Who’s better qualified to restore a classic car than the people who built it three, four, or even five decades ago?
As classics become more and more expensive, collectors are increasingly interested in deciphering their pride and joy’s authenticity and history. Lamborghini is doing its part to help enthusiasts out by digging into its vast archives to re-launch its Polo Storico division.
Polo Storico (a name that means “historical hub” in Italian) is located in Lamborghini’s home town of Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy, just a stone’s throw from the car maker’s historic factory and headquarters. It aims to provide documentation about classic Lamborghini models, to sell original spare parts, and to restore cars from the ground up. We caught up with Enrico Maffeo, the division’s director, in Qatar to find out more about how – and why – it operates.
The centerpiece of Polo Storico is the vast archives department that contains a wealth of information about every car Lamborghini has built since the 350 GT was presented at the 1964 edition of the Geneva Auto Show. By looking up a chassis number, Lamborghini can provide an owner with key information such as what color the car was painted when it rolled off the assembly line, what options it was ordered with, and even who it was delivered to.
Some cars have been endlessly modified over the past couple of decades, while others have remained entirely original. Cars that are unmodified are eligible for a certificate of authenticity, which ultimately makes them more valuable. Understandably, collectors are willing to pay more for a numbers-matching car that has a certificate of authenticity issued by Lamborghini than they would for one whose pedigree is all but unknown.
That vintage car smell
Many bigger car makers have warehouses full of spare parts all around the world, but Lamborghini parts can become difficult (and sometimes impossible) to find because the company has historically only made low-volume models. Luckily, the archives department contains the blueprints to every single part that makes up every single Lamborghini out there. Whether you need a V12 engine block or a dime-sized washer buried deep in a steering rack, Polo Storico will manufacture it from scratch if it’s not on the shelf.
Currently, Lamborghini has 89 percent of the parts that make up a 350 GT in stock and 62 percent of the parts needed to build a Miura. The heritage-focused division has 4,247 bits and pieces stamped with a Diablo parts number, which represents 70 percent of what’s needed to build one. These numbers grow regularly as Polo Storico receives more and more requests from buyers worldwide.
The parts division isn’t limited to mechanical components. Lamborghini has worked with its in-house upholstery shop to re-create the leather upholstery that was fitted to its cars back in the day. Through an alchemy-like process, Polo Storico has given the new leather the same feel and smell as the old one. Instead of smelling like a new car, re-upholstered seats give off that intoxicating classic car smell that warps you back five decades after just a whiff of it.
Giving classics a new lease on life
Polo Storico is also the best-equipped Lamborghini restoration shop on the planet. Who’s better qualified to restore a classic car than the people who built it three, four, or even five decades ago? Once a car arrives at Polo Storico, the first order of business is to generate a set of 3D images of it in order to get a better idea of what’s original and what’s not. Maffeo explains the 3D imagery reveals everything, even tiny imperfections in the sheet metal that are nearly invisible to the naked eye.
The point is to keep classic Lamborghinis as original and authentic as possible, so Polo Storico’s experts exclusively work using old-fashioned metal-working and painting techniques. Former employees who are still living in the Sant’Agata area routinely drop by the Polo Storico to lend a hand. A picture is worth a thousand words, but having a retired assembly line worker explain precisely how to install the door hinges on a Diablo is priceless. It’s also what helps Polo Storico stand out from other restoration shops all around the globe.
Lamborghini is willing to paint over the original color, but that’s about as far as the modifications go. When asked if Polo Storico could stuff an Aventador engine in a LM 002, Maffeo laughed and simply said “no.” He also quickly pointed out that a car not painted in its original color is not eligible to receive the vaunted certificate of authenticity.
Every car has to go through a rigorous, 300-point inspection process after it’s put back together. Once it passes, it’s taken for a test drive on the scenic roads around the factory – the same roads that it was tested on when it was new. If everything checks out, Lamborghini calls the lucky owner to inform them that the car is ready.
Re-upholstered seats give off that intoxicating classic car smell that warps you back five decades after just a whiff of it.
It goes without saying that having Lamborghini restore your Miura, Jarama, or LM 002 isn’t cheap. Maffeo concedes that, on average, a restoration costs €200,000, a sum that represents nearly $225,000. However, the price is justified because the process takes up to a year and it represents 2,000 man hours of labor; in other words, it takes more time to restore a classic than to build a new Aventador. Additionally, Lamborghini includes a one-year warranty on all restorations.
Currently, Lamborghini only restores cars provided by customers. However, Maffeo tells us Lamborghini hasn’t ruled out opening up a showroom that sells like-new classics in the not-too-distant future. Forget Wall Street; for well-heeled enthusiasts, Polo Storico is the most enjoyable, grin-inducing way out there to invest money.