Now in its fourth outing, the annual Lamborghini Festival held at CityCentre Plaza and continues to be the rendezvous point for Lamborghini owners and lovers of varying nationalities and ages. The Festival’s Facebook page announced that over 75 models both classic and modern from the famous Italian brand were on display this year.
“I’m a big fan of cars,” said UH industrial design student Stephan Gómez, who loved the first two Gran Turismo racing games. “And it’s really nice to see what has Lamborghini put out now and in the past, like their progression. I like their designs a lot.”
There were many one-make cars to seek out at the Festival, ranging from the company’s first production vehicle 350 GT to their latest member, the Huracán.
“My favorite car, always, has to be the Lamborghini Diablo,” Gomez said. “For some reason the curves on that car, I don’t know, it’s amazing to me.”
One of the four Diablos at the event was an orange 1999 GT model, which was awarded “Best in Show” by the Festival’s founders Jorge Verdejo and Alfonso Zaza.
“That car over there is one of 80,” Zaza said, referring to the limited number of units built for the car to an amazed crowd. “It’s not U.S. street-legal so it shouldn’t be here.”
McDonald Nwosu, a UHD biology student, said the Festival satisfied the car enthusiast in him.
“You have different types of dream come true, one where you see things in person and one where you actually engage things in person,” Nwosu said. “(Seeing the cars today) is mind-blowing, of course. One day, I’ll hop in a Lamborghini and zoom away.”
UH alum and adjunct professor at the Cullen College of Engineering Dean Reitz brought to the Festival a brown 1972 Lamborghini Espada, a V12 four-seat coupé that was — in its time — the automaker’s best-selling model.
“It was in boxes, a restoration project and a challenge; just a lot of bruised knuckles,” Reitz said, recalling the in-pieces state of the car when he bought it and the four years spent assembling it. “I didn’t know what was missing and what wasn’t missing, and knowing that (one part absent) could be disastrous.”
The effort invested in the Espada proved worthy as it enabled Reitz to discover a singular experience behind the wheel.
“It brings you back to a different time and place in automotive history,” Reitz said. “Before antilock brakes, airbags and all the sorts of things that take you a little bit away from the driving experience.”
Even with a plethora of ergonomic and technical challenges he found when compared to today’s vehicles, Michael Foertsch felt the same way in controlling his car, the Festival’s “Best in Classic” red 1975 Lamborghini Urraco P250.
“Just having the experience to drive something like this, it’s really a treat,” Foertsch, the owner of M. Brandon Motorcars, said. “It’s funky. It’s 1970s so they were trying new things with the (two in front and two in back seat placement), the engine behind the 2+2. It has very interesting packaging and is very special to drive these days. It’s very unlike anything else on the road.”
Foertsch’s Urraco was parked next to its successor, a black 1985 Lamborghini Jalpa. The car appeared in Rocky 4 with Sylvester Stallone as the driver, a fact capitalized through the owner’s license plate spelling “ROCKY4,” and a pair of mini boxing gloves as decoration on the rear-view mirror.
Stars also came in a different form than exotic cars at the Festival, as the presence of Miss Texas 2015 Sarah Blanton and 40-year chief test driver for Lamborghini Valentino Balboni attested.
Blanton emceed the event wearing a tiara, sharing with attendees her passion for racing and that she is a close friend of Alfredo Zaza. The country singer, songwriter and model went around taking photos with attendees and visited the tents of the Festival’s central sponsors, Lamborghini Houston and Scuderia Society.
An attendee of every Lamborghini Festival so far, Balboni proved to be a major attracting point for attendees besides the cars. Fans who knew him could get his signature, shake his hand or see the 1974 Lamborghini Countach LP400 ‘Periscopio’ that he test drove when it was first made.
“As usual, I feel much better behind the steering wheel than in front of a microphone,” Balboni said. “I see the event growing year by year and it is such a pleasure to see so many enthusiasts and Lamborghinis altogether. I want to thank everybody for coming and join us in helping the kids.”
From a tent for Austin-based slot car racing company Races2U and the appearance of the “Batventador” which was voted “Kid’s Choice,” children seemed to be the Festival’s target audience.
“I don’t think I’m a symbol (for charity), I just do what I love,” said Debbie Foreman, who drove the “Batventador” to the event in a Batgirl costume. “I think we all need to give back and make this world a better place, basically.”
Film aficionados would recognize a pattern between Christopher Nolan’s version of the Caped Crusader and Foreman, seeing Lamborghini being both individuals’ car of choice.
Lamborghini Festival’s vision, as listed on their website, has always been about reaching out to those in need. The beneficiaries this year were one-year old Hannah Bailey who is battling cancer and the non-profit organization Bennett’s Bears.
As the festival ended, the vehicles all headed to different addresses, but Wayne Lee, the president of the Lamborghini Club of Louisiana, saw only one direction in the Festival’s future.
“I think it’ll get bigger and bigger,” Lee said. “When you come to a Lamborghini Festival, all you’re gonna see here is love. The money they’re raising allows them to bring hope, love and joy to the children who are going through cancer.”