The White Stripes

Sometimes it's hard to work people out. We were only gently rumbling through their fair streets, just a few miles from Hamann Motorsport's base, and we'd brought their Lamborghini Gallardo, the sexiest car in the garage.

But within minutes of gently caressing this 150,000 supercar through the streets, with lazy revs bouncing off the chocolate box houses, we were about as popular as the Heavy Metal-loving junkies we've all lived near at some point in our lives.

One man even shook his fist, Homer Simpson style, shouting things that were undoubtedly German obscenities. He could have been a real car fan, upset at what we'd done to Italy's finest, but it was more likely we'd woken up his children.

You see the Gallardo is an almighty loud car in the first place and Hamann's, as always, has inserted a number 11 on the dial. A new four-pipe sports exhaust, sport muffler and provides an extra 27 horsepower, as if the 500bhp base car needed the extra ponies, but it enriches the audio experience it feels like permanently blasting through a tunnel.

It's not quite in same league as the V12 Murcielago, but the oval stainless steel pipes certainly squeeze the last few drops of juice from the throbbing, muscular V10. Don't expect big improvements on the 0-60mph dash time of 4.3s and the stock car's 190mph top end would undoubtedly be reduced thanks to the increased drag of the appendages added to the car, this is not a conversion for dragstrip bragging rights.

Hamann decided against an engine conversion, only because the Lambo is wound up as far as it's reasonable to go anyway and tampering under the engine cover worried Richard Hamann on the reliability front.

He did the same with the Ferrari 360, for the same reasons and, as he is responsible for 800bhp Mercedes SL600s and 500bhp M3s, that begs the question whether others should be messing with the output of these Italian thoroughbreds.

There are plenty of companies that will add turbos and tinker with the engine management, but who's going to notice an extra few ponies in this beast? The expensive drivetrain lunching itself all over the asphalt, though - that will get anyone's attention in a hurry.

So discretion is certainly the better part of valour here. And Hamann has managed to achieve a great deal with relatively little input. It has to be said, though, that the vast majority of his input will only be felt in high-speed bends, taken at velocities that wouldn't impress the local authorities, and so you might want to think twice about doing this to your car unless you're planning on hitting the track. And really, there are better cars to do that with in the first place. Ones that wouldn't take an African nation's annual GDP to repair after an accident, for instance.

Lamborghinis are arguably the finest supercars on the planet in terms of fun, with the four-wheel-drive system providing safer thrills than a children's theme park, but the 42/58 per cent front/rear balance of the car is actually shocking when it comes to a fast lap.

Hamann has concentrated on sticking that fat rear to the floor in the high speed bends, stopping it sliding out and calling the four-wheel-drive system into action. That's ultimately got to make it faster, even though that deep-dish carbon-fiber rear wing does nothing for the aesthetics. There are no figures for increased downforce, it doesn't work that way down here.

A new rear diffuser to house the exhaust and increase suction, new front lip spoiler and side skirts with a clear channel to press the car down all form part of the package that Hamann still prefers to hone on track, through the seat of his pants. With the Super Touren Wagen Championship on his mantle no less than three times, and decades of racing experience, he's learned a few things when it comes to development.

We couldn't hope to test the subtle mods to their full on public roads, and this is strictly a lap-time orientated modification. The Lamborghini was achingly beautiful before and these mods can't claim to improve upon it aesthetically, but if your Gallardo is destined for the trackday tour then you might feel the benefit of that massive plane at the back end and those extra pounds of downward thrust at the front.

Finishing the package are the 19" split-rim Anniversary wheels that cost a tear-jerking 7500 + taxes for the set. Now I can only imagine the pain of scraping these along the kerb on a failed attempt at a cool arrival at the nightclub, but I would openly weep in front of the entire guest list while they cried with laughter.

In truth these wheels are slightly too big anyway, as they rub against the extortionately expensive vents lining the arches at the front on full lock and provide a grinding noise that simply sounds like burning money. A set of 18s might not quite fill the arch quite so well, but they won't wear holes in the arches and smash through the wings on a bumpy road.

Apart from this car had so much going for it in the first place that, with this new exhaust and the mammoth savings to be had, the baby Lambo suddenly becomes a better option than the almighty Murcielago.

Now I loved the range-topping Lambo, in the same way as I love Pamela Anderson, or J-Lo. It's a fantastic car, and as practical as anything in the supercar class, but I still wouldn't own one - even if journalism began to pay professional football money tomorrow. It's two metres wide, you see, difficult to manoeuvre in a car park and wrapped around my frame looked about as right as a rat with a gold tooth.

The smaller, compact Gallardo is easier to place on the road, cleaner in its outlook and not quite as ridiculously over-the-top. Provided you leave the wings off and that will cut the cost of the 26,000 conversion, too.

As for white warpaint that adorned our car, that was a favour to a supplier of tinted windows and Hamann doesn't expect anyone to put it on their Lambo. If you do, expect your car to be keyed every time you return to the car-park - after all you've already vandalised it, why shouldn't others?

Gallery: WCF Test Drive: Hamann Lamborghini Gallardo

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