Anyone who has been keeping track of the growing contents of PH’s Pillbox will have noticed that we are footloose and fancy free when it comes to selecting the cars that feature here. Certain manufacturers come up more often than others – Mercedes and Porsche are currently leading the pack – but the growing list of brands to have been Pill’d includes Ford, Honda and even Lexus (one that led to a memorable shouting down). Yet after nearly 100 cars, this early Gallardo has the distinction of being our first Lamborghini.
This definitely hasn’t been a snub. A middle-aged Lambo is as brave as giving your social media logins to a practical joking mate. Rather it is a tribute to both the strength of the brand and the obvious desire of secondhand buyers to associate themselves with it. Because while Lamborghinis are capable of dropping credit-cratering bills will, they also hold onto value remarkably well.
That denies them the chancy ‘is it a bargain?’ status that underpins the dice-rolling thrill that makes for a braver Pill. But after nearly two years of waiting for any evidence of Gallardo prices slackening I’ve basically given up, deciding that our Pill’s just-sub £60K asking and 64,000 miles is sufficient to justify its inclusion here.
Because while maintenance costs will likely be significant, anyone who bought a Gallardo at the right time has enjoyed the best part of a decade with depreciation better likened to a plateau than a curve. Early cars lost around half their value and arrived in the low ‘sixties around 2012. And then just stayed there. Some later versions have now fallen to similar levels – our Pill dates from 2007, meaning it has slightly more power than the launch version – but it is rare for any but the leggiest to be offered for much under £60K. In these days of sub-1 percent savings rates that pretty much makes one investment grade.
While Lamborghini had produced smaller models before the Gallardo, none enjoyed anything close to its success. Within the company the Jalpa was largely remembered as a cautionary mistake, just 400 of the V8-powered ‘baby’ car had been sold between 1981 and 1988 and then-owner Chrysler had eventually pulled the plug on the basis of the market’s indifference. But after Volkswagen Group took control of Lamborghini in 1998 investment soon started flowing, and plans for an entry-level model were soon being dusted off.
Lambo had long been thinking such thoughts. The Gallardo bears a clear proportional relationship with Italdesign’s Cala concept from as long ago as 1995. But design wunderkind Luc Donckerwolke’s production car was much more striking than the ‘nineties proposal, with its combination of edgy lines and tight dimensions giving it a visual rightness that is still undeniable. As any Lamborghini has to look awesome, that was the first tick on the list.
But the Gallardo was also designed to offer a very different experience from the company’s macho V12 supercars. It had to be easier to drive and to live with. And as it would be primarily competing against V8 Ferraris – production overlapping with 360, 430 and 458 – it would need a statistical advantage, one that Lamborghini gave it with a new 5.0-litre V10. Parts of the internet will tell you that this was based on the ten-cylinder engine that Audi was developing at the same time, but in truth the relationship was barely deeper than layout and capacity.
When it finally arrived in 2003 the Gallardo was an immediate, smashed-out-of-the-park hit. Compared to the Diablo and even Murcielago it was radically different. They were huge outside and small within, their mighty performance constrained by bitey handling and the fundamental problem of not being able to see out very well. The Gallardo was a revelation: striking to look at, easy to drive, hugely fast and with a savage, snarling soundtrack.
Okay, so reviewers rarely preferred it to contemporary Ferraris, the Gallardo’s all-wheel drive deliberately working to maximise dynamic security rather than offer on-the-edge thrills. 493hp was more than plenty, and sending drive to each corner gave relentless acceleration and a 4.2-second 0-60mph time that was then one of the quickest in the world. Driven hard the Gallardo had copious grip up until the moment it suddenly didn’t; the transition to slip was sudden and could be snappy.
Yet for those with sufficient commitment – or insufficient imagination – it could be persuaded to play the hooligan. Back in 2008 famously crashy then-Formula 1 driver Takuma Sato came along to Autocar’s 0-100-0 test at Bruntingthorpe. After quickly exhausting the limited amusement of going quickly in straight lines, he was put into a Gallardo Superleggera for a drive on the track, with muggins here sitting next to him to record his pearls of wisdom. On what was meant to be the sighting lap we had a three-figure spin that nearly ended in what would have been an infamous collision with a parked Boeing 747. But, having clearly got his eye in, Sato was soon persuading the Lambo into lurid drift angles.
Having realised it had a hit on its hands, Lamborghini worked hard to keep interest in the Gallardo high during its long life. The first tweak came in 2005 with shorter gearing and a slight boost in power, an open-topped spyder version followed the year after and then 100kg lighter Superleggera made its debut in 2007. The following year saw a heavy facelift, a brawnier 5.2-litre V10 and a switch to the LP-PS-driven wheels naming convention that continued until the car’s retirement in 2013. At the end of a decade of sales Lamborghini had sold just over 14,000 cars, a company record at that point, although since overtaken by the Huracan.
The Gallardo’s residual strength has doubtless helped to keep many away from those looking to run them on unrealistically low budgets, but there are still many pitfalls for the less-than-100 percent wary. The Gallardo’s old-school electronics make it surprisingly easy to clock, so buyers should always be on the lookout for a disproportionate wear-to-miles ratio. Other documented issues include oil pump problems with the early 5.0-litre engines, sticking throttle bodies and various electronic faults.
Clutches should be viewed as consumable items with both manual and the automated e-gear transmission; hard use can devour one in as little as 50,000 miles and a replacement will be around three grand. Time has also reversed transmission preference; when new the majority of buyers were soon being steered towards the snappy e-gear, but now the manual carries an increasingly chunky premium.
Our Pill negates several of these concerns. It’s a 2007 e-gear coupe, meaning it has the 513hp version of the 5.0-litre engine. With 64,000 miles showing its definitely not a scarcely used garage queen, and the trade seller reports that it has both a full Lamborghini service history and also received a new clutch just 3000 miles ago. It looks stunning in black metallic and also has what would have been the pricey option of carbon-ceramic brakes over standard steel discs.
Not that any Gallardo buyer is likely to have their choice universally applauded. For lovers of Lamborghini’s hairier chested (and open shirted) V12s the junior model will always be a pretender. While a fair percentage of any Gallardo owner’s acquaintance will ask why you didn’t just buy an Audi R8 V10 “cos it’s just the same thing with a different badge.” It’s not, of course – beyond the shared powertrain almost everything is different, the relationship between the Huracan and the second-gen R8 being much closer.
Regardless, which badge would you rather have on your keyfob: four rings or an angry bull?
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