When I was 12-years-old my father crashed his Datsun in modest style. I was in the back seat and the front of the Japanese car folded origami-style as it connected with the iron fist of a Jaguar, driven by a man wearing yeti boots.
To be honest, it was almost certainly my Dad’s fault – although he was in sensible shoes and the other bloke only had a pair of ridiculous fury feet to stand on. Names and numbers were exchanged – it later transpired the driver was the newspaper owner Eddy Shah.
I didn’t know who Shah was, although years later I briefly worked for one of his newspapers where the security guard was also the arts critic. But I always remember the yeti boots and the fact he had a charisma to match his fancy footwear. My Dad wasn’t impressed, neither was the insurance company.
You had to be a certain type of person to wear yetis back in the 1970s. David Bowie and Marc Bolan probably had several pairs, which was acceptable but a man in a random Jaguar in the suburbs of Manchester – what were the chances of that?
A stout pair of Church’s or John Lobb’s were standard issue for a chap in a Jag, exhaling through the door in a Fedora and a cloud of cigar smoke. But yeti boots? They haven’t been seen in this parish for decades.
Which got me thinking about the type of footwear I would choose to drive the ultimate Lamborghini, the Aventador SVJ. If you haven’t heard of it – or bought a Porsche GT2 RS thinking it would be the fastest production car on the planet – the SVJ broke the Nurburgring lap record with a time of six minutes, 44 seconds.
Piloted by Lamborghini factory driver Marco Mapelli, the track-focussed SVJ was more than two seconds faster than the GT2 RS. We know for certain that Signore Mapelli definitely wasn’t in yeti boots, which is a shame because they are just the sort of flamboyant footwear an Aventador driver should wear and would certainly have annoyed the folk from Stuttgart. A lot.
Any Lamborghini from year dot – except for the rather pointless Urus SUV – is a car not to be driven in sensible shoes. Both the current Huracan and Aventador, for example, are total show offs, a cacophony of stage fireworks and sound effects not seen since the pyrotechnical, high heeled era of the Kiss concert.
So this hardcore SVJ version of the Aventador then promises to be more crazy, more astonishing and even more bonkers. I’ve polished up an old pair of flashy Ermenegildo Zegna trainers specially to drive it – and also because the footwells in any Aventador are a tad too snug for yeti boots.
The most sophisticated and powerful Lamborghini ever to leave the Sant’ Agata production facility is more than likely a swansong for the company’s titanic V12 unit too. A hybrid Lamborghini (aka Sian) has reportedly been shown to potential customers behind closed doors. To mark what could be a defining moment, the naturally aspirated block has been modified to the edge of reason for the SVJ.
The raft of changes designed to squeeze 759bhp from a 6.5-litre motor include titanium valves, redesigned cylinder head and a lighter flywheel. These help to reduce the weight of the enormous but low-slung SVJ by 50kg to a trim 1525kg – or not that much more than a bog standard Ford Focus.
Consequently, the SVJ revs to beyond 8,500rpm and offers a wider band of torque, served up through a permanent four-wheel drive system that has been tweaked for more rear-axle bias. I doubt many Lambo owners ever lift the rear-mounted, carbon-fibre engine cover to peep at the engine but it’s exquisite. On paper, 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 217mph match a car as menacing as a great white.
Perched on top is ALA 2.0 – the latest version of Lamborghini’s active aerodynamic spoiler system that attracts attention like a radar beacon. The rear-wing increases downforce by more than 40 per cent compared to the previous Aventador SV, complemented by two self-adjusting flaps at the front of the car and one atop the engine lid.
It’s ingenious stuff but requires a Venn diagram to explain properly. On a fast corner, the forces created by the rear wing can be deflected left or right too, helping to increase grip over the inside rear wheel where it is most needed.
While ALA deflects air brilliantly, it won’t stop a trail of car spotters gathering in your wake, camera phones pressed to the windscreen. It’s that sort of machine. At least the central pillar supporting the spoiler has been perfectly placed to block any visibility through the back screen. You might as well throw away the rear-view mirror and shave a few extra ounces off the kerb weight.
A blast from those sonorous twin tailpipes can send unwanted admirers scattering. A stab of the throttle unleashes a guttural snort like Brian Blessed suffering an asthma attack. There’s no neighbour-friendly setting for those awkward, early morning starts either, so don’t expect a barbecue invite from number 17.
But for sheer spectacle and larger than life appeal, the SVJ is the automotive equivalent of Concorde. It’s also equally as tight inside, once the wing doors have been swung upwards to reveal a riotous mix of suede and leather. The bucket seats, borrowed from the Spanish Inquisition, are almost painful on a long journey, while visibility and headroom were an obvious afterthought.
There’s nowhere to stash a phone let alone my spotted handkerchief and the eccentric dashboard layout was based on the switchgear in Dr Who’s original Tardis. The flip-up cover over the starter button is borrowed from a fighter jet. It’s a talking point for new passengers but has a knack of catching a shirt cuff at the most awkward moments.
At least Lamborghini has dispensed with those silly indicator buttons on the steering wheel itself. Impossible to operate at night-time, the tiny switches have been replaced with a conventional stalk off the column that’s enormous, unsightly and clunky to operate.
There’s nothing easy or straightforward about any Aventador – even climbing in and out is a Houdini-type feat designed to scalp the forehead of 6ft+ passengers. The sound system is so tinny it sounds like every DJ is playing vinyl, while luggage space under the front bonnet has to be supplemented with the passenger footwell.
Worst of all, the single clutch gearbox is so ridiculously antiquated it’s almost comical. There’s a fore and aft head-nodding workout at low speed, accompanied by cries of ‘it’s not my crap gearchange honest’ but matters improve dramatically at speed, when the shift is smoother.
Straight line performance is simply epic, while heading into a corner, each high-revving downshift on those huge paddle-shifters is pure drama, especially on a wet British road in January. This amount of performance and grip takes some getting used to.
Supplemented by an old-fashioned V12 soundtrack and outlandish styling, the SVJ a sensory overload rarely found in any car these days. Even modern, efficient Ferraris and the clinical but soulless McLarens can’t hold a candle to the vibrations and resonating thrills of the supersonic SVJ.
In any other circumstances it would be right to suggest this £350,000 Aventador is a two-seater that’s reached its sell by date. But what Lamborghini has done here is turn an ageing supercar into something even more spectacular. Just for one last fling of the dice, for old times’ sake – and it doesn’t matter what shoes you want to wear either.