Re-inventón coachbuilding?

At first glance it looks like a Murcielago that’s been made-up by NBC to be KITT on the new Knight Rider series (they’re really doing that). But it’s not. So maybe some tacky one-off designed for the Sultan of Brunei? Close. It’s the Reventón, Lamborghini’s newest trick to separate attention seeking rich men from their cash – and lots of it.

Lamborghini Reventón

To be built in only 20 examples (unless, of course, they get greedy), this car is essentially a $1.5 million dollar answer to the question nobody was asking – “What would happen if Lamborghini built a special edition Murcielago based on the design of a 1970s stealth fighter plane?” That answer has been decisive to say the least.

Lamborghini Reventón rear view

I hate it, flat out. I think that it’s ugly for no good reason and takes Lamborghini’s legendary angular design language and makes it busier than Ryan Seacrest during Idol season. Some folks though, evidently, like the juvenile styling and think that it brings some lunacy back to Lambo. Regardless of what you think of the design though, I think it’s an interesting turn for the world of coachbuilding.

There’s a been a lot of uber-rich folks getting cars coachbuilt these days. James Glickenhaus had the jaw-dropping Pininfarina Ferrari P4/5 built for him and the Japanese car collector Yoshiyuki Hayashi had the slightly less spectacular Zagato Ferrari 575GTZ built for him. Henrik Fisker is running around making slightly less well-designed versions of BMW 6 series and Mercedes SLs for a modest $100,000 premium over the standard cars. Why, after so many years, have we come back to coachbuilding? I think there are a few good reasons.

  1. The ultra rich are getting richer than the prices of the things around them. So a Ferrari still only costs a couple hundred grand but you can make $100 million just by having a good idea these days (like Mark Cuban for example). The super rich truly don’t have enough stuff out there to challenge their bank accounts.
  2. Exclusive things are less and less exclusive. Companies that used to make cars in the hundreds per year, like Maserati, Aston Martin, Bentley or Lamborghini, now make them in the thousands. Like the ubiquitous $10,000 Louis Vuitton bag, anyone willing to stretch their finances a bit can buy an “exclusive” car. You see them more than ever, in front of mediocre restaurants and casinos, driven by douchebag lawyers and realtors and whoever.
  3. Carbon fiber has made custom designs easier to build. Much like a kit car made from fiberglass, a carbon fiber body can be made in more interesting shapes, for cheaper, than steel or aluminum. As many of these top-end cars are being built with the stuff, more flexibility has popped up. Of course, cheaper is still relative, as the Reventón’s 300% markup clearly isn’t cheap, but it’s easy enough for Lamborghini to do that it becomes possible.
  4. The crazy high price is part of the prize. Willingness to overpay for exclusiveness is key. Saying that you paid Pininfarina to build you a custom Ferrari sounds nuts, but when your friend just bought a 250 GTO for $8 million, you start to look like a genius.

So, will it last? Can it last? Should it last? Well, yes, to all three I think. There’s a long history of good and bad custom coachbuilt cars, and I’m glad to see it continue. The Reventón might turn my stomach designwise, but it shows that a larger company (Audi being the parent, remember) can build a limited production, truly exclusive model within its business model. Fisker is showing that a small coachbuilder can do the same thing. The Pininfarina and Zagato specials are just icing on the cake.

I’m glad to see it back. In fact, I’m available any time if someone needs a design nobody’s ever seen before (Big Daddy Glick, I’m looking at you).

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