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If you’ve ever rescued an abused animal, nursing it back to health and vicariously experiencing its suffering as the two of you build a lasting bond, then you’ll know how Gene Ondrusek feels about his 1975 Lamborghini Urraco.
Ondrusek first spotted the Urraco for sale in a Dallas Morning News classified advertisement in 1987. The listing described the car as a solid runner with a mere 40,000 miles, and while the interior was, to put it mildly, in rough shape, Ondrusek figured that the market for classic Italian cars was such that he could foot the bill for a cosmetic restoration and still come out ahead.
Originally intended as “the workingman’s Lamborghini,” the Urraco’s 1975 price tag of $22,500 (approximately $98,000 in 2014 dollars) meant that the cars often ended up in the hands of people who could afford to buy them but couldn't keep up with the maintenance costs of an Italian exotic. Ondrusek would soon learn this firsthand.
He had driven a mere twenty-five miles when the timing belt snapped as he was pulling away from a stop sign. As it turned out, the car’s engine had been rebuilt previously and the mechanic had failed to tension the timing belt correctly, causing the V8 to eat four of its sixteen valves. This project, Ondrusek quickly realized, had suddenly gone far beyond the realm of a cosmetic restoration. This Urraco was a ticking time bomb.
Thus began a full deconstruction of Ondrusek’s Urraco–and of his bank account. Reupholstering the suede dash alone required, in Ondrusek’s words, an entire cow. Even today, Ondrusek insists that passengers remove their shoes before sliding into the Urraco’s interior. As he explains, carpet–like everything else on a Lamborghini–is expensive and he has no interest in writing that check again.
This Urraco, however, is no garage queen. As Ondrusek puts it, you can either run the car and things will break, or you can leave it sitting and things will break, so he might as well enjoy breaking it on the open road.