Written by Brian
As any supercar aficionado would know, Northern Italy is home to some of the best automakers in the world; and being that the train from Venice to Florence would take us through the city of Bologna, we would be a mere hour away from the factories of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Ducati, Maserati and Pagani. So I figured it was about time we did a “guy thing” and stopped over in Bologna for a day to check it out.
Upon doing some research online, it turns out that you cannot visit the Ferrari factory unless you own a Ferrari. Being that I cannot yet count myself into that club, and being that Lamborghini would be offering tours of their factory to the paying public starting in April 2011 (very conveniently when we would passing through), I had to “settle” for the Lamborghini factory. Sure we could have gone to visit the Ferrari museum, but being a former engineer and having only allocated one day for this adventure, I wanted to have a factory tour. Plus I wanted to show the kids what an assembly line looks like and the multiple steps that go into building a vehicle.
We arrived in Bologna 3 hours ahead of the scheduled tour starting time, and had to move quickly to drop our gear at the hotel, and then catch a bus to the factory an hour away. The hotel clerk was very helpful as he helped find the bus schedule and call a taxi so we could intercept the bus to make it out there on time. The timing of everything came together at the last minute and we caught the last bus that would get us there before the tour start time.
The Lamborghini factory is located in a small town called Sant’Agata Bolognese, between Bologna and Modena. It was quite something to see Lamborghinis being driven around the town as they tested the finished cars before shipping. Nobody in town turns their head or pays any attention to it, as it is a daily event for them. We, on the other hand, were unabashedly gawking. Well at least we boys were.
Upon our arrival, we were able to spend half an hour in the museum before the tour started. The biggest disappointment of the day was that we were unable to bring any cameras into the factory. I was hoping to be able to do this as it would make this blog posting much more interesting. Instead we’ll have to make do with the pictures from the museum. Many of the vehicles in the museum are older models, however they did have the newer ones too, as well as some engines. There was a Countach, a Diablo, a Gallardo, a Murciélago, and the most amazing car I have ever seen with my own eyes, the Reventón. Only 21 Reventóns were ever made, one of which was in the museum. It looks like the F-117 stealth fighter on 4 wheels. And a mere $1.4M if you were lucky enough to be able to buy one.
The factory tour was very interesting for all of us. It was a neat experience to be able to see the cars in the various stages of production. Currently, Lamborghini has only two lines of cars. The Gallardo is in full production and has been for some time. The other line was producing the Murciélago until a year ago, but has since been converted to produce the new Aventador that was just announced in March 2011, hence the factory tour not being available prior to April 2011. Currently the Aventador is in pre-production, meaning they are only producing about 4-5 cars per week. In the next couple of months they will ramp up production, however the current wait time to obtain an Aventador is about a year. Trust me though, it would be well worth the wait. That thing is beautiful. They took us outside to see a completed Aventador that the technicians were checking over. Our tour guide asked them to start it up for us. They obliged by flicking a safety trigger on the middle console and pushing a button. The car roared to life in all of its angry dog-like growling glory. Very cool. This is a picture of the Aventador, but not our picture as we couldn’t have our camera with us.
Inside the factory, we witnessed how the frame comes to the assembly line, like a bare-bones skeleton. The car then makes its way down the assembly line, stopping at each station as a technician puts in their components. As the cars progress further down the line, they start to look more complete, until they get to the engine section, where a fully assembled engine is inserted. Off to the side there is a group of 4 or 5 guys who are putting together one engine at a time. There are 10,000 pieces to be assembled together to make one engine.
But before the car gets to the engine station, it has to go through the dashboard and seat department. This was a really neat thing to watch, and I really wish we could have had our camera, but it wasn’t meant to be. There was a very large rack full of cow hides, all dyed to the various colors that Lamborghini uses in the interiors – black, grey, orange, green, yellow and probably some others that I’ve forgotten. The hides are each painstakingly inspected and marked up to highlight any defects in the leather, and I mean ANY defects. A mosquito bite on the hide will warrant a highlight. As you can imagine, most cows have some form of skin defect, so Lamborghini takes the stance that if they are able to use at least 60% of the hide, they will keep it, and otherwise they return it to the vendor. It takes a full 10 cow hides to make the interior of one car.
We watched as they had a hide laid out on the cutter machine and the technician was using a computer screen to place each piece in whichever way it would maximize the use of the hide while avoiding the defects on the hide. Then the machine started to cut it all out perfectly. Until 3 years ago, Lamborghini cut these pieces by hand, but decided to purchase this cutting machine to reduce waste and cost. The leather pieces are then formed around the chairs, dashboards and all of the other interior pieces.
I was hoping that we would have the opportunity to test-drive one, as were the other car enthusiasts in the tour group, but Lamborghini doesn’t offer that at the moment. We heard though that Ferrari does, so one of the guys in our tour group was heading to Ferrari the next day where his wife had bought him a birthday present of test-driving an F430. ½ hour of cruising in that thing set them back $240USD, and if you wanted to drive the stunning 458 Italia, it was twice that cost. He was grinning from ear to ear though, as well he should be.
Narrated by Peter, typed by Dad
The tour was really fun and a good experience. I thought it was really cool to see how Lamborghinis were made and learn the different types of cars they make. There is a police Lamborghini car that says Polizia on both sides. It would be tough to outrun that car if you were a robber. Mom and Dad bought Edmund and I each a model toy from the Lamborghini store. Edmund got a Gallardo, and I got a Reventón. I’m glad we were lucky enough to go to the only factory in the world that makes Lamborghinis. It was a great field trip.