It has already been two decades since Lamborghini introduced the new Gallardo at the 2003 Geneva Motor Show. This extraordinary vehicle marked the advent of a Lamborghini production car equipped with a V10 engine. From its inception, the Gallardo soared to unparalleled commercial triumphs, shattering sales records for Lamborghini. As we commemorate its twentieth anniversary, Automobili Lamborghini looks back, celebrating the iconic status of this “baby Lambo.”
Ferruccio’s vision for a smaller car
Even before the 1970s, Ferruccio Lamborghini foresaw the potential for a “smaller” Lamborghini. He envisioned a vehicle with a more affordable price with lower running costs. Thus, in the early 1970s, he urged the development of a car that would eventually transform into the Urraco, evolving further in the 1980s to become the Jalpa. In 1987, Lamborghini initiated the L140 project, specifically aimed at creating a more compact Lamborghini. Over the years, numerous prototypes emerged, exploring various technical solutions, including the implementation of a V8 engine initially and later transitioning to a V10 engine.
In 1998, after careful deliberation, the decision was made to start afresh, retaining only the concept, general dimensions, and the idea of a ten-cylinder powertrain—an unprecedented addition to a Lamborghini road car. Engineer Massimo Ceccarani, who assumed the role of Technical Director after a decade at the company, alongside Maurizio Reggiani, responsible for engine development and design in the Technical Office, spearheaded the creation of a brand-new engine. Reggiani, who served as Lamborghini’s Technical Director from 2006 to 2022, recollects, “The L140 featured a 72° V10 engine with an integrated gearbox in the oil pan area. However, this design was not feasible for the intended type of car due to its impractical production process. Moreover, placing the gearbox beneath the engine led to a higher center of gravity, compromising the drivability and handling characteristics expected of a Lamborghini super sports car.
V8 scrapped for V10
Thus, when we embarked on the project codenamed “Baby Diablo,” we opted for a V8 engine, exploring potential options among those already available on the market, including the 8-cylinder Audi. Subsequently, with the acquisition by Audi, we decided to develop an entirely new car featuring an aluminum tubular frame, a 10-cylinder engine conceived by Lamborghini, and a fresh transmission, both manual and robotized.”
The inaugural Gallardo housed a 5-liter, 10-cylinder V90 DOHC engine with 4 valves, producing an output of 500 HP. In contrast to the conventional choice of a V72 configuration, a 90-degree angle was preferred to reduce the engine’s height. This choice provided advantages in terms of vehicle layout, such as a lower engine hood and enhanced rear visibility, while simultaneously lowering the center of gravity to improve dynamics. Achieving smooth engine operation necessitated the adoption of “crankpins” with an 18-degree offset. Additionally, a dry-sump lubrication system not only ensured optimal lubrication even during extreme dynamic conditions but also contributed to further lowering the center of gravity.
As Maurizio Reggiani explains, “To achieve the planned production volume, the V10 had to possess a 90° V angle. Consequently, we adopted a ‘split pin’ on the crankshaft, allowing regular firing despite the crankcase featuring 90° cylinders. Lamborghini engineers redesigned the crankcase, which, until then, housed inserted liners and Nikasil coating, utilizing a hyper eutectic aluminum alloy that enabled the liner to be cast directly onto the aluminum. This innovation reduced the distance between the cylinders, resulting in a shorter engine length, reduced weight, and lowered costs. The outcome was the 5-liter 90° V10 MPI engine, which found its place in the initial Gallardo series.”
The first V10 powertrain proved to be state-of-the-art—a 5-liter engine featuring dry-sump lubrication, double overhead camshafts for each cylinder bank, variable valve timing (with 4 valves per cylinder), and chain-driven distribution.
Manual gear box linked to AWD
The 6-speed gearbox boasted cutting-edge double- and triple-cone synchronizers with an optimized control and engagement system. Positioned behind the engine is the renowned VT all-wheel-drive system. Additionally, a robotized sequential system, known as the Lamborghini e-gear, was developed as an optional extra while retaining the basic mechanics of the gearbox.
The all-aluminum structural chassis was built on extruded parts fused with cast connection elements. Various systems were employed to mount external body parts, utilizing rivets, screws, or welding, depending on their function. Certain external hang-on parts, including bumpers, were constructed from thermoplastic material and secured with bolts.
The design project commenced in 2000 with an initial proposal from “Italdesign-Giugiaro.” Subsequently, the design was optimized and finalized under the newly established Lamborghini Centro Stile, led by Luc Donckerwolke. The task assigned to the designers was both demanding and captivating—to identify the distinctive attributes of Lamborghini and merge them into a unique entity. The Gallardo’s dimensions and performance objectives bestowed upon it a compact athleticism. Its wheelbase and reduced overhangs contributed to a more dynamic appearance.
A prominent feature of the Gallardo’s iconic design, also present in the 2001 Murciélago, was the significant aeronautical influence evident in the seamlessly integrated cab-forward cockpit, the sharply angled windshield with taut pillars, the intricate treatment of flat surfaces intersected by distinct markings, and the orientation of the cooling system elements in alignment with the airflow.
The Gallardo’s true standout quality upon entering the market was the harmonious fusion of exceptional performance, drivability, reliability, and everyday practicality, allowing it to serve comfortably as a daily driver.
Along came a Spyder
In 2005, two years after the debut of the coupe version, Automobili Lamborghini unveiled the Gallardo Spyder at the Frankfurt Motor Show. This was not merely an “open top” iteration of the coupe but an entirely new model, featuring a groundbreaking soft-top opening/closing mechanism involving the engine hood. The Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder introduced noteworthy advancements in terms of its engine, transmission, and performance. Its 4961 cc 10-cylinder powertrain now delivered an impressive 520 HP (382 kW) at 8000 rpm. The six-speed gearbox, available in a manual configuration with an optional robotized e-gear version, sported a shorter gear ratio, resulting in more dynamic vehicle handling. These new engine features were subsequently incorporated into the coupe version starting from the 2006 model year.
Over 14,000 built
Production from 2003 to 2013 was a purported 14,022 units, a staggering number for a Supercar manufacturer.