The dry, flat an fertile reid plain o Emilia Romagna lies atween the frosty peaks o the Apennines tae the west, an the tullimentan Adriatic tae the east. This plain is the breid basket o northern Italy. It’s whar the fermers grow wheat fur pasta, it’s whar a hunder families distil the richly dark balsamic vinegar, an it’s whar the Italian cheese makkars craft their inimitable parmesan. In whit might seem an unlikely diversification, Emilia Romagna is also the beatan hert o the Italian performance ker industry: the home o Ferrari, Maserati, an Lamborghini.
The faither o this industry, Ferruccio Lamborghini, grew up in this area. As a young fillo, he haed a natural gift an a passion fur engineering, and meed tractors afore he sterted makkan sports kers. When he sterted tae build sports kers in the sixties, he established his factory in a field he bowt fae a ferm in his home toon o Sant’ Agata Bolognese, an it stands there the day. Adjacent tae the factory is a museum, an it’s possible for tourists tae visit both, takkan in a tour o the factory.
Truth be tellt, this museum is more o an art gallery. The sixties classics are doonstairs. Upstairs, stuneen, ostentatious, modren Lamborghinis hing on the waals. A magnificent, sculptural engine dominates the mezzanine, like a granite erratic dropped fae a glacier. The wan-off Egoista taks pride o place, its profile suggestan the stylised silhouette o a ragan bull. The interpretive text is unapologetic: it is a car without compromises, in a word: egoist.
Photographs o Ferruccio Lamborghini adorn the waals, accompanied wae biographical information that comes close tae hagiography: highly-skilled mechanic, an entrepreneur, a versatile character with a great deal of business know-how, willpower and humility. The text points oot that he wes a Taurus. This strikes me as a gey Italian inclusion, but Ah’m willan tae hear why it’s relevant tae this story.
A weel-dressed, flamboyant guide in her middle age leads us through the security doors for the tour. Any whiff o bull that might o lingered in the museum disperses on the air-conditioned factory floor. Instantly, Ah’m struck by the impeccable sense o cleanliness an order in this place. Hid’s quiet, relaxed even, an the pace o wark doesna seem tae be onerous in any wey. Mechanics in clean, comfy claes mak these glorious vehicles in a line that rotates every 45 minutes. As we enter, they are assemblan engines by hand – glitteran objects o exquisite beauty an precision.
Wur guide isna afraid to play up tae Italian sterotypes. When a visitor fae Michigan asks a very specific question aboot the construction, she jokes Mamma Mia! Are you working for the opposition? She’s referring tae a neighbouring factory a few miles awey that maks the famous reid sports kers, the wans that Ah’m stertan tae think luk a peedie bit boran.
She shows us the upholstery section. It taks sivven baests tae provide enough leather tae fit oot wan Lamborghini. Ivry scratch or mosquito bite haes tae be cut oot. Profligate? Weel, the off-cuts are recycled, but no as Lamborghini products. Colour combinations include reids, yellows, pooder-blues, black. She detects a mild incredulity in me expression as she tells us she’s seen a Lamborghini fitted oot in blue an yellow: No, really, very beautiful. But Ah’m already converted. I believe it aal, and if I haed the money, I’d buy ane.
Workan practices hiv changed since Lamborghini wis taen owre by Volkswagen in 1998. Now, we work two four hour shifts with two eleven minute coffee breaks and one hour for lunch. The German approach seems tae be productive, but sometheen haes been lost, too. We make more cars, but we miss our espresso; it makes us happy, and gives us energy.
It strikes me that the wan place whar there’s likely tae be tension on this factory floor is in the quality control space. This is whar manufacture meets market. And anither pressure point might be the emissions lab, whar hoses connect tae exhausts an pollutants are measured. The day eftir this tour, we were shocked tae read that Lamborghini’s offices haed been raided by Italian police while we were in Emilia Romagna. The cool, impeccable owners at Volkswagen hivna really been as precise, clean or efficient as we wid expect them tae be. Nor, it seems, dae they possess the integrity that these workers, these craftspeople deserve.
Ootside eftir, an we’re back tae the reality o wur compact hire ker. The doors clap closed in the October sunshine o a Sant’ Agata backstreet. As we leave the toon an mak wur wey along a stoory country road, we’re thrilled tae see a bullish Lamborghini on the road ahead o us, oot fur a test drive. We wind doon the windows as it accelerates, expectan a rippan growl. But the Lamborghini is quiet, although it is movan fast. Raisan the reid stoor o Emilia Romagna, a heraldic, noble baest released intae its natural environment.