Located about an hour away by car from Bologna, Lamborghini’s global headquarters is juxtaposed against bucolic cow pastures and infinite countryside. It’s a pilgrimage of sorts for Italian car and motorcycle fanatics who salivate over the heritage of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Pagani, Maserati and Ducati. If it’s Italian, it’s here in this region dubbed the Motor Valley.
Ferruccio Lamborghini, the automaker’s founder, purchased a plot of agrarian land here in 1963 for his sports car company, one that he vowed would compete directly with Ferrari. Fifty-five years later the rivalry between these two Italian legends continues unabated, as I find out during a tour of the factory and the museum.
Ferruccio Lamborghini was a rich producer of tractors who liked sports cars. However, he had a complaint about the interior clutch of his Ferrari, which needed repairing. “As his tractors had better ones, he proposed cooperation with Enzo Ferrari. But Ferrari told Lamborghini he didn’t want advice from tractor mechanic,” says Simone Mollica, communication manager at the factory while we look at the 1964 LAMBORGHINI 350 GT, the first Lamborghini car ever produced.
The 350 GT was a direct rival to the Ferrari 250 GT. “This was the first and last Lamborghini that was red. After all red was the color of Ferrari, so the following models were every possible color except red,” Simone says. In the beginning, Lamborghini testers liked to drive their cars to the Ferrari factory and wait until their models came out for a test drive. “Then they raced each other on the highway, to see which one was the fastest and could keep up the speed the longest,” Mollica laughs.
The museum now houses some of the most prestigious and famous luxury sports cars of our time including the Diablo and Gallardo. Many are movie starts, like the Batman’s Aventador of The Dark Knight Rises, Lamborghini’s first ever SUV of Fast & Furious, and the black Jalpa used by Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV. More recently, Doctor Strange drove a Huracán Coupé in the Grigio Lynx grey color.
Custom Made Dreams
The factory tour allows you to have a look at the cars being assembled. People who order a Lamborghinis can personalize it any way they want, we learn. “Except if it is ugly or unsafe, like with a white dashboard that will reflect the sun,” Mollica says. There are two very secret places in the facility. One is the research department, where they work on making the cars even lighter, while the other is the personalization VIP room. “The design of their own Lamborghini stays a secret until it is produced. Then its new owner can post a picture on Instagram and show the world,” Mollica told hiEurope.
VIPs are also invited to visit the factory to see how their car is put together. In one massive factory, hundreds of Italian men dressed in black Lamborghini shirts work on assembling the iconic models together, like the Lamborghini V10 Huracan, the company’s top seller, and the V12 Aventador, its sportier coupe. One to three workers, depending on the station, spend about 30 minutes on a single task before the car moves to the next stop. There is just one robot in the entire factory, playfully nicknamed Robert. Its sole job is to move the 300 kilos engine around the sparkling floor to the mechanics who will fastidiously place it inside the chassis. Every single Lamborghini vehicle moving here is pre-sold. Lamborghini dealerships own the vehicles seen in showrooms and if you want one, be prepared to wait one year. With the Urus, the company’s relatively new SUV, the waiting time is closer to two years.
Even though Ferruccio Lamborghini loved his factory, and often rolled up his sleeves and joined in the work on the factory floor, he sold up as early as 1974. The brand saw many owners, ending up with Volkswagen. But production always stayed here, and each car is still test driven for eight days around the Italian countryside.
While Lamborghini started with an angry businessman, Bologna’s other famous brand, Ducati motorbikes, was created by three brothers making parts for radios in their basement. The factory they set up is still on the original site in the Borgo Panigale neighborhood of Bologna. Every year, tens of thousands of fans also make their way here to ooh and aah at the museum and its displays, and to take one of the regular factory tours.
The factory changed from radios to motorbikes after it was bombed flat in 1944. Only one old part of the original building remains, to commemorate what happened. Once the war was over, the brothers looked for a new product. They found a small motor — a 1.5-horsepower gasoline engine — that could be strapped to a bicycle and hooked to the rear wheel. That created a crude sort of moped. The model was called the Cucciolo, Italian for puppy, for the sound it made.
Within a few years Ducati decided to start making whole motorcycles. In 1954, engineer Fabio Taglioni designed a new motor and became a myth in the motorcycle world. Ducati’s motors became always lighter, with hollow frames. In 1968 the Ducati Scrambler was marketed in Italy, bound to become one of the most beloved bikes in the country. Another legendary models was the Monster, still in production today in the plant.
Race bikes were important from the beginning. The museum shows the first model, surrounded by an aluminum case. The drivers couldn’t get feet to the ground, so two people had to hold them up. “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” was the devise of the company, and they were right.
So it is no surprise that the only secret room here is where the race bikes are designed and produced. There are only about 120 people who have the right to enter in this enclosed area in the middle of the plant. In the rest of the factory we see a modern assembly plant, with row after row of frames, engines, wheels, tires and various parts for the assembly lines. Forklifts loaded with parts trundle by. We meet a parts-delivery robot. At many places along the production line, bikes and parts trays crawl along slowly, and small teams walk along with them. Assembly teams work on whole systems; no one is just turning the same bolt over and over.
At the end the bikes are delivered, minus the saddle. “The owner of the bike should be the first person to sit on the saddle. This is why it is put in later. You see that all the technicians here who test the motors, bring their own,” the factory guide told hiEurope.
Nowadays, owning a Ducati bike is a cult, with many clubs all over the world. Every two years over 10.000 people from all over the world drive their bikes to the World Ducati Weekend in the Italian countryside. Some come from as far as China. “All kinds of people buy these bikes, but what makes them similar is the passion they show about the brand. Some of our customers have six of them,” the guide explains.
It is the great passion for machines that lives in the hearts of all visitors of this Motor Valley.
Lamborghini Museum: www.lamborghini.com
Ducati Museum: www.ducati.com
Also read our Bologna city special: Ahead of Time