This week marks the end of production for the Lamborghini Murcielago.  Before I write about the car, I wanted to tell you a little bit about how it got its name.

The story of the Murcielago begins in a region called Navarra, located in the north of Spain.   This area is home to Pamplona, near the Pyrenees, and most famous for the running of the bulls celebration.   In this once Roman area lived a “matadores,” Spanish for killer, named Rafael “El Lagartijo” Molina Sanchez.   El Lagartijo was a man from a long line of Spanish matadores who fought his first battle at the age of 9.  His career as a matadores included 1632 bullfights, and he (sadly) killed 4867 bulls in 29 consecutive seasons.   It was said that he was destined for fame, which inspired Don Pascual Millan to state “One might say that he was born in the hollow of two applauding hands.”

On October 5th 1879, El Lagartijo met his match in a fighting bull named Murcielago.  In an exceptional display of courage and resilience, Murcielago survived 28 sword strikes (not 23 as reported elsewhere) during the fight in Cordoba, Spain.   The animal fought with such passion and spirit that the crowd called for an “indulto,” that his life be spared, something that is very rarely done. In fact, this same rare request happened to his equally renowned sponsor Antonio “El Gordita” Carmona, who was denied the gift by the President of the Plaza.  This time the crowd insisted, and El Lagartijo bestowed the unusual gift.   The bull was presented to Don Antonio Miura, who with his brother Don Eduardo Miura brought Murcielago into the Miura line, siring him with 70 cows.   This line, known for their large size and ferocity, are the spirit of Automobili Lamborghini and are displayed on the company logo.

Lamborghini named the Miura after the line of fighting bulls, and the Murcielago after its most ferocious fighter.  Lamborghini history includes the Islero, which was named for a Miura bull that killed the famed matadores Manual Laureano “Manolete” Rodriguez Sanchez in 1947.  His death caused Dictator General Francisco Franco to call for three days of official mourning. Continuing this tradition, the Espada is the Spanish word for sword, sometimes used to refer to the bullfighter himself.   The Jamara refers to the historic bullfighting region in Spain, while the Uracco and Jalpa were named after a breed of bulls.

The Countach broke from tradition and is named for an exclamation of astonishment used by Piedmontese men upon sighting a beautiful woman, their equivalent of wow, or ay, carumba.  Nuccio Bertone himself uttered it when he first saw the Countach design. The Diablo, which means the devil, is named for the Duke of Veragua’s legendary bull, famous for an epic battle against El Chicorro in Madrid in 1869.  The fight was the first time the matadores was awarded the ear of the bull as a trophy.   It is believed the bulls head is mounted in the dining room of the present Duke of Veragua’s home.   Gallardo is named for one of five ancestral castles of the Spanish fighting bull breed.   Reventon is the bull that defeated Felix Guzman in 1943 by goring him in the upper thigh, though he would have lived if he didn’t limp around enjoying the audience applause for too long.  Finally, the Estoque concept was named for the estoc, the sword used by matadores during bullfights.

To live up to this great fighting bull heritage, the Murcielago had to be a brute, and it truly was.   In its first generation, it featured a 6.2 liter V-12 with 580 horses, mounted longitudinally in the rear (hence the LP, which is Italian for Longitudinale Posteriore).   In the second generation, the LP640 displacement rose to 6.5 liters, with over 640 horses.   Finally, the SV, or Super Veloce had 670hp, and can do 0-100 in 3.2 seconds.

The Murcielago was the first new design for Lamborghini in 11 years, and the first under the new Volkswagen ownership.   Designed by Luc Donckerwolke, a Peruvian born Belgian who speaks 7 languages, he was also responsible for the designs of the Audi R8, Lamborghini Diablo and the Gallardo.

On November 5th, Lamborghini celebrated the end of production for the Murcielago, the most produced Lamborghini 12-cylinder of all time and one of the world’s most successful super cars.  The last car was number 4099, finished in a bright orange called Arancio Atlas.

The company celebrated with a special exhibition and a parade in Sant’Agata Bolognese, where a 350GT, Muira, Countach and Diablo escorted a Murcielago SV during a symbolic “last ride” out of the gate of the Lamborghini factory.   During an “end of celebration” ceremony at the Lamborghini factory, the automaker’s president and CEO, Stephan Winkelmann had this to say:

“The Murcielago embodies the pure, unadulterated values of our brand. It is truly extreme, uncompromising and unmistakably Italian. This already makes it one of the legends of the sports car world. But the Lamborghini story continues. In 2011, we will take a huge step into the future with the successor to the Murcielago – with the most innovative technology and, once again, truly stunning design.”

Bullfighting has been described as tragedy, art, brutality, savagery and as a rite of sublime expression, all rolled into a neat little package of splendor. It is also the perfect description of Lamborghini.

Article courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos courtesy of Autoblog, European Car Web, Clutchd, Lincah, and Byzan

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