Fascinating day last Friday at Lamborghini’s Sant’Agata plant near Bologna, where we were talked around the company’s new carbon-fibre facility and given a partial unveiling of the Murciealago-replacing Aventador. The skinless car looked stunning, and the final shape was mostly revealed in one of the supplied press factory pictures shown here.
Boss Stephan Winklemann opened the proceedings with an interesting insight. He said that up until 2007, Lamborghini’s DNA was made up of - in descending order of importance - Design, Top speed, Acceleration, Handling. Today, that order is now Design, Handling, Acceleration and Top speed.
To that end, switching to a carbon fibre monocoque for the Aventador would see a 30 per cent weight reduction compared to the Murciealago but, much more importantly, a massive 150 per cent improvement in stiffness. It’s this giant leap that will be the key to the Aventador’s prowess as serious driver’s car.
Codenamed LP400, the car is all-new from its V12 engine and hefty aluminium subframes, to the beautifully, forged aluminium, pushrod suspension. With such a rigid base to work from, this sophisticated suspension design should be particularly effective.
The carbon monocoque (which takes 130 man hours to make) is laid up by hand into moulds also made from carbon-fibre and resin and gets selective stiffening from lightweight epoxy resin inserts. Lambo says that carbon moulds are not only very cost effective, but when they are heated in the autoclave during the curing process, they distort less than steel moulds might.
The company expects to get as many as 500 monocoques off each set of moulds. Apparently, the Aventador project is budgeted for eight sets of moulds, so expect the whole production run to be limited to around 4000 units.
Lamborghini’s experiments with carbon construction go back as far as 1983 (when a part-carbon Countach was built) but this project sees it collaborating with Universities and companies across the globe, including a close technical partnership with Boeing, which is working on the (much-delayed) composite 787. One of the lessons Lamborghini has learnt from Boeing is how to execute ‘in the field’ repairs to the carbon structure.
Apparently, technicians known as ‘flying doctors’ will be deployed around the world, with the equipment they need to patch and re-construct damage contained in just two large steel cases. Smash a chunk out of the sill, and the flying doctors will cut out the damage and repair it with fresh carbon fibre, using a small heated matt (to cure the resin) inside a vacuum bag (to make sure the layers of carbon are properly compressed). The big Lambo is unveiled today at Geneva and we’ll be looking forward to finding out whether Lamborghini can shift itself from being the manufacturer of dramatic and bombastic supercars to one that can build something sublime.