To each their own: if there’s anything experience has taught us it’s that there is always a market for gold-plated or even gold-made objects, including cars. Moreover, the buyers on this market will pay incredible amounts of money for something that the rest of us considers a bad joke in very bad taste. Like the world-famous 1:8 scale model of the Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4.
July is autoevolution’s Italian Month and you can’t possibly celebrate Italian automotive excellence without speaking of Lamborghini. This gold Lambo is not a real car, but it still finds a place here because it was officially sanctioned by Lamborghini itself. In fact, it was even displayed at the Lamborghini booth at a couple of international auto shows for the short period it existed. That said, it’s not an example of Italy’s finest in automotive excellence, but rather a sample of PR stunting not working the way it should.
Previous to the Lamborghini, Gulpen had built a solid gold Bugatti Veyron model and, in the process, understood a very important fact about the client he was catering to: build something even more expensive, and the right buyer will come along. So for the Lamborghini project, he decided to go all out in terms of materials used, to create a record-breaking model car that would be more than a toy and more than a piece of jewelry. It would be a work of art, as he proudly declared in the press release that went out at the time.
For that, he would use the latest Lambo model, the Aventador LP 700-4, a piece of art in itself. He would carve the body out of carbon fiber and then plate it in real gold, and it would be the most amazing thing ever. And that wasn’t all: he would also use about 1,400 diamonds for the seats (700 of them for each), platinum for the wheels, more diamonds for the steering wheel and the headlights, and some sterling silver here and there.
Gulpen’s Aventador would be a 1:8 scale model of the real thing, measuring about 60 cm (23.6 inches), but it would strive to be as striking as the real thing. More importantly, pricing would be on par, too: the first figure reported in relation to the model car was $350,000, close to what you would have had to pay for the new Aventador car – you know, the one you could actually drive.
In December that year, Gulpen clarified, Sotheby’s would sell the real model car (not the carbon fiber prototype) at auction, either in Dubai or Europe, and it could fetch as much as $7.5 million. Along the years, as the news passed through the grapevine, the amount suffered modifications, but it never went under $5.5 million. If anyone wanted to buy the car ahead of the auction, they could do so right away, but they’d have to pay $1 million over the starting auction price of $5.5 million.
The news made headlines around the world, and for good cause: here was a model car (a fancy, overpriced paperweight, according to some) that would sell for crazy money, made of crazy materials and offered with Lamborghini’s blessing. Still, it failed to convince one of those eccentric multi-millionaires to part with this kind of money.
In 2013, the Gulpen model car resurfaced again: for the first time ever, Gulpen’s work was being displayed outside of Europe, in Dubai. Still with Lamborghini’s approval, the model was displayed there, now covered in gold and with its own, smaller model. But it was still not the real model car: it was a prototype, and the real deal, it was now said, would be carved out of a giant block of gold. A 500-kg (1,102-pound) block of gold would be used, but the finished model would only weigh 25 kg (55.1 pounds). It would take a year and a half to build it, and a 10-man team would be required. Of the $7.5 million the model would sell for, Gulpen pledged $650,000 to charity.
This was eight years ago. Today, there’s no trace of the world’s most expensive Lamborghini car model, neither with the carmaker nor Guinness. We contacted Lamborghini, and will update the story when we hear back. There’s no word on whether it ever got made or, if it did, if it sold at auction for the reported $7.5 million.
It looks like this was, at best, a dream that never came true or, at worst, PR stunting that didn’t work out as planned. Whichever it was, it stands as proof that some things are just too outrageous to exist. Or, as they say, that not all that glitters is gold.