Monte Carlo or Bust!
By Simon Kidston
“So, Bob, tell me about the Monaco Grand Prix. Did Ferruccio have the idea of showing the Miura there?
“Yes. The best idea he ever came up with.”
And so the late Bob Wallace sat back, lit a Marlboro, and in his no-nonsense Kiwi drawl told me the story of his epic journey to the 1966 Monte Carlo Grand Prix at the wheel of the world’s hottest car, literally: the prototype Lamborghini Miura.
“With the mechanic riding with me, we changed clutches every four hours, on the road and in traffic. It was a triple-plate racing job so we’d taken five or six pads with us. Ferruccio had warned me before I left: “You’d better change that XXXing thing before you get into town.””
“And the night before the race he’d arranged for it to be parked outside the Hotel de Paris?”
“Well, that was normal back then. The doorman at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo made more money than the manager. All you had to do was give him a 10,000 Lire tip and the parking spot was yours.”
Since spending that Sunday morning interviewing Bob at the quiet workshop in Phoenix, Arizona that he’d set up after leaving Lamborghini in the late 1970s, Bob has retired to that great test track in the sky but the cars he helped develop - most famously the Miura and Countach - live on.
This month it’s 50 years since that eventful weekend in the Mediterranean principality, which we’ll cover in the Miura book later this year. In a few hours’ time we’ll be setting off for the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix Historique, and you can probably guess what we’ll be driving in Bob’s honour...
The following weekend an altogether more serene and formal setting beckons: the Concorso di Eleganza Villa d’Este, and for the annual road trip there we’ll be road testing Bob’s other crowning achievement, possibly the only car more cramped than a Miura, unless you’ve ever driven an Alfa 33 Stradale. Yes, it’s an early ‘Periscope’ Countach, assuming of course it’s ready in time. Myriad questions remain: will it overheat? Will luggage fit? How do you pay motorway tolls when the windows only open an inch? You’ll be able to laugh at our attempts if you follow social media.
It’ll be a busy May - honk your horn as you pass us on the road!
Images courtesy of The Klemantaski Collection