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    CAR LAMBORGHINI ISLERO

    SAFETY FIRST FOR RAGING BULL

    RUN BY Dougal Macdonald
    OWNED SINCE October 2004
    PREVIOUS REPORT April

    / #Lamborghini-Islero / #Lamborghini / #Lamborghini-V12

    Since my previous update, I have managed to sort a few problems with the car. I took it back to Colin Clarke Engineering to try to find out why the headlights wouldn’t raise or work beyond high beam. I had removed the centre console panel, where the window and headlight switches kept disappearing because their mounting brackets had broken. Some new ones are on order, but a consequence of their repeatedly being pushed into the dash was that I had inadvertently knocked the earth cable off the back of the switch. Not very clever.

    The headlights’ refusal to rise caused the motor to overheat, so we have now bypassed it and I can slowly raise them manually. The early Islero has only one motor, putting it under huge pressure because it also has to lift a cross-bar for the offside light. So do I add a second, as per the Islero S, or does that make the car non-original?

    On the recommendations of several members of the team, I took the car to Quickfit SBS in Stanmore to have the seatbelts in the front changed to inertia reels, and to have belts put in the rear for my children. Stuart Quick and his team did an amazing job: I love the neat chrome slits in the parcel shelf, and the front reels are hidden behind the B-pillar trim panels. I can now release the handbrake on a hill start without having to slip the belt off my shoulder, and can have the seat further forward and more upright to give a better driving position. Unfortunately, it wasn’t ready in time for the Festival of Speed, but it meant I took the train for once and saw the Red Arrows flying to Goodwood over Arundel Castle. On collecting the Islero from Quickfit, I drove to Biggin Hill to see Larini Systems. Now I love my car, and I love driving it, despite the fact that the engine produces enough footwell heat to remind me of driving my Land-Rover 90 in east Africa. However, the M25 on a Friday afternoon is frankly scary: I’m endlessly being cut up by thoughtless moderns, and the brakes pull sharply to the right under heavy braking. I think I need to have them looked at during my next visit to Colin Clarke.

    Haroon Ali and David Clark at Larini Systems were the first people I went to after I bought the car, although nowadays they focus on more modern cars such as Aston DB7-9s, Ferraris 550s and the like. Back then they were just doing classics, and they handmade me the most beautiful exhaust with a straight-through back box. If I had the choice today I’d probably have a quieter system, but at 6000rpm the V12 does sound amazing. I always promised that once the car was finished I’d bring it back for some photos. It might be 12 years on, but better late than never!

    It was 4pm by the time we were finished and I took the back-road from Biggin Hill to the motorway – well worth a blast if you find yourself with the choice. I think by the time I reached my brother’s home in Hampshire, where the car is kept, I had covered about three-quarters of the M25 in one day.

    I was delighted to get an email from Iain Macfarlane (Letters, September), who owns the Islero featured in the 2001 C&SC article I mentioned in my previous report. That story was the reason I bought a Lambo, and my hope is that we can get the two cars together soon.

    From top: Islero pauses with the aircraft at Biggin Hill after a hair-raising M25 run; superbly neat seatbelt installation, with new rear belts; front reels are concealed; interior looks unaltered.
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    / #Lamborghini-Islero / #Lamborghini

    In March I to the car up to Colin Clarke Engineering for the guys to have a look at a problem with the headlights. It turned out to be the wiring to the switch, and this led to the discovery that the headlight motor was overheating; early Isleros only have one motor, later cars two.
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    RUN BY Dougal Macdonald
    OWNED SINCE October 2004

    CAR: #Lamborghini-Islero / #Lamborghini / #Lamborghini-V12

    TURNING A DREAM INTO REALITY

    I blame the September 2001 issue of C&SC. Aged 26 and working in Hong Kong, I was living a life of long hours, little sleep and no cars. Then a story by Richard Heseltine on the Lamborghini Islero started a dream that took 17 years to bring to fruition, and life has now come full circle with a role on the magazine. Four years and multiple re-reads of the article later, that dog-eared issue of C&SC and I returned to the UK. I had always fancied a classic, but why an Islero? I wanted a fast four-seater with a boot, good for drives to the Highlands or southern Europe – in other words, a proper GT. And this restrained express has always been overlooked. Which was exactly why I wanted one. Insurance was the main barrier.

    At 29, with no insurance history for five years, that barrier was firmly down: I remember getting a £5200 quote for cover on a BMW 520i. In a moment of madness, I asked one insurer for an Islero quote. After liaising with the classic department, she said: “How does £600 sound?” I almost fell off my chair.

    The chase was on, but how was I going to find and finance my unicorn? The latter was answered when my grandmother passed away and left me some money, but the former proved trickier. Just 255 of this lesser-known Italian were built: 125 first-generation cars, then 100 of the ‘S’, uprated from 320bhp to 350bhp and easily identified by its bonnet scoop and flared arches. I prefer the earlier model and they were a little cheaper – about the price of new Ford Mondeo – but engine fires and crashes took their toll on survival rates. Then, in February 2004, I saw an advert in C&SC for a 1968 car with Joop Stolze Classic Cars. I struck out for The Netherlands to find the car at the back of a barn, covered in dust and looking unloved. I had planned to drive home so was disappointed, but bought it nonetheless.

    A friend gave me the number of a Putney garage, and the car arrived on a dark and rainy night. I can’t explain the thrill as I got in, turned the key and it fired, but after a few seconds of chattering chains the garage owner told me to turn it off.

    I didn’t know then, but that was the last time it would run for 14 years. The engine block was sound, but the rest of the car was knackered. Eventually, a deal was done: I would do the laborious and non-technical work; they would train me and do specialist work when they had time. And so began the next four years. My first job was removing nearly four decades of dirt and underseal over three weeks of hell. The more I took off the Islero, the more problems I found. One rear quarter was full of rust, which had been filled over and took five days to remove, and the passenger footwell was so rotten that I put my foot through.

    By the end of the year I’d stripped and rebuilt the engine. By the end of the four years, though, the time had come to get back to work and I left for Africa. Over the next seven years the car was resprayed and the suspension reattached before, in 2013, the garage owner asked if I’d return to London to help sell his stock of exotic cars. I packed my bags and the following Monday I started my new job.

    Focus returned to my beloved Islero, and major jobs were done when money was available, including a handmade Larini exhaust. By 2015 it was time to move and I was unsure it would ever get finished. I was given the name of Lambo specialist Colin Clarke and we agreed a figure to complete the work. Finally, in May 2018, I picked up the car and my wife and I went away to the Cotswolds for my birthday… marred only slightly by a terrifying drive to the hotel in the dark with no headlights.

    Further scares have included a return trip from Goodwood with only full beam – so I had to hold the stalk all the way – and driving back from Bicester in 36ºC with the windows stuck up… explaining to my brother why I arrived with no trousers on took some explaining. But the Silverstone Classic gave me a tick on the bucket-list when I got a parade lap of the circuit for the Islero’s 50th anniversary. The V12 at 4000rpm in fourth still gives me goosebumps, and moments like that make it all worthwhile.

    Clockwise from top left: at Colin Clarke Engineering, with the engine about to go in; reassembly begins at last after the respray; finished interior; glorious V12 is now as good as new.

    Main: the Islero has been taken back to exactly as it left the factory. Above: as found in Holland. Below right: at Silverstone for the model’s 50th anniversary.
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    Dougal Macdonald
    Dougal Macdonald updated the group cover
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