An Aventador J at midnight – evo Archive

Henry Catchpole recalls the time we spent with the one-off Lamborghini Aventador J in an empty motor show hall

It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that the last two Geneva motor shows were cancelled, and 2022’s isn’t looking good either. With Covid-19 still circulating it was the only sensible thing to do, yet back in 2020, the proverbial finger was only drawn across the proverbial throat by the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles at the eleventh hour. As a result there were lots of images doing the rounds of the huge halls littered with half-built or part-demolished stands. Cranes, scaffolding, rolled-up carpets and boxes everywhere. It reminded me of a night in 2012.

Tuesday, the first day of the show, is always press day at Geneva. It’s when the wraps are taken off and, these days, when editors hit the big ‘go’ button on pre-prepared stories that have lain secure on servers until the embargo arrives. It is rather hectic in the halls and trying to take photos or talk to a video camera is about as easy as painting a watercolour on the Tube in rush hour. So, in 2012 we asked Lamborghini if we could come back after hours to get some quality time with its star of the show, the Aventador J.

The J (for Jota) was a one-off. Not a concept, because it was a fully working car with a V12. Just the only one. It still is. Nowadays it would be seen as following a trend for supercar speedsters, rolling along in the tyre tracks of the Bentley Bacalar, McLaren Elva and the Aston Martin V12 Speedster that should have been at the Swiss show this year. But in 2012 it was slim pickings for those with a love of many cylinders but an aversion to windscreens, with just the Mercedes SLR Stirling Moss edition to choose from.

Anyhow, the nod came from Sant’Agata that we could spend a few hours with the J after the hoards had retreated to hotel bars, so snapper Dean Smith (who abhors motor shows like Twitter hates Instagram), film-maker Sam Riley and I duly returned to the stand later in the evening. I had envisioned a crypt-like peace and quiet. A few security guards pacing perhaps, but otherwise nothing save the automotive stars of the show slumbering under silk shrouds. I was wrong. It was carnage. It turns out that most of the stands are completely rearranged between the press day on the Tuesday and the VIP day on the Wednesday. As a result, there were people everywhere and the place rang to the sounds of drills, shouted instructions and hammers. A reverent meeting with an Aventador it was not.

Nonetheless, Dean, who I remember was wearing a pink T-shirt that clashed like a fuchsia with the red paint of the Lamborghini, did a fantastic job of making it look like we were the only ones there. Armed with no more than a couple of small flashes he created the impression of lonely, late night contemplation (although if you look closely on page 82 of issue 169 you might notice a ladder and a crane that couldn’t be completely concealed).

There is one photo of me sitting, apparently in blissful contemplative solitude, in the car, and I remember that this also took some time to organise. The trouble was that the J had already been sold, sight unseen, for £1.75million, and no one seemed quite sure if the owner would be happy with someone else’s buttocks sinking into the Alcantara, however briefly. In the end I took my shoes off and sat on my jumper. Probably should have used some antibacterial hand gel too.

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