It’s Friday, 11th August 2006, and I’m strolling in the sun at ‘The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering’ and chatting to a coterie of fellow VW Group executives, one of whom, speaking fluent German, is running Design and Branding for Italy’s Lamborghini, with an unusual name for a suave European – Manfred Fitzgerald (right).
We discovered that we’re both motor sport enthusiasts, and enthusiastic drivers, and began selling each other on our respective brands, Bentley and Lamborghini. He had joined VW Group in 1999, and I joined a year earlier, both focused on image building for our two companies.
I offered him my Continental GT coupe, so he could take a test drive around the Carmel Valley.
To my delight he pointed to a bright yellow Gallardo on the Lamborghini display and said, “We’re holding a drive day tomorrow at noon, with this baby, but if you like to meet me at 7am, you can take it for a couple of hours!”
To be truthful, there’s not a lot of challenging drives in the Monterey area during ‘Monterey Week’, so I did the only thing which would show off the Lambo’s seductive charms, and headed south from Carmel-By-Sea, down the Pacific Coast Highway.
As it’s a Saturday, most of the dense traffic is crowding in and around the cities of Carmel and Monterey, so apart from some late arrivals headed north from Los Angeles, the PCH is pretty much deserted. The local cops stay around town, as there’s more chance of issuing revenue-raising tickets there, than out on the highway.
So, I collected my bright yellow raging bull and take off.
About an hour or so south is a tiny hamlet named Gordo, which boasts a General Store, and the Whale Watchers Café. It’s a great coffee stop and a turn around point.
I had a special interest in the Gallardo, because the initial concept was penned by my favourite Italian carrozzeria, Ital Design, in 2002. I immediately fell in love.
The 5.0 litre V10, designed and built by Audi, was originally promised to Bentley for the Continental GT coupe; but Dr. Piech decided that the Gallardo, which supported the V12 Murciélago, would have the V10 exclusively.
My ride was an AWD LP560 and it was so sweet to steer through the beautiful winding curves of the PCH. I could hardly believe my luck, although the six speed ‘electrohydraulic’ gearshift was a bit clunky.
Gallardo was produced between 2003 and 2013, and Lamborghini made more than 14,000 cars, then it was replaced by the even more striking Huracan.
I did get the car back to The Inn at Spanish Bay in time for the drive program, although there was still a ‘ticking’ sound emanating from the car.
Now, the twist in the tail.
As I said, the original Gallardo concept came from Ital Design, but Giorgetto Giugiaro’s son, Fabrizio, is credited with the final concept presented to Automobili Lamborghini. Some design buffs claim the Gallardo concept was inspired by two previous concepts, the Namir and the Cala, but the production model is unique.
|Ital Design concept (top); Luc Donckerwolke sketch (centre): Production car (bottom)|
In an interview at the time Fabrizio said Ital Design was given a free hand, requesting it to approach the concept as a ‘new’, ‘small’ coupe.
The short nose, with teardrop front windscreen is part of Lamborghini’s historical design language, and accounts for a lot of the impact of the Gallardo.
However, Lamborghini’s Design Director at the time was a young Belgian designer, Luc Donckerwolke. He took responsibility for fine-tuning the Ital Design concept, especially around the rear of the car.He also had to turn the design into a realistic production project, which matched Audi’s Quality standards, and to ensure that nothing from the VW parts bin appeared on the car.
Luc Donckerwolke (right) is an amazing and highly-talented designer, and working for the VW Group, he’s been responsible not only for the Lamborghini Gallardo, but also Skoda’s Octavia and Fabia, the Audi A4 Avant and R8, then Bentley’s Bentayga, and the first concepts for the latest Continental coupe.
Looking at his major projects it's easy to see his eye for refinement and subtlety of line and surfacing.
Now the circle joins together, bringing Luc Donckerwolke and Manfred Fitzgerald together again. In 2015, Hyundai hired Donckerwolke as Head of Design for its Genesis division, and Manfred was appointed Head of Genesis Brand in January 2016.
|Luc and Peter Schreyer|
The partnership of these two highly-experienced guys adds considerable clout to Hyundai’s aims for the Genesis brand. Hyundai’s upmarket badge has already made considerable impact in the USA, its first major market, but the powerhouse combination of Luc and Manfred, along with Hyundai-Kia’s Chief Creative Officer, Peter Schreyer, is a clear indication that Hyundai is very serious about its aspirations in the premium segment of the market.
The new G80, and a new concept model shown this year in New York, are just the first course.