“Superleggera”: sounds exciting, perhaps daunting even. The term stands for “super light” in Italian, and cars that don this status quo represents the upper echelon of performance; top dog in their class. As a gist, unnecessary components are stripped away, with remaining bits re-engineered and reworked. In their pursuit of lightness, these cars might not have air-conditioning, door handles and sometimes even a roof. They aren’t exactly what you’d call a ‘value buy’ (isn’t it with all supercars?). But they are the ultimate manifestation of minimalism; there’s more to this than meets the eye.
Exhibit A – the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera (Superleggeras in this instance). It employs extensive usage of weight-saving materials throughout: an engine-cover frame made from carbon fibre, wheels forged from aluminium, right down to its titanium wheel nuts – you get the idea. The Superleggera sheds 57kg over the standard car from its extensive diet. Though only a marginal improvement on paper, the outcome is a dramatic one. With lesser weight, the car becomes a leaner and meaner track brute, delivering a nimbler handling experience. Furthermore, acceleration and top speed is enhanced as its V10 powerplant pulls less weight. The result is an enjoyable driving experience from race tracks through concrete jungles.
But lightness of a material is only half the story: its application must account for the laws of physics – which is why you wouldn’t find a car’s body made solely from thin plastic. This is also the reason why a light weight version costs more, even with less kit on board. Sounds familiar? Seasoned collectors will know that the watch and car industry are very closely knitted; Breitling for Bentley, IWC x AMG and many more. Watch manufacturers have been pushing the limits of technical possibilities in material science. For readers who find the venerable Rolex Submariners slightly, well, boring, then have a look at the concoctions Richard Mille’s R&D team have cooked up. Ceramic, titanium, sapphire cases? Been there, done that. Instead, what’s impressive is their investment in NTPT carbon (North Thin Ply Technology) material.
Originally designed for usage in boat racing, NTPT carbon boasts superlative specifications in comparison with plain carbon fibre. Its incredible strength comes from the weaving process which is a blend of carbon and resin, opposed to just carbon in carbon fiber. Hence, RM’s creations that uses it are shock resistant up to 10,000 Gs and, perhaps even life proof. As an added bonus, they’re instantly recognisable due to their idiosyncratic skeletal design, further accentuated by the material’s wood-like motif. And did I mention its ridiculously light weight? Trust me, you’d want to strap this down – and keep it there. Take a drive in your pick of Superleggera vehicle while you’re at it, because there’s nothing more apt as far as cars and watches go. Back to cars: the material is also employed in Formula 1 and the Le Mans 24 hours race. Need I say more? High performance indeed.
If there’s a takeaway, it should be that lightness equates to fun. More often than not, the amount of horsepower – or gears – doesn’t makes something enjoyable. The machines become more of a handful instead. Rather, the practical aspect – ability to be used and appreciated – contributes to their ‘specialness’. Perhaps the beauty of super light is that; it allows objects to take on their purest possible form in their ultimate manifestation of minimalism.