Kobe Bryant’s extravagant gesture of love – He once gifted his wife a $270,000 Lamborghini. But on realizing she could not drive a stick shift, the generous superstar spent an additional $400,000 to convert it into an automatic using exotic drive-by-wire technology.

Kobe Bryant, the legendary American basketball player, was known for his love for exotic automobiles. During his lifetime, the NBA superstar built himself an impressive car collection that reflected his taste for luxury, speed, and style. One of the most prominent cars that was once part of his collection was an early production model of Lamborghini Murciélago. Be it the signature wedge shape synonymous with Lamborghinis or the fire-breathing V12 engine in the middle, the flagship Italian supercar is quite a remarkable automobile to be sold over the last few decades. However, the one owned by Kobe was a little more special than every other example of Murciélago to be built by Lamborghini between 2001 and 2010. It had the distinction of being the first ever Murciélago to be fitted with an automatic transmission. The story behind Kobe’s Lamborghini is just as interesting as the supercar itself!

Via Instagram / @kobebryant

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant’s love story is a well-known and enduring one. They met when she was 17 and he was 21 years old in 1999. Six months later, they were engaged and soon married each other. They stayed married till Kobe was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in 2020. Back in 2001, the celebrated basketball superstar apparently was looking to buy a special present for Vanessa on her 19th birthday.

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He decided to buy her one of the most extreme exotic cars on sale at that time – a brand new Lamborghini Murciélago. However, the Black Mamba wasn’t aware of one crucial information; his girlfriend didn’t know how to drive a stick shift. Back when Lamborghini’s flagship supercar went on sale, it was only available with a manual gearbox with a gated shifter.

Via Instagram / @kobebryant

Determined to make sure the love of his life can enjoy her special birthday present, Kobe decided to seek inspiration from his fellow Los Angeles Lakers teammate and legendary NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, who had to get a Ferrari heavily modified to help fit his massive 7-foot-2 stature inside the cabin. According to MotorBiscuit, Kobe had the Lambo sent to Exclusive Motors near Century City in Los Angeles to get it fitted with an automatic transmission.

While there’s little information available publicly on the modification work carried out on Kobe’s Lamborghini, Dub magazine had the chance to speak to someone familiar with the conversion. “It’s basically like a semi-automatic transmission. You just use the shift lever and then gas the pedal,” the person said while speaking to Dub magazine.

Apparently, the gear stick was fitted with a heat sensor that controlled the clutch mechanism of the Murciélago. On placing the hand of the stick to shift, the sensor picked up heat from the palm of the driver and disengaged the clutch. After the shifting was done and the hand removed from the shift, the sensor re-engaged the clutch for the supercar to complete the sequence. While it sounds like an over-the-top mechanism just to substitute the need to manually operate the clutch, it was quite complex. In fact, the Lambo had to be fitted with drive-by-wire for the whole system to work seamlessly.

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While majority of the modern cars come equipped with drive-by-wire, the technology was unheard of back in the industry in the early 2000s. Apparently, Kobe had spent close to $400,000 on the modification, which also included some other mods like aftermarket 20-inch wheels. Interestingly, the Murciélago had a starting price of $270,000 in those days.

Lamborghini Murciélago – a monstrous Italian flagship
The Lamborghini Murciélago was introduced in 2001 as the successor to the Diablo and the new flagship model in the line-up. The Murciélago was Lamborghini’s first new design in eleven years. Furthermore, it was also the Lambo’s first new model under the ownership of German parent company Audi. It stayed in production for almost a decade, before being replaced by the Aventador. The original Murciélago came with a 6.2-liter V12 engine that was capable of churning out 572hp.

Written By
Sayan Chakravarty, a Senior Writer at Luxurylaunches, brings over 10 years of automotive journalism expertise. He provides insightful coverage of the latest cars and motorcycles across American and European markets, while also highlighting luxury yachts, high-end watches, and gadgets. An authentic automobile aficionado, his commitment shines through in educating readers about the automotive world. When the keyboard rests, Sayan feeds his wanderlust, traversing the world on his motorcycle.