Perseverance is the quality that binds together all car buffs. From clubman Autocross racer to MG-fancier, Max Power Nova-yoof to Lotus Elise owner, they all share such a strong need to express their particular brand of car enthusiasm that they will suffer unspeakable inconvenience to do so.
After 20 minutes behind the wheel of the new Lamborghini Murciélago Roadster, I am already drawing on the majority of my personal reserves of the stuff. I haven’t seen rain like this since, well, a year ago when we drove a convoy of Gallardos back to the UK.
At anything above 30mph the wipers need to be running full-flap and even then rental Lancias on dipped beam appear out of the greyness just yards in front of the Buck Rogers dashboard. Mental note: avoid Italy’s supercar valley after October. It appears to have pre-Christmas precipitation issues.
The effects such weather has on the first roofless Lambo since the 1994 Diablo are disparate in the extreme. Mechanically it seems entirely unfazed by a drenching: the V12 doesn’t hiccup and despite tyres so wide they would aquaplane on the contents of a bottle of San Pellegrino, the four-wheel-drive transmission does a fantastic job of channelling horsepower to the road. No other supercar, save perhaps the Murciélago’s kid brother, would feel as calm under the circumstances. However, things are slightly less composed in the cabin.
Answer me this: why is it that whatever type of water ingress you may suffer in a canvas-topped car, and regardless of where it may enter, a good portion of it will always find its way onto the groin area of your trousers? It’s worse at low speed, and as we splish-splash a route south of Bologna it’s difficult to make a case for the Roadster to anyone save some remote tribe living in the Kalahari. This car is all about making a statement, and £189,950 is an expensive way of saying ‘I never really got the hang of potty training.’
Matters improve considerably on the autostrada. Arrowing into the rain whips it over the leaky rubbers before it can creep inwards, but we’re still chastened by a plaque on the inside of the windscreen which states: ‘Maximum speed with roof 160km/h’ (99mph). Even with 65kg of extra weight over the coupé (added in the name of structural strength), the Roadster will reach that figure from standstill in less than 10sec.
Ignore the factory advice and you shouldn’t need to stop and remove the lid on the way to attempting the claimed 202mph maximum: it will probably just be jettisoned somewhere around 140mph and attach itself to the windscreen of a Fiat Ritmo travelling in the opposite direction.
We’re still cheery though. It’s impossible not to retain a grin in something so garishly OTT. You’d expect these things to be a common sight around Bologna, but judging by the number of near-shunts and flailing arms serenading our progress, that isn’t the case. We’re heading for the Passo della Futa on the advice of Sergio Fontana, Lamborghini’s head of PR. The roads are too narrow to really let rip in a car this big, but they do have altitude. And at altitude rain becomes snow. Which makes for good photographs.
Patchy surfaces and numerous 180-degree hairpins aren’t the kindest testing medium for a large vehicle missing a rather important structural panel. But even without a roof the Murciélago is a very useful cross-country tool. There are no official figures for the loss in stiffness, but it’s certainly not a night ’n’ day driving experience compared to the coupé. The spring and damper rates are a little softer so it copes with sharp edges a smidge better and places less responsibility on the bodyshell’s rigidity. Hit a deep rut and you can feel the massive structure shiver on impact, and the steering column shuffle a few millimetres in sympathy.