Destinations, Featured Partners, Featured Places, Italy, Lamborghini

Farmgrown Lamborghini Legends

May 9, 2012

It wasn’t a punchy sports car. I think my max speed on a downhill run was something like 16.8 mph. It wasn’t bright orange; it was Oregon Duck green and yellow, the height of a small house and the width of a single wide trailer.

My first experience driving a six-figure price tag vehicle came at the ripe age of eleven, behind the wheel of a combine on my family’s farm.

Fast forward seventeen years: sliding into a Lamborghini sports car, I clenched every muscle tight and whispered a prayer as the professional driver punched the accelerator to blow past 168 mph and on toward blurred vision. Ted chased behind us, solo at the wheel of a shiny Gallardo after a full day of precision control maneuvers and on-track training.

Pinch us, can this possibly be real?

Welcome to the 2012 Lamborghini Driving Academy at the Imola Racecourse in Italy’s Motor Valley: Five professional instructors attending to seven drivers from nations all around the world, giving personalized instruction and leading hair-raising runs around a Formula One racetrack.

Ted and I accepted a once-in-a-lifetime invitation from Lamborghini to experience the thrill of exclusive, top of the line, screaming-speed equipment on a world class raceway in a land that lays claim to such two and four wheel legends as Ducati in Bologna, Ferrari in Maranello, Maserati in Modena, and of course Lamborghini in Sant’Agata Bolognese.

In following posts, we’ll share highlights and photos from our extreme two days with the Lamborghini Driving Academy, but first, I’m eager to pass on my most surprising discovery from the experience: a revelation that came not from the speed of the sleek matte bodies or the skills of the pros, but from stories of Lamborghini roots grown Boglonese farmland soil.

I learned to drive on country roads, on country tractors. So likewise did Ferruccio Lamborghini.

He carried a relationship with agriculture from an upbringing on his family grape farm in the beautiful countryside of Emilia-Romgana, and after serving as a young man in the Italian Royal Airforce, Lamborghini began his own post-WWII enterprise assembling and selling tractors made from salvaged military vehicles purchased from exiting US Forces. He built his original company, Lamborghini Tractors, through skilled craftsmanship, mechanical knowledge, and innovation.

Eventually, his success as industrialist and businessman generated the wealth to indulge in his life-long love of cars and thus ensued the series of events that would inspire him to craft his own super-verhicle.

Through the 1950s and 1960s, Ferruccio Lamborghini proudly owned many of the finest makes, including models from well known neighboring Italian auto-maker Enzo Ferrari.

“I had three or four of them. The Ferrari was a very good car, I must admit, the best I had had so far apart from the Mercedes 300SL. After I got my first Ferrari, my other six cars – Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Mercedes, Maserati, Jaguar were always left in the garage.”
Ferruccio Lamborghini (Thoroughbred & Classic Cars, Jan. 1991)

But…beware selling a fine machine to a fine mechanic. He knew enough to know what wasn’t working well, and he knew enough to recognize that sometimes the better alternative to waiting on someone else to fix your problems is to tackle them yourself.

“All my Ferraris had clutch problems. When you drove normally, everything was fine. But when you were going hard, the clutch would slip under acceleration; it just wasn’t up to the job. I went to Maranello regularly to have a clutch rebuilt or renewed, and every time, the car was taken away for several hours and I was not allowed to watch them repairing it. The problem with the clutch was never cured, so I decided to talk to Enzo Ferrari. I had to wait for him a very long time. ‘Ferrari, your cars are rubbish!’ I complained. Il Commendatore was furious. ‘Lamborghini, you may be able to drive a tractor but you will never be able to handle a Ferrari Properly.‘ This was the point when I finally decided to make a perfect car.
Ferruccio Lamborghini (Thoroughbred & Classic Cars, Jan. 1991)

If Enzo Ferrari hadn’t made that crack – one day early in the 1960’s when I was complaining for the nth time about the insoluble clutch problems I was having with his car, I might never have built my Lamborghinis.

I liked my Ferraris. but I was sick and tired of spending so much of my time burning out their clutches [sic] And every time I went to Modena, everyone there seemed to take a malicious pleasure in making me hang around waiting. Ferrari’s answer to my complaint on that score was that one day he had kept the King of Belgium waiting, so Mr Lamborghini, the builder of tractors and boilers, really had no cause to object. As for the technical drama, he just wasn’t willing to listen to my suggestions, and I was never able to obtain a reinforced clutch for my Ferrari. Finally I’d had enough. I slammed the door and vowed I would build my own car. The way I wanted it. And sturdy!
Ferruccio Lamborghini (Lamborghini, by Lamborghini; Automobile Classiques, Spring-Summer’84)

Lamborghini: A knowledgeable tinkerer with a passion for excellence and a stubborn streak that riled him to make his own when he knew he could do better.

Stories of engines, makes and models, famous races, and serious automobile collectors are enough to make my head spin most days, but Lamborghini had me at the word “tractor.”

Following our Monday and Tuesday combination of driving instruction and time on the track, we paid a visit to the Mueso Lamborghini for a guided tour of the manufacturing facilities.

My farm-girl heart surged a bit with pride when I heard that to this day, they develop and test drive new Lamborghini vehicles not on dedicated race tracks, but on true back country roads right there in farmland surrounding Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy. (Confession: I received my first speeding ticket at 18 for zipping down hills and around corners on back country roads in St. Paul, Oregon…)

We found the legend to be true: there at the stoplight on our way from the factory was a brand-new Aventador out for a test spin.

After learning the back story of the heritage of the brand and the Lamborghini legacy born in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, I’m a new kind of fan. I may not be able to rattle off engine sizes or performance speeds, but I can tell you this: Lamborghini roots make me smile…almost as much as the feeling of screaming down a racetrack in a modern marvel.

From John Deere combines to seven hundred horsepower Aventador engines, these two Oregonians are living the dream…

If you ever find yourself in the Terra di Motori (the Italian “land of motors”), arrange ahead of time for entrance to the new Museo Lamborghini, opened in 2011. Admire decades of prototypes and production models, and if you’re really ready for a thrill, trade a confidentiality agreement for a behind the scenes factory tour to see the current Gallardo and Aventador under hand-assembly.

Lamborghini Driving Academy
Open to Lamborghini owners and sportscar enthusiasts alike.

Museo Lamborghini
Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.
Via Modena, 12, I-40019 Sant’Agata Bolognese (BO), Italia
Phone +39 051 6817.611
Online Reservations
M-F (excluding holidays), 10.00 am – 12.30 pm & 1.30 pm – 6.00 pm
Adults: €13 Museum Entry or €40 Museum Entry & Guided Factory Tour

Lamborghini on Instagram
Photos of the legends…

Thanks for reading our series from Emilia-Romagna: A region of Northern Italy ripe for exploration. And thank you especially to Lamborghini for hosting us at their 2012 Driving Academy. If you’d enjoy coming along for the ride, follow us on Twitter (@twoOregonians), like our Facebook page, and stay tuned for more photos and stories from the racetrack and behind the wheel.

Related Posts:
I’ve Always Dreamed of Driving a Race Car
An Italian Fairytale: Three Days with Lamborghini

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  • Reply Annie May 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    awesome! what a great experience.

    • Reply twoOregonians May 9, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      Thanks, Annie! Yep, being out on the Imola track was such an unexpected adventure: WOW.

      • Reply Richard Bell May 11, 2012 at 6:20 am

        I sold Lamborghini for years, wasn’t it amazing? It’s so hard to put into words how a 10 Cly, 570 hp AWD symphony “STIRS your soul”. If you close your eyes think hard and breath thru your nose can you smell the Italian leather still? Do you still fell her holding you while you dance thru the turns and hear how she still calls to you from her trumpeting exhaust as you down shift before the curve ahead. Then punch the accelerator to the floor as her exhaust note screams “YES well done a little faster now”. Ahhh I miss it so.

  • Reply Cindy Buck May 9, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Bethany I don’t even know what to say. I have tears in my eyes right now. I also started driving combines when I was 11 and back then there weren’t cabs. I still to this day remember the day me and the 3 boys – your Dad and Uncles – were out in a field combining without cabs, on a very hot day, standing (no seats back then) on hot green metal with the air and pollen flying all around us as we combined in that heat, and your Dad’s eyes swelling shut from allergies and us having to stop so he could be driven to the doctor’s office. I am so Proud of you and of your humility AND of your curiosity of the outside world, and I am so grateful that you continue to bring it to me. I love you.

    • Reply twoOregonians May 9, 2012 at 10:23 pm

      Aww, thank you : ) You’re so right; there’s something about growing up on a farm that really changes the way we all look at life. I love that all of you guys used to work out there together, and I love that the boys and cousins and I used to do the same (although I think we got the better end of the deal with cabs and air conditioning!). It’s almost unbelievable to have such deep and wonderful roots AND to get to see so much of the big, wide world. I’m so glad that you’ve been following along….I can’t wait to see where the road takes us next. Can it get any better?? ; )

  • Reply Mike McGeehon May 9, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    You’ve done one of my life goals now. That’s pretty awesome, Bethany and Ted.

    • Reply twoOregonians May 9, 2012 at 10:26 pm

      AHHH!!! Mike. I wish you could’ve been there. And of course Heather, too. She probably would’ve called dibs on the orange beauty. ; ) I’m not sure what to do now about the lingering adrenaline in my system. I can see why this world of fast-speed machines is all so addicting…

  • Reply Grandma & Grandpa Menzel May 10, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Ted, You were really blessed to be able to drive such a car. We can call it
    (Lucked Out) but we know it was a Divine Appointment.
    Grandma wonders HOW you happened to get this opportunity ? Was it on a
    tourist guide list?
    Loves of Love to both of you!

    • Reply twoOregonians May 11, 2012 at 12:13 am

      Grandma and Grandpa Menzel – Yes, absolutely. We’re both very grateful to have received such a gift of an experience through our work with the Emilia-Romagna Tourism Board. Just goes to show that you never know what’s around the corner in this life… So amazing to see Ted behind the wheel. I’m glad you two can follow along on the web! : )
      Sending lots of love back to you both!
      – Bethany & Ted

  • Reply Ukaia Rogers May 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    I really like your blog, its very well done :) and im super jealous!

    • Reply twoOregonians May 11, 2012 at 12:08 am

      Thank you, Ukaia. Really glad to hear that you like the blog and the adventures!

  • Reply Paul May 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Ted – you always did have expensive tastes! So glad that Italy could scratch the car itch in such a satisfying way.

    • Reply twoOregonians May 11, 2012 at 12:23 am

      Oh my word, Paul. This is bad. It’s one thing to have fantasies about something so far beyond reach – it’s another to actually experience it and then wonder how on earth to go back to normal. I mean, for example: what if Ted had never tasted anything other than Starbucks? No big deal. But now…….?!

      Too, I’ve always been a cynic, but after those spins around the track, we’re both treading dangerous psychological ground.


  • Reply jane luthy May 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Hi Bethany,

    So fun to get to see what a Lamborghini even looks like!! You
    two look like Lamborghini owners.

    Have you had postings of your cruise to Spain? I
    seem to have missed these!!!! Any chance to get them?
    I know you two are busy but I just don’t really want to
    miss a thing!

    Love to you,


    • Reply twoOregonians May 11, 2012 at 12:30 am

      JANE! You would really not believe any of this. (Actually, how *are* you believing any of this?!)

      We’ve got pictures and stories out the wazoo from the Atlantic ship crossing and from Spain, but we’ve jumped ahead to Italy while we’re here and we’ll be posting the cruise and Barcelona and Alhambra updates a little later down the road.

      Never fear: You’re up to speed!
      Much love to you, too!
      B & T

  • Reply Judy May 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    I don’t think Ted’s smile can get any bigger!

    • Reply twoOregonians May 11, 2012 at 12:32 am

      Oh, but it can, Judy! Just wait for the next post ; ) Even his eyebrows are smiling!!

  • Reply Ronnie May 14, 2012 at 9:57 am

    I really want this car… and just to let you know how big fan i’m of Gallardo, here’s the headline of any Indian newspaper after 50-55 years…
    “Expensive Car Crash down the Hill, Driver dies inside the Gallardo”
    Believe me I Die with my Gallardo!

    • Reply Ronnie May 14, 2012 at 9:58 am

      I can do ANYTHING… ANYTHING just to drive this car

  • Reply An Italian Fairytale: Three Days with Lamborghini - twoOregonians May 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    […] (Yes, there I am, iPhone in hand. Video from the drive is at the bottom of the post Farmgrown Lamborghini Legends.) […]

  • Reply I've Always Dreamed of Driving a Race Car - May 18, 2012 at 6:58 am

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