Classic Innovation

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Valentino Balboni’s Custom Lamborghini

Bringing together two masters in their field isn’t an everyday occurrence. Yet the opportunity for hotelier Peter Shaindlin (Halekulani) to converse about the finer points of automobiles with legendary Lamborghini test driver Valentino Balboni was cause enough for space in this luxury magazine. After all, the duo have excelled for more than 80 years combined in the art of providing a luxury experience.

This year is a milestone for Balboni, who beams in the driveway of a Kailua home dotted with examples of “his work.” Behind us sits a 2011 Superleggera, gleaming silver in the late afternoon light.

Yet Balboni is standing like a proud papa next to a little white number: the limited (250 were made) Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni edition, which, for the first time in the maker’s storied history, bears the name of someone other than Ferruccio Lamborghini.

From tales of his budding career (a priest from his small Bolognese village dropped him in front of the Lamborghini plant at 19 years of age), to witnessing firsthand verbal battles between Lamborghini and Enzo Ferrari, Balboni recounts much of his 43 years as the sole test driver for the makers of one of the most precision sportscars ever crafted.

The model that carries his name is a part of soon-to-be history; Lamborghini has returned to producing two-wheel drive, rear-thrust automobiles in addition to the four-wheel versions that it-and all competitors-crafts solely today.

“I have always been in the business of attaching emotion to an experience in order to make it a substantial one,” says Balboni in stoic, Italian intonation. “With this car, you [as a driver] have to be much more connected to it. It’s more work, but it comes with even greater reward.”

You can achieve similar reward for a cool $250,000, but act fast: Currently there is only one available on Hawaii shores.

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