The homeless-looking guy on the bike can't help craning his neck, pumping a fist as he pedals past the gas station and nearly colliding with a curbside mailbox.
"Yeah, dude, Ferrari! Wooo-hoooo!"
I pretend to be deaf. You've got to give him a nod for enthusiasm, but he's dead wrong. It's funny, but most people actually get it right. Beyond a Police Interceptor, there's no car on the street with more arresting road presence than a Lamborghini. Particularly the latest model, the '07 Murcilago LP640 Roadster we're fueling. Crowds form. Women sigh. Grown men are reduced to gawky, snickering adolescents.
It's all part of the natural state, a law of physics maybe. Historically, Lamborghini is the embodiment of automotive hubris. The company builds more than just cars. It builds attitudes, frames of mind. Making the most conspicuous entrances and exits are included in the price of admission. Driving onlookers berserk is an added perk.
This is the real Lamborghini. Sure, the Gallardo wears a charging bull on its nose, but its doors swing outward and certain interior components leave little doubt as to its Audi-ness. Teutonic influence is not completely absent in the Murcilago, but more transparent, mostly evident in its meteor-proof build and reassurance of the engine firing up every time you turn the key.
The LP640 seems to be the direct result of a glut of supercars recently coming to market. In the face of new, ultra-exotic offerings from makes like Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, the mere 580-bhp Murcilago was beginning to look a little underpowered. The response is much more than just a facelift, though it does receive subtle (but effective) exterior treatments like a more aggressively shaped front airdam and that huge central exhaust outlet molded into the rear diffuser.
The Murcilago Roadster is perhaps the only car in existence that actually looks as good, if not better, without a roof. Minus the top, your eye falls inexorably into the car's core. The decklid becomes a microcosm, its vented, angular expanse an alien landscape. Pull the release and it pops skyward, hinged from the rear, to reveal the heart of the beast: a surprisingly compact, mid-mounted V12 bolted beneath a web of structural braces spanning the engine bay-reinforcement for the car's lack of roof. The standard Lamborghini V12 is now outfitted with continually variable valve timing at both intake and exhaust ports, and an extra 300cc of displacement has pushed the total to 6.5 liters. Peak power output has risen to 640 bhp at 8000 rpm.
By noon, we've coalesced in the Searles Valley, some 170 miles northeast of our origin-and it didn't take long. On the fossil shores of a vast semi-dry lake covering some two-thirds of the valley floor, Bidrawn indulges himself in shooting the car against piles of lime stacked near the road. They are not natural phenomena; for the last century and a half, the valley has hosted a prolific chemical-processing operation, wherein brine is extracted from sub-surface reservoirs then converted at on-site processing plants into other, more complex substances used in products like fertilizer and detergent. Against the crumbling white mounds, the Lambo never looked so otherworldly.
We soon spot a convoy of white pick-up trucks headed our way. Bidrawn shoots frantically, barking orders, certain we're about to be squashed. The convoy turns out to be a group of lake workers on break. They're not here to crush our groove. Like everyone else with a pulse, they just want a closer look. Even in the middle of nowhere, a hundred or more miles from what most would consider an urban center, the Lamborghini draws a crowd. I'm not surprised.