When Valentino Balboni retired, his employer decided to give him something a little more interesting than the usual watch and/or envelope stuffed full of garden centre gift vouchers. The thing is, Balboni’s employer was a certain Italian firm called Lamborghini, and his job was testing supercars. Something he’d done for 40 years, driving an estimated 80 per cent of every vehicle the company had made up until that point.
Lamborghini decided it had to do something special, electing to name a limited-edition car after the man. Naturally, this was to be the most driver-focused thing in the line-up at the time - a rear-wheel drive version of the Gallardo.
Dubbed the LP550-2 Balboni, it was the first rear-wheel drive Lamborghini since the Diablo. The fact that it dropped 10bhp to preserve the all-wheel drive car’s dignity didn’t matter, as ditching the front differential and driveshafts saved around 30kg. The 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds represented a two-tenth drop relative to the all-wheel drive car thanks to inferior traction levels, but this wasn’t supposed to be about the raw numbers.
The Gallardo Balboni had more important things on its mind, like improving the driving experience further with a 45-per cent limited-slip differential, new anti-roll bars and fettled springs and dampers. To set the car apart from other Gallardos, Lamborghini added a white-and-gold stripe down the length of the car, plus some neat plaques bearing Balboni’s signature.
In case it wasn’t exciting enough already, that naturally-aspirated 5.2-litre V10 fed the rear-wheels via a six-speed gated manual gearbox, albeit with an ‘E-Gear’ robotised transmission on the options list for anyone who didn’t fancy such an involved experience.
Thankfully, whoever specced this was one of only three customers to buy a right-hand drive car with three pedals. Back then, manual Lamborghini supercars were dwindling in popularity, and the company was just a few years away from ditching them entirely.
Along with the all-important manual, this example has 19-inch ‘Scorpius’ wheels, gloss black brake calipers, a reversing camera, nose lift kit and more. It’s finished in Nero Noctis, with a Nero Perseus featuring centre stripes on the seats. We like.
The Balboni has covered 16,648 miles in its near-12 years on the roads, serviced in that time by official Lamborghini dealerships. It’s due to go under the hammer at Silverstone Auctions’ 5 March sale at the RAF Museum in London with a guide price of £180,000 - £220,000.