for the Espada, and the likeness is obvious. Various model manufacturers have made a model of it, e.g. Matchbox, Dinky and various others, all of whom produced it in a myriad of ridiculous colours, all except the right one, all of which are totally wrong, and are an insult to it. The example I have is a Polistil in white, which although wrong, is at least passable, as in some shades of light, the car may have looked white when photographs were taken prior to production. All other aspects of the model are superb. The Veneno is courtesy of Whitebox and represents good value for money.

There is in existence, a 1969 ‘G’ registered right hand drive lime green Miura, which turns up at various motoring events. It is, or was then, owned by a lady from north London and apparently she drove it daily around her locale. What’s surprising about that?

Our club (South Hants Model Auto Club) displayed frequently at Classics at the Castle at Sherborne. At the 2014 event, there it was. Thinking it was the car from Alie Street all those years before, I got talking to the owner who let me sit in it. If getting in and out of it wasn’t hard enough, how on earth did she manage to push the clutch pedal down the number of times that would be necessary in the traffic of north London, an area I knew well. It was “sooo” hard. I had sat in one before at the former Chelsea Auto Legends, another of our club days out. The clutch was the same, as were both owner’s response’s to my questions about driving it. “Oh you get used to it”. It later transpired that the Sherborne Miura wasn’t ‘that car’. I wrote an article about the show for Model Collector, with a picture of the car and added my thoughts about its history, concluding that it must be, based on, “how many right hand drive Miura’s are there”, of that year, and in lime green too? “Could this be the same car,” I asked? Why didn’t I ask her about its history? Who knows. Then by sheer luck, a reader saw the article and responded. Evidently, the car was known as ‘the Twiggy car’, due to it being owned by Nigel Davies, aka Justin de Villeneuve, Twiggy’s manager. And may also have been owned by a certain B. Ecclestone. It was originally white, was left hand drive, and had been converted and resprayed ‘Pistachio’ green. It was not the car I had seen over forty years before. Nevertheless it was great to see it there. I then saw it again at the London Racing Car Show at the ‘Ally Pally’ last year. Unfortunately, it’s owner couldn’t be traced.

Having joined South Hants Model Auto Club, I joined with other members in putting on displays of models at various motoring events, predominantly in the south of England. At the same Classics at the Castle event, the Lamborghini owners club arrived in convoy. Shortly before that event we had been invited to visit Bill Shepherd Mustangs in Weybridge. With that in mind I asked the organiser of the Lamborghini cavalcade if our club could pay a visit to his showroom. This we did. Not only were there Lamborghinis, but Bentleys and Aston Martins too. If there is such a thing as paradise in a high street, this was it. We were allowed to sit in any car which didn’t belong to a customer. What a day that was. The hardest part was deciding what colour we wanted! Supercars come and go, and everybody has their favourite, many people like more than one brand, and why not? I’m no different, but for me the number 1 supercar will always be Lamborghini.

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