Looking Back On The Charmed Life of Valentino Balboni
In the world of classic cars, Lamborghinis are among the classiest. From the beautiful Countach, to the stylish Miura, Lamborghinis are the cream of the crop. When a phenomenal car is paired with a charismatic driver, you have a recipe for success. A perfect example of this is when Valentino Balboni became Lamborghini’s chief test driver.
Adventurous, relaxed and always ready for a challenge, Balboni drove Lamborghinis for 40 years, before retiring in 2008. A lifelong lover of classic cars, we take a look back on Balboni’s incredible career.
Hard work and humble beginnings
Balboni’s introduction to car industry is thanks to the efforts of Alfredo Pizzi, who lived in the driver’s home village. In 1968, Pizzi took an 18-year-old Balboni and other teenagers to visit Lamborghini. Balboni applied for a job and started from the bottom.
Despite not having a driving licence, Balboni still ‘tested’ customers’ repaired cars, such as a 400 GT. At the time, he wanted to model himself on Lamborghini’s chief test driver, Bob Wallace, who’d made a name for himself driving the Countach.
In 1971, Balboni became a mechanic and continued driving test laps in customers’ cars. Eventually, the board agreed to let him test current Lamborghinis alongside Wallace.
From boy racer to licenced driver
By 1973, Balboni was testing cars on public roads, after technical director Paolo Stanzani arranged for him to have a licence. Once he’d obtained his licence, Balboni picked out a Miura SV and test drove it alone for the first time. This set him off on a path that he would follow for the rest of his life, testing 80% of all Lamborghinis built.
As a test driver, Balboni needed to coordinate the testing of each newly assembled car. Not everything ran smoothly for him. In 1978, testing a customer’s Countach at 180 km/h, Balboni came into the path of a truck. The car rolled several times, and Balboni managed to escape through a side window. Luckily, he sustained no life-threatening injuries.
In the 1980s, Balboni was the only test driver to be employed in production, prototype development and customer service at Lamborghini. He became the face of the company, achieving cult status among Lamborghini enthusiasts. In the 1990s, the Lamborghini Diablo was produced and customers around the world insisted on meeting Balboni in person so they could hear about the car from the chief test driver.
After four decades in the industry, Balboni retired in 2008. But his energy and passion for classic cars remains strong to this day. In 2009, Balboni’s name was immortalised by the Lamborghini 250 Gallardo LP550-2 ‘Valentino Balboni edition.’ The vehicle had a rear-wheel driving system, due to Balboni’s preference for roaming in a rear-wheel driven car.
Balboni will forever be known as ‘Mister Lamborghini’ in the eyes of classic car fans. It’s a title he’s earned a thousand times over.
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