When I set out with Senior Editor Bidrawn for New Mexico's Holloman Air Force Base to help him photograph a Lamborghini Murcielago in front of the F-117 Nighthawk--better known as the "Stealth" fighter that leveled most of Iraq's military fortifications in the Gulf War--I have to admit I was more excited about seeing the car than the airplane. For one, I've already seen the Nighthawk at airshows, and two, I'm not really a big military buff, unlike, it seems, a lot of guys in this automotive journalism business.
Though we had problems with a passing thunderstorm in the middle of the day--as a rule, the Nighthawk must be taken indoors if lightning is reported within ten miles of the base--the photo shoot went smoothly and Bidrawn got all the artsy pictures he could have possibly dreamed of. That evening, however, the real fun would begin. See, we weren't only sent to take pictures of the car next to the plane; we were charged with driving it all the way back to ec's offices in Southern California, too.
We were introduced to the Murcielago's universally appealing nature--to put it mildly--there on the base, as droves of military personnel showed up throughout the day to come look at the car and get their picture standing next to it or sitting in the cockpit. At first I attributed their excitement to a kind of cabin fever--after all, they're all stuck out there on the base in the middle of a big, empty desert, with only each other, military aircraft and explosives to keep them occupied.
The fact of the matter, though, is that the Murcielago attracts more attention than any other car I've driven--hell any other car I've heard of. It doesn't have an ounce of subtlety in it. It literally screams, "I am Murcielago! There is no other more terrible or desirable! Kneel before me and despair, for you will never own me!"
Our first civilian contact with the Murcielago came outside a liquor store in Alamogordo later that night. Three kids--two Latin girls and a young black man--were clustered around it when we came out.
"Do you mind if we take a picture of your car?" one of the girls asked. "Sorry, this is sort of a small town and we don't really see that many cars like this."
The black kid was pretty excited. Bidrawn, astutely noting he was on the verge of soiling himself, told him to go ahead and sit in it, and he did so without hesitating.
"Oooohh, girl, this car is hot!" he ejaculated. "Oooohh, and it's my birthday too!"
His friend snapped a couple shots, and they all looked longingly at us as we got in the car and fired it up.The girl with the camera was pretty in a scrawny kind of way, and she probably would have come with us back to the hotel if we asked, but the Murcielago is a two-seater, Bidrawn's a married man, and I already had a twelve pack in my lap.
Nevertheless, Bidrawn was feeling his machismo as we pulled out onto Alamogordo's main thoroughfare. We reached the hotel in exactly 38 seconds, went upstairs and drank some beers. We left the curtains open so we could keep an eye on the car. Fifteen minutes and four Coors Originals later, a flash of light through the window prompted us to take a look outside. A group of five kids had the Murcielago surrounded, taking turns posing next to the car and snapping pictures. They looked through the window glass, looked at the wheels, at the badges, at the headlights, but never once touched the car. Their reverence was evident.
Bidrawn passed out, but I remained by the window, paranoid and suspicious. People came by every fifteen or twenty minutes, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups. They took pictures. They posed. They stared. They gaped. They pointed, gestured and debated. Some people came back twice. I went to sleep around 2 a.m., and they were still coming.
On the way out of town the next morning we stopped in an empty parking lot to look at a map and plan our route. A police car followed us in and pulled up behind us. The officer stepped out and approached the car slowly, visibly dumbfounded.
"Hello officer," said Bidrawn. "Is there a problem?"
The policeman shook his head as a second police cruiser pulled up behind the first.
"No sir, we got a call that there was a Lamborghini parked at the Hampton Inn, and we were just on our way over to see it," he said, a bit embarrassed. He swallowed. "Hope you don't mind."
After we spent about five minutes talking about the car, he gave us directions to the highway as his colleague made slow circuits around the car, shaking his head the whole time.
Later that day we stopped to eat at a small roadside cafe in Datil, New Mexico. Naturally, we'd spent the entire morning and early afternoon driving, stopping occasionally to switch seats or shoot pictures. We spent our time driving the car sunken in a surreal, meditative silence, broken only by the occasional contagious bout of maniacal laughter. No one really saw us pull up to the cafe, but it didn't take long for people to notice the bright yellow Lambo parked outside. The place, which when we arrived had been populated by a middle-aged, conservative looking clientele--not the sort of people you'd think would get too excited over a car, however conspicuous--was empty by the time we'd finished our lunch. The only people left were us, an elderly woman and her thirty-something son. Eventually, curiosity got the better of even these two.
"What's going on out there?" the woman asked as they walked over to the cafe's broad front window.
"There's some kind of car parked outside," her son replied. "I think it's some kind of new Corvette."
"Oh," she said as the Lambo came into view. "Oh, my. It's ugly, isn't it?"
We spent the night in Camp Verde, Arizona. By the time we rolled into town we'd been driving for about fifteen hours, and answered about a thousand questions about the car. All I wanted to do was get something to eat and go to sleep, but even these seemingly simple tasks become fairly time consuming when you're driving a yellow Lamborghini. Outside the local Subway we were swarmed by the biggest crowd yet, probably about fifteen people, not counting half of the Camp Verde fire department, who saw us on their way back from a call and couldn't resist the temptation to stop. We went through the whole explanation of what we do, who owns the car, why we have it, and where we were going with it for about the hundredth time.
The next day we hit the road and didn't stop until we were home, except a couple times for gas. People followed us all day--or tried to, at least. When all you want to do is get home, and you've had your fill of people staring at you in disbelief, drifting their 5000-lb SUVs into your lane as they try to get a better look, 575 horsepower is a beautiful thing. The ground we covered that day totaled about 600 miles, give or take, and it took us just over seven hours. We could have easily done it in less than half that time had there been no posted speed limits.
Earlier in the trip it occurred to me that Lamborghini owners must be the most patient people in the world. As for me, by the time we reached California my patience was pretty much at an end. I wouldn't want to own one, but driving that car across three states is probably the coolest thing I've ever done. Certainly the Murcielago is the most diabolical, the most over-the-top, the most absolutely insane automobile I've ever had the pleasure of sitting in, much less driving. It's so outrageous it doesn't elicit adulation--it commands it. And, except for one little old lady in a roadside cafe in New Mexico, that's exactly what it got from everyone who laid eyes on it.