Mega-mile Murcielago: PH Heroes

In a world of relative values it's not often you meet an absolute, something definitive, the holder of an achievement that will - almost certainly - never be matched or beaten. But that's the case with Simon George's Lamborghini Murcielago. While there will always be a faster Nordschleife time, a higher power output or a lower claimed CO2 number, it's highly unlikely that the record set by this bright orange wedge will ever be broken. Which means I've driven the highest mileage Lamborghini in the world.

Not that this is in any way a unique distinction for me, as this Murcielago probably also has the accolade of having had more people sit behind its steering wheel than any other. It's spent most of its life working as part of the fleet of 6th Gear, the supercar experience company George co-owns. Between hundreds of driving events and thousands of pilots it also served as Simon's daily driver for most of its life. Meaning it's managed to rack up a truly remarkable 258,000 miles, with that total increasing at a rate that would put many airport run taxis to shame. And that's despite a near-death experience that we'll get to later...

And there's your proof!
And there's your proof!
Raging Bull
The Murcielago has always been a bridge between the two sides of Lamborghini's history, marking the transition from when the company made tiny volumes aimed pretty much exclusively at the middle-aged playboy market to its current relative corporate slickness and rapidly expanding model family. It was launched three years after Audi had taken control of the brand, but in engineering and philosophy it still owes a huge amount to its predecessors, most notably the glorious mid-mounted 6.2-litre V12, which could trace its origins to the company's founding nearly four decades earlier.

But while the Murcielago kept the proportions and much of the jaw-dropping presence of the Diablo and Countach, it also bore clear signs of Lambo's Audi-fication, being much more usable and reliable than any of its predecessors. Something that George has proved, although at fairly enormous cost in terms of fuel, maintenance and repairs. The Murcielago was a strong seller when it was launched in 2001, and kept up good momentum even after the Gallardo arrived to offer a cheaper way into Lamborghini ownership. Including the LP640/670 just over 4,000 were built over a nine-year lifespan, compared to 2,900 Diablos in 11 years and just 2,000 Countaches over 16.

Breaking the bank
George bought his Murcielago new from Lamborghini Manchester in 2004, having leveraged a property portfolio to raise the money for a deposit. It was a decision based on little more than his love for the brand, and his determination to own one of its products. "The finance payments were about three grand a month, and I couldn't afford that," he remembers, "I only had enough money put away for about eight months, so I knew the car would have to earn its keep."

The main event...
The main event...
Initially that was by working for another supercar experience company, but after a couple of years George, and business partner Andy Cummings, decided to branch out on their own and set up 6th Gear. The Murcielago became the pride of the company's fleet, delivering driving experiences at tracks up and down the country and working pretty much flat-out until one fateful day at the Longcross test track in Surrey in late 2012. "It was one of those wet days in November, there were lots of leaves on the track," George says, "it came out of the chicane with a customer driving, not going that fast - 40mph or so. The back end let go and the instructor sitting next to him couldn't catch it, the car ended up hitting a tree pretty much head-on. Nobody was injured, thankfully - but the car was a proper mess, the roof was bent, the chassis was warped."

The decision to rebuild it was taken within minutes - "it was one of those heart over head things" - but it took four years and something close to £90,000 to get the car back on the road, although George says he can't bring himself to work out the final tally. That was with mates' rates from Lamborghini Manchester and after-hours work from some of his own mechanics. For perspective on just how pricey rebuilding a middle-aged supercar can be, consider that the new headlights cost £6,000 each.

Just run in
The British weather demonstrates its black sense of humour as photographer Jed Leicester and I arrive at 6th Gear's HQ near Sutton Coldfield - the skies open and pretty much all of March's average rainfall arrives at once, creating conditions even worse than those when SG54 LAM met its near-demise. So it's time for a cup of tea and a chance to take some pictures in the workshop. Where, even surrounded by plenty of other exotica, the Murcielago still takes pretty much all my attention.

Best not think about the cost
Best not think about the cost
It looks amazing, as it should given its almost total rebuild, sitting on LP640 wheels and with a non-standard exhaust, but otherwise pretty much exactly how it left the factory a quarter of a million miles ago. It's only on much closer examination that I notice the scratches that the small 'V12 6.2L' badge on the side still wears, opening the scissor door revealing that the 'MURCIELAGO' embossed on the plastic sill protector has been partially worn away by the thousands of people who've climbed over it. The cabin is still missing a couple of bits of hard-to-find trim and bears the marks of a hard life, the most telling detail being the way the pattern has been worn off the fuel filler release button. "I've literally got to know most of the staff in nearly every petrol station on the M1," says George, who commutes the 90 miles from Sheffield most days, at a cruising average of about 16mpg.

Sent to Coventry
Glancing at a weather app brings little good news, the display practically showing sea monsters over this part of the Midlands. Radar suggests the only potential break is coming from the south in a couple of hours time, so without further ado we saddle up and set off for the exotic delights of Coventry - or, more precisely, some of the decent roads that head east from there towards Rugby.

I well remember driving the Murcielago when it was new and thinking it was pretty much everything a supercar should be: much more civilized than a Diablo but also more visually and dynamically exciting than the Ferrari 575. It definitely had an edge though, and I can remember a white-knuckle drive in the first UK press demonstrator trying to keep up with a Pagani Zonda in North Yorkshire where I pretty much sweated through the seat.

Steady now...
Steady now...
That definitely won't be happening today: even as the rain eases the roads stay sodden, and George has chucked me the keys to his pride and joy on the clear understanding it's going to be returned in one piece...

Gearing up
Much is as I remember it, but a fair amount seems different as well. When new the Murcielago felt like an ergonomic masterpiece compared to the Diablo, but that was in the days before supercars got civilised. Now it feels much more old-school Italian than I was expecting, with the pedals squeezed by the vast front wheel well and a steering column that's short on both reach and rake. My left knee knocks the indicator off if I have to operate the clutch while turning. The seating position is low and frontal visibility is limited by the extreme rake of the A-pillars and - today - by the fact the wipers leave about three inches of screen unswept.

But the spherical metal gearlever that stands in its open metal gate is like an old friend. When the Lambo was new manual supercars were still commonplace, although a large number of Murcielagos were ordered with the snappy E-Gear automated 'box. But these days it feels like a real novelty to find DIY gears in something so potent.

The gearbox is a gem, vying with the stupendous engine as starring feature. The gearshift isn't the quickest, it's heavy and needs to be guided positively between the planes of the open gate. But the tactile challenge suits the car perfectly, especially as the clutch pedal is light and progressive. George says the car has chomped its way through eight clutches during its life - 30,000 miles is a decent innings - and this is still a fresh one.

Yep, still pretty big out on the road
Yep, still pretty big out on the road
Rain (almost) stops play
I'd forgotten just how tractable the V12 was. Although built for revs, and with a redline at 7,600rpm, it seems equally happy when left in the basement, producing enough torque to get the car moving happily at idle. At any point between that and the limiter it's happy, with the slightest extra pressure on the accelerator yielding instantaneous results. Turbocharging might have brought many benefits to more modern supercars, but throttle response isn't among them.

However while the motor wants to work harder, the combination of slick road surfaces, winter tyres and the conservative traction control is limiting the amount of torque that can be deployed, despite the best efforts of the all-wheel drive system. The electronic safeguard isn't subtle, stepping in with bouncer-like forcefulness if any unexpected slip is detected and dialling the engine right back for a couple of seconds. There are only a couple of chances to even get close to the yellow part of the rev counter and to experience the oh-so-proper waaaaail-brap noise that rewards a well-timed upshift.

Yet the Murcielago is still happy being driven at a scant number of tenths; it's small wonder that George still uses it as his daily. It doesn't quite manage that old cliche of shrinking around you - on narrower Warwickshire lanes I'm constantly aware of how wide it is - but the steering is talkative, the brake pedal solid and the ride on the firm side of acceptable. The original adaptive dampers have long since checked out, but they've been replaced with well-chosen passive ones. There's more understeer than I remember in tighter corners, probably thanks to the winter tyres, but the Murcielago neutralises itself nicely on the throttle well before provoking the traction control to intervene.

All Murcies are special, but this one especially so
All Murcies are special, but this one especially so
Feeling bullish
George says he plans to drive the Murcielago to 300,000 miles and "then I'll see how I feel about taking it further." It doesn't work as one of 6th Gear's demonstrators any more, but is still being used beyond just commuting - he's planning a road trip around the Scottish Highlands and another trip back to the factory at Sant'Agata.

It's a glorious riposte to the fetishisation of low-mileage supercars that Britain seems particularly susceptible to, with the average mileage of a used Murcielago in the classifieds being well short of 10,000. Many owners are doubtless limiting their use for fear of knocking values, but what a waste of an awesome car that is. SG54 has worked hard for its living and keeping it fuelled and in fettle has cost a huge amount of money, and its value today is probably only a small fraction of some of those garage queens. George himself admits that it might be worth more in parts, not that he's ever going to butcher his pet. But to me it's a far more interesting car than any of its pampered sisters, and a true hero.

6,192cc V12
Transmission: 6-speed manual, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 580@7,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 480@5,400rpm
0-62mph: 3.6sec
Top speed: 205mph
Weight: 1,650kg (undisclosed)
MPG: 13.3
CO2: 495g/km
Price new: £180,000 (2004)

Photos: Jed Leicester

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Comments (80) Join the discussion on the forum

  • steveb8189 04 Apr 2017

    Great to see a fantastic car being used to it's full potential and also unexpected to find out it is his daily drive too.

    A 90k repair bill though! Isn't that what insurance is for??

  • Superlightdaa 04 Apr 2017

    Great article! I've followed the progress of SG54 and 6th Gear in Evo over the years, the owner has a true dedication to this car. If only more owners used their supercars I might be able to afford one. Looking forward to the half million mile update.

  • Dave Hedgehog 04 Apr 2017

    Superlightdaa said:
    Great article! I've followed the progress of SG54 and 6th Gear in Evo over the years, the owner has a true dedication to this car. If only more owners used their supercars I might be able to afford one. Looking forward to the half million mile update.

    i am glad he fixed it

    its a bit of a triggers broom thou wink

  • Krikkit 04 Apr 2017

    steveb8189 said:
    Great to see a fantastic car being used to it's full potential and also unexpected to find out it is his daily drive too.

    A 90k repair bill though! Isn't that what insurance is for??
    Would guess it's uninsured running on track (or perhaps they wanted to pay out and not repair?)

    I've been following this car's story for a few years, what a fab thing.

    ETA: I note that the Murci isn't listed on 6th gear's site any more, is it still run for experiences?

  • big_rob_sydney 04 Apr 2017

    Good stuff. I can just imagine how many smiles this car has generated for drivers and passengers. Anyone lucky enough to experience it will probably have happy memories for the rest of their lives.

    Big thumbs up from me!

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