The time I... crashed a Diablo SV – and had to explain it to Lambo's test driver
Colin Goodwin has been a motoring journalist for over 30 years, starting out at Car Magazine where he used to have lunch most days with a bloke called James May. He has written in most of the UK’s magazines and newspapers. He likes anything with a spark plug and isn’t keen on electric cars – and don’t even mention ones that drive themselves.
This is the last crashing story that you’re getting from me. Unless you want to read about the time I drove a Vauxhall Vectra into the back of queuing traffic on the A3 breaking its numberplate? I thought not.
And here’s a lesson for all you young car journalists out there: if you’re going to spank something make sure it’s an interesting or dramatic car. Nobody in decades’ time will want to hear about you spanking a Nissan Leaf. Some younger colleagues have already taken this advice and have put Bentley Continental GTs into ditches and knackered Maccas (a 675LT rumour has it, which is really doing the job properly).
So let me take you back to a very wet day in the mid nineties. We’re in Italy in the little village of Sant’agata. You guessed it, Lamborghini. The day started dry but soon it turned to heavy rain so obviously I flicked on the Diablo SV’s windscreen wiper. Having accomplished one sweep the whole assembly flew off and disappeared behind a hedge. Fortunately I found it and managed to re-attach it.
That was not the only problem that the rain brought with it. The Diablo, like many supercars of the day, was fitted with tyres that were expressly designed for use in hot and dry conditions in which they had excellent grip. On a rain soaked autostrada that morning I was overtaken by an old lady in a Fiat Uno. I wasn’t being a wimp, the Diablo was simply aquaplaning at anything over about 50mph.
We left the motorway and went up into the hills between Modena and La Spezia. Not perfect supercar roads because they’re a bit tight and twisty but in those days it was virtually impossible to be nicked for speeding if you were driving a Ferrari or Lamborghini, whereas driving fast in a Porsche courted a week in solitary confinement with cold spag bol once a day.
We got stuck behind two slow moving lorries (I had a photographer with me) for what must have been 20 minutes. I just couldn’t find a way past and I wasn’t what you’d call a cautious overtaker in those days. Eventually there was a short straight and I reckoned that the SV’s 510bhp would get us past the trucks. Which it did, but unfortunately we were now travelling at some lick and a tight left-hander was coming up.
We operated with barely any safety net in those days: no traction control, no ESP and not even ABS. You had to rely on old-fashioned car control and skills redundant today such as cadence braking. Sadly those talents, never prodigious in my case, had left me that morning. I tried cadence braking so that my right leg was almost a blur but those hopeless ‘Not For Wet Highway Use’ Pirellis would not grip.
I managed to slow the mighty Lambo to a pace at which, when we hit the chevron maker board on the outside of the corner, not too much damage was done. The front spoiler came adrift and there was a palm-size dent in one front wing. I can’t tell you how sickening it is to bend a car like that, even mildly.
Back at the factory legendary Lamborghini test driver Valentino Balboni laughed off the damage. What would go down badly with Balboni would be a young hack not giving one of his cars the beans. He drove them like he was immortal and he expected us to as well.