Urraco V8

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CONVOY!

MEL NICHOLS ON A NEVER-TO-BE-FORGOTTEN JOURNEY BYCOUNTACH, SILHOUETTE AND URRACO

IT HAD THE UNREAL QUALITY OF A DREAM. That strange hypercleanlines.s, that dazzling intensity of colour, that haunting feeling of being suspended in time, and even in motion; sitting there with the speedo reading in excess of 160mph and two more gold Lamborghinis drifting along ahead. Not even those gloriously surreal driving scenes from Lelouche’s A Man And A Woman were like this: that grey, almost white ribbon of motorway stretching on until it disappeared into the sharp, clear blue of a Sunday morning in France, mid-autumn, and those strange dramatic shapes eating it up. What a sight from the few slower cars as thattrio came and went! What a sight from the bridges and the service areas: they would have seen the speed! So would the police, of course, those same gendarmes who one after another apparently chose to look and drink it in, to savour it as an occasion rather than to act.
We hadn’t intended to travel so quickly when we left Modena with 1000miles ahead of us. That we should, given the build-up, the delicious crispness of that early morning, the perfection of that road and those cars was inevitable: notto have done so would have been appalling now, for it was only a short time laterthatthe French imposed their speed limits with a savage new will and such adventures may never be possible again. Yes, in Germany, in theory: but on those narrow German autobahns with theirbumps. . . ?
We arrived in Modena on Thursday night, spilling, tired, from an ailing Avis Fiat 131 hired with great difficulty at Milan airport: nothing has changed. For some inexplicable reason all the hotels in Modena were booked out, even our quiet little favourite the Castello out among the vineyards. Not even the talents of the desk clerk at the Real Fini could secure us a bed. We lounged for an hour in his bar. glad to rest, while he telephoned. But Roger Phillips had atrumpcard: a key to the flat of Rene Leimer, the owner of Lamborghini, and we set off in the clapped Fiat again, weaving along backroads until we stopped at a trattoria in a village near Sant’Agata. It was two in the morning butthe place was still in full swing and Carlo the owner greeted Phillips like a long lost brother and itwas but moments until we had an excellent four-course dinner in front of us! No bill: there would be a grand reckoning when it was all over. And with that we tumbled offto Monsieur Leimer’s beds, thankful that he was in Switzerland and thus spared the embarrassment of four guests.
Britain's Lamborghini chief had come for his cars. About 10am he rang the factory. ‘Ah Phillips,’—it was almost possible to hear sales manager Scarzi shrugging—‘your cars? Perhaps this afternoon, perhaps tomorrow morning.’ The Urraco 3.0Iitre was ready; even the Countach was ready. Butthe Silhouette .. . the Silhouette was still being painted. Now Roger had been before, countlesstimes, and David Joliffe who runs Portman garages had been before, and so had I; Steve Brazier, who runs Steven Victor, Lamborghini’s main London service agents, who hadn’t, could but tag along merrily for lunch and wonder. This time it was another of the remarkable Carlo’s establishments, a place of rather superior tone. He waited on us personally, tirelessly and quite perfectly, recommending this, tut-tutting overthat, sweeping away dishes notto his approval before we could try them and replacing them with others. We ate gloriously, and drank equally satisfactorily. And then we were at the factory, that long fawn establishment set back a little from the road on the Modena side of Sant’Agata.
Friday: no Dallara, no Leimer; not even Baraldini, that wiry little engineer who runs things now. He was off seeing the Germans about a certain forthcoming projectthat will consume a lot of Lamborghini’s time and production capacity and hopefully provide them with the economic answers they need, for things had taken a turn for the worse.
Leimer had been promised £1m by Italy’s answer to the National Enterprise Board. The little company needed it desperately but more than six months had elapsed and it still hadn’t been forthcoming, enabling them to begin putting their plan for future security into operation (see CAR July 76). Leimer, a Swiss, was and is, like other foreign investors in Italian industry, under pressure to get out. The Italian turmoil, the beginnings of a social upheaval, persists and foreigners are finding themselves accused of taking Italy’s money outfor investment elsewhere. The fight goes on amid confusion and frustration....

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