Lakers great Kobe Bryant was an NBA superstar. He was also known as a generous person. His young wife Vanessa turned 19 in 2001 and Kobe wanted her to have something special for the occasion. Probably one of the most outrageous, ostentatious cars at that time (or any other time for that matter) was the Lamborghini Murciélago. That is what he decided to give her for her birthday.
After she received her gift Vanessa had to tell Kobe she didn’t know how to drive a manual transmission car. You could only buy a Murciélago with a manual. The first Lamborghini automatics didn’t appear until 2004. What was Kobe to do?
Kobe really wanted Vanessa to have this Murciélago gift so he modified it
He decided he really wanted her to have this particular Lambo, so he decided to have it converted over to an automatic. First, this wasn’t going to be easy, cheap, or quick. It would, however, become the only Murciélago with an automatic.
Kobe had the car sent to Exclusive Motors near Century City in Los Angeles. It’s unclear whether the work was done there or farmed out. Dub magazine talked to someone familiar with the conversion at the time. Here’s what he told Dub, “It’s basically like a semi-automatic transmission. You just use the shift lever and then gas the pedal.”
The Murciélago utilized drive-by-wire technology which in 2001 was very exotic
The technology involved is called “drive-by-wire.” Today it is common in almost all cars. Basically, everything is done electronically from steering to shifting. It all is controlled by an ECU. But, back in 2001. this was exotic tech.
The system worked from a heat sensor on top of the gated shifter. Once it detected heat from your hand it released the clutch electronically. You would shift it into the next gear you wanted and remove your hand from the shifter. It would detect less heat and engage the clutch. Then you blip the throttle and off you go. Repeat as needed.
Rumor has it the conversion and other mods came to over $400,000
Supposedly, after the automatic conversion and some other mods including the 20-inch wheels, Kobe spent an additional $400,000 over the purchase price. That sounds sketchy but you never know. There were rumors the Murciélago was sent to Europe in 2003 and sold. Again, we can’t confirm that info.
The stock Murciélago was an all carbon fiber body with the exception of the doors which were aluminum. The frames were tubular with carbon fiber structural members. The 48 valve V12 engine is 6.2-liters with variable valve timing. It’s rated at 580 hp at 7.500 rpm with 479 lb-ft of torque.
These Murciélagos have a top speed of 205 mph
Lambo claimed 0-60 times in 3.7-seconds. The top speed is 205 mph. A total of just over 4,000 were built between 2001 and 2010 making Vanessa’s from the first year of production. MSRP new was $343,240.
The name Murciélago means “bat” in Spanish. It derived from a bull that survived 24 sword strikes in a fight in Cordoba in 1879. The bull still had so much fight in him that the matador chose to spare him certain death. From there the bull was gifted to Don Antonio Miura. He was a breeder and owned the Miura Bull Ranch. It sired a famous line of fighting bulls. The famous Lamborghini Miura was named after the breeder and his ranch.