Customized Lamborghinis aren't all that rare. Tap a few letters into Google, and you'll come up with all sorts of Raging Bulls wearing outrageous body kits, clad in colors bright enough to make Ray Charles take notice, or rolling around on oversized wheels of dubious provenance.
Odds are good, though, that you've never seen a custom Lambo quite like this Lamborghini Espada rat rod.
It's almost as wild as the man responsible for bringing it to America: a 48-year-old man whose passport records his legal name as "XXXX Elo," according to his personal assistant (slash wife). Colloquially, however, he leaves off the Layer Cake-style affectation at the front.
“I’m known as the Mad Collector. I hate to talk about myself, but when you see my collection, you’ll fall over and die,” Elo says.
The story of Elo, to hear him and others tell it, seems larger than life. He says he was born in London, but grew up around the world—“I speak four language pretty perfectly,” he says—and says he's racked up a collection of 247 cars, motorcycles, and other vehicles, with machinery dating back to the 1910s. (A 2017 profile of him in the London Evening Standard adds more detail to his story, describing his career as a top 1990s-era fashion model who parlayed the paychecks from his success into his car collection.)
“Each one of them is super-unique," he says. "I’ve always liked having very unique cars.”
It's no surprise, then, to see something like this chopped-up classic in his orbit. But Elo isn't the owner of this Lambo; that honor (feel free to add sarcastic quotes around that word, should you like) belongs to Hervé Castagno, owner of French auto body shop Carrosserie Hervé. The rat rod Espada was a partnership between him, Elo, and French automotive customizer Alexandre Danton of Danton Arts Kustoms. (You might remember the shop, and the wild Lambo, from our post on this dating to last November.)
Elo, owner and head of the Miami Supercar Rooms art gallery and event space in Miami's hip Wynwood neighborhood and creator of the (allegedly closed, according to Trip Advisor) London Motor Museum, met Danton in England several years back, when he says he started helping Danton get his wild rides titled in the U.K. to avoid Francophile bias against customized cars. (As seen above, Elo owns a '76 Porsche 911 Targa rat rod made by the French customizer—one outfitted with a turbocharged 6.8-liter Bentley motor in it.)
The project, according to a statement issued by Hervé, was kick-started last year after he bought a 1968 Lamborghini Espada and decided to turn it over to Danton, giving the craftsman "free reign" to design something to celebrate the car's 50 years on Earth. The resulting vehicle sits roughly eight feet wide—“Alexander Danton’s trademark is, all the wheels come out,” Elo says—and boasts an angular matte black body that brings to mind the likes of the Sesto Elemento concept car. Like the original, however, it still boasts a V12 up front—and still has four seats.
Another details that sets the rat rod Espada apart from your garden variety custom Lambo: This particular car was crafted with input from Fabio Lamborghini, Ferrucio's nephew.
“I’m very close with the Lamborghini family. I’ve known them for more than 16 years,” Elo says, adding that he met them at an event around the Milan Auto Show, then went on to help them clean out the company's old factory. (“I would have paid to do it!” he says.)
According to Elo, Fabio says the fabled tinkerer and builder Ferrucio would have been very much into the wild work done to his five-decade-old gran turismo. "First thing he said was, if [my uncle] was here, he would have approved,” Elo says.
Not that Signore Lamborghini was always keen on the artist's plan for his uncle's four-seater.
“It was not an easy build. Especially with having to get Mister Lamborghini’s input into it," Elo says. According to Elo, the elderly Lamborghini was unfamiliar with the rat rot mentality, leading to the occasional round of contention like the one the
Lamborghini: "Why don’t you have windows?"
Elo: "Rat rods don’t have windows."
Lamborghini: "The lights are too modern!"
Elo: "With all due respect, the Lucas lights from 1968 do not work with this car.”
Nevertheless, according to Elo, Fabio came around on the car in time—as the U.K.-born Florida resident expects other Europeans will, should the style become more popular in the customization-friendly United States. But the car will stay in Miami for the next couple months, Elo says, where even locals attuned to exotics and custom cars have taken notice.
“The one time I took it out here to give it some exercise, boy oh boy," he says, "I had a queue of people following me like a snake.”
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