The topless Gallardo we all wanted but never got

Lamborghini is known for making some of the world’s most dramatic supercars and this sure is one of the most dramatic modern Lambos, not least because it lacks the usual amenities such as a full-width windscreen or side windows. Built as a styling design that harkens back to the old-time-y speedsters, the Gallardo Concept S previewed a limited-edition model that never materialized. However, one running and driving example powered by the 5.0-liter, naturally aspirated 512-horsepower V-10 of the standard Gallardo does exist and you’re looking at it now. If you’ve missed out on the Concept S the first two times RM/Sotheby’s tried to sell it, it’ll be up for grabs once again in Abu Dhabi.

A Lamborghini Gallardo with no roof but extra bodywork between the seats

Car for Sale: Gallardo-Based 2006 Lamborghini Concept S Roadster Exterior
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Based on the unique underpinnings of the standard Gallardo, the Gallardo Concept S was unveiled at the 2005 Geneva Auto Show as an engineless design study. Donckerwolke created the Concept S as a tribute to the single-seater sports cars of the ’50s that would often feature a ’bi-posto’ setup although the passenger’s seat was covered by a metal tonneau. Likewise, the two seats of the Concept S were separated by an extension of the bodywork. As such, each seat featured its own acutely angled windshield paired with sloping side windows (referred to as ’saute-vents’ - French for a sudden change in the wind). Seated inside the original Concept S, you felt as if you were in the cockpit of a jet fighter, albeit with nothing above your head to shelter you.

Car for Sale: Gallardo-Based 2006 Lamborghini Concept S Roadster Interior
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The radical design was met with positive remarks all around from both press representative and prospective Lamborghini buyers, some even expressing their interest in the Concept S. In the wake of the Geneva Auto Show, Lamborghini decided to build a fully functioning example of the Concept S. Proving that the Concept S wasn’t a massive step away from the standard Gallardo, the first (and only) driveable prototype was unveiled on the lawn of the Concorso Italiano in Monterey, California, during the Monterey Car Week that includes the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Viewed from the front, Lamborghini’s Concept S looks almost like a standard pre-facelift Gallardo in that the front fascia is dominated by a pair of big mesh grilles (with two radiators and an oil cooler hiding behind them). The grilles are placed within two protruding elements of the lower bumper with the central part recessing inwards, probably to make up space for the number plate. The sloping front hood features a caved-in area along the middle with the elongated headlights placed outboard, on the edges of the fascia.

Car for Sale: Gallardo-Based 2006 Lamborghini Concept S Roadster Exterior
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The Concept S’ aerodynamics have been revised in accordance with the lack of A-pillars and a roof. A black lip was added below the edge of the front bumper, the spoiler closing off the area in the middle and better directing air along the short front overhangs. The main difference between the Geneva-bound Concept S (that now resides inside Lamborghini’s own museum) and this driveable prototype you see here is the lack of the ’saute-vents’. For whatever reasons, Lamborghini couldn’t get past the health and safety people that taller windshield with the accompanying side windows and, instead, it came up with an ingenious idea: to lower the windows even more and make them act as mere wind deflectors.

While the pair of ultra-low windows (or windshields) start at the edge of the front lid, their peak height is minimal. In between, you’ll find a retractable rear-view mirror that can be controlled from inside the car. The narrow strip of white bodywork in between the seats ends with a mid-mounted air inlet just before the glassed engine cover. The two seats feature built-in angular roll-hoops.

Car for Sale: Gallardo-Based 2006 Lamborghini Concept S Roadster Exterior
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From the side, the Concept S looks striking, its design being described at the time as "extreme, uncompromising, and Italian" by CEO and President Stephan Winkelmann.

The standard 19-inch polished rims of the Gallardo Coupe are present on the Concept S and, what’s more, the side vents feeding fresh air into the engine bay have not been modified despite the fact that the Concept S no longer comes with a pair of inlets mounted atop the rear fenders like on the Coupe model.

In the rear, there are only two rectangular grilles. Each grille is placed below the taillights, essentially previewing the post-facelift design of the Gallardo. In the middle, there’s room for the number plate. The rear active spoiler (which also incorporates the extra brake light) has been modified but still jumps up when you exceed 81 mph. Another stylistic difference between the standard Gallardo and this model is in the placing of the exhaust tips. On the Concept S, the two exhaust pipes come out on either side of a rear grille while the standard Gallardo features square holes in the lower bumper for the exhaust tips.

Car for Sale: Gallardo-Based 2006 Lamborghini Concept S Roadster Exterior
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The diffuser of the Concept S is quite diminutive but the car can still reach at least 186 mph just like any 2005 Gallardo Spyder. Also, the engine in the Gallardo Spyder is shared with the Concept S as Lamborghini fitted its prototype with the updated 512-horsepower version of the 5.0-liter V-10. Double wishbones hang from the aluminum spaceframe at both ends, with anti-roll bars and novel ’self-adjusting’ Koni FSB dampers. Steering is by rack-and-pinion.

Peeking inside the black-and-white interior of the Concept S gives us clues as to what gearbox was fitted to the car. While the cabin is fairly standard, with white touches added over the predominantly black upholstery, the Concept S sports the optional E-gear six-speed electro-hydraulic manual transmission with flappy paddles behind the wheels. Standard ’03-’05 Gallardo Coupes came with H-pattern six-speed manuals.

Car for Sale: Gallardo-Based 2006 Lamborghini Concept S Roadster Drivetrain
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With 512 horsepower at 7,800 rpm and 376 pound-feet of torque from just 4,500 rpm, a stock Gallardo could go from naught to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds while 0-120 mph took 14.5 seconds. With the Concept S lighter than the 3,520-pound dry weight of a stock Gallardo Coupe, we expect this roofless wonder to spring a bit quicker to 60 mph although no third-party measurements have been done at the time of writing. Brembo brakes with eight-cylinder front calipers and four-cylinder rear calipers offer plenty stopping power even in emergency situations. Talking about emergencies, the Concept S still features the standard airbags fitted to any other Gallardo!

Lamborghini Gallardo Concept S specifications
Engine 5.0-liter V-10
Horsepower 512 HP @ 7,800 RPM
Torque 376 LB-FT @ 4,500 RPM
0 to 60 mph 4.2 seconds
0 to 120 mph 14.5 seconds

The Gallardo Concept S is surely an important concept in the history of Lamborghini, enough of a landmark to inspire the 2012 Aventador J. In spite of that, Lamborghini only held onto the engine-free prototype, not the motorized prototype after it was decided that a limited run of 100 units was never going to happen. But the canceling of production didn’t stop the first owner of the Concept S to take possession of the car shortly after it was unveiled in California. He was one of the first to put forth a deposit for the Concept S and, thanks to enough elbowing, he actually got the car. But, as you can’t register the car, he didn’t drive it too much and, in fact, it spent most of its life either stored away or on tour as part of a Lamborghini exhibit (it was seen again at Pebble Beach in 2008).

Car for Sale: Gallardo-Based 2006 Lamborghini Concept S Roadster Exterior
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RM/Sotheby’s first tried to sell the Concept S back in 2015 when we reported on the rare occasion of acquiring a fully functional Lamborghini prototype that’s not part of Lamborghini’s own collection. During the ’Driven by Disruption’ New York sale, RM/Sotheby’s hoped to get as much as $3 million for the Concept S (about the price of two F40s) but it did not sell.

Then, two years later, the white beauty was back again on the auction block and, this time, it did find a new owner, although it "only" fetched $1.3 million. In the two years since its last appearance at a public auction, the Concept S has barely turned a wheel recording just 125 miles on its odometer. It’s not surprising given that you can’t drive it on the street and the perils of pushing such a car on a track are obvious.

Car for Sale: Gallardo-Based 2006 Lamborghini Concept S Roadster Exterior
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In light of this, the car is now looking for a new caretaker, for the third time in just four years. You’d think a discerning collector would never part ways with such a prized piece of Lamborghini history but the fact is that this car has yet to find the ’right’ owner but RM/Sotheby’s will have another stab at it this November during its Abu Dhabi sale. Let’s hope, once and for all, that the Concept S will find peace in the collection of someone that recognizes its value and won’t decide to flip it in a matter of months.

How the Lamborghini Gallardo and Concept S Came to Be

Lamborghini Calà to Return for Automaker's 50th Anniversary Exterior
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It was 1995 when Italdesign readied the design of the Cala, a compact mid-engined supercar designed for Lamborghini. The Italian automaker was only manufacturing the striking V-12-engined Diablo at the time and was reviewing the possibility of adding an entry-level model to its lineup, something that Lamborghini had not offered since 1988 when the Jalpa was discontinued.

The Cala was powered by a 4.0-liter, naturally aspirated V-10 good for 395 horsepower.

The engine, hidden behind a louvered lid, theoretically allowed the Cala to reach a top speed in excess of 181 mph as it weighed only 2,811 pounds. The Italdesign cues of the model were striking and the car was even featured in the ’Need For Speed’ franchise but to no avail. Although Lamborghini built a running and driving prototype, the Volkswagen Group vetoed the introduction of this model, as well as the two Zagato-penned concepts unveiled between 1996 and 1998, one of which was the ingenious Raptor meant to fill the same gap as the Cala.

2001 - 2006 Lamborghini Murcielago High Resolution Exterior
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In spite of the fact that VW ditched all of the projects that Lamborghini had developed under Megatech (and its other Asian owners throughout the ’90s), it understood the company’s need for a broader model lineup. As such,

the revamping process began in 2001 when the successor of the Diablo was introduced.

Named ’Murcielago’ (it means ’bat’ in Spanish but refers to a Navarra-born fighting bull in pure Lamborghini tradition), the new supercar was powered by a naturally aspirated V-12 and featured the typical scissor doors.

2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4
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Two years after the Murcielago took the world by storm, Lamborghini unveiled its little brother, the Gallardo, at the Geneva Auto Show.

Named after a well-known breed of fighting bulls, the Gallardo was even more angular than the Murcielago as well as being more compact. It was 11 inches shorter than the Murcielago although you wouldn’t tell right off the bat as the wheelbase was shorter by just 4.1 inches. The Gallardo also made a visual impression on an onlooker thanks to its 19-inch wheels and hard design lines that drove the eye along the clean surfaces of the body.

2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4
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Just like the Cala before it, the Gallardo’s design work began in the studios of Italdesign with original drafts signed by Fabrizio Giugiaro. However, the final touches were added by Lamborghini’s very own Luc Donckerwolke, Head of Design at the then-new Lamborghini Centro Stile in Sant’Agata Bolognese. The car featured arrow-like headlights with gargantuan inlets in the front echoed by grilles in the back below the rectangular taillights (that extended atop the rear deck and below, onto the rear center panel) and in between the lights.

While the Murcielago and the Gallardo looked nothing like one another - apart from the general Lamborghini-esque shape - most people distinguished between the two models by mention of the doors as the Gallardo came with doors opening just like on any other car (although a myriad of conversion kits allows for your Gallardo’s doors to open like on the Murcielago). The Gallardo, with its original $165,000 MSRP (in late 2003), was supposed to be the Lamborghini for the masses despite the fact that it cost some $90,000 more than the base 997-generation Porsche Carrera model.

Car for Sale: Gallardo-Based 2006 Lamborghini Concept S Roadster Exterior
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During the development of the fixed-head Gallardo, Lamborghini also designed an open-top version, the appetite for spyders having been proven previously with the Jalpa and, more recently, with the Diablo Roadster.

The first sign that a Gallardo with limitless headroom was cooking inside Lamborghini’s oven came in the form of 2005’s Concept S.

Source: RM Sotheby’s

Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai has even branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer from time to time, however, his heart is still close to anything car-related. He's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing or talking about the latest developments in racing technology. Mihai has a strong love for motorsport, but he’s also very interested in classic cars and will spend hours telling you the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today. As TopSpeed’s Motorsport expert, Mihai is often away from the office attending various racing events and taking some of the best motorsport photos on the internet. Since he joined TopSpeed, Mihai has now taken on full-time reporting and was even offered an Assistant Team Manager position but ultimately turned it down as he felt his skills were better used doing on-the-spot reporting at motorsport events.  Read More
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