Choose your Lambo: Aventador SVJ or magnificent modern tractor?
Kevin Adell not only fused wealth with wisdom to crack the car-collecting code, this 52-year-old suburban-Detroit entrepreneur found a way to relish his fleet of 100 or so automobiles—plus one special tractor—on a daily basis.
“My passion for cars flared just as I crossed the doorstep toward manhood,” Adell admits. In lieu of celebrating his bar mitzvah, he persuaded his father, Franklin, to invest in a car restoration project. A 10-year-old Jaguar E-Type roadster entered the picture, and the father-son duo built an inseparable bond refurbishing the car. The completed Jag served as an ideal alternative to bus rides throughout Adell’s high school days.
Franklin Adell patented the ubiquitous auto door-edge guard in 1961. Building on that success, he developed a thriving auto parts business in Novi, Michigan. After Detroit residents infiltrated suburbia, the family’s 22-acre property was repurposed as one of the area’s grandest shopping malls. Now the site is being prepared for new users including hotels, restaurants, a Carvana used-car dispensary, and an iFly indoor skydiving attraction. A sparkling white water tower prominently labeled ADELL CENTER stands guard over the busy crossroads.
After graduating from Arizona State University in 1988, Kevin Adell returned to Detroit to manage the television station founded by his father. (His ham radio hobby was excellent preparation for that pursuit.) In 1999, Adell expanded the family’s broadcast empire by launching a religious television network with global reach. In 2015, he purchased a Detroit-based AM radio station from Disney.
Broadcasting success enabled Adell to acquire a vast horde of automobilia ranging from a perfectly restored Wells Fargo stage coach to the only modern Lamborghini tractor in the U.S. Partial to cars made famous by their movie and television roles, he owns one Batmobile, one Bat motorcycle, the General Lee Dodge Charger from “The Dukes of Hazzard” (minus its rebel flag), Burt Reynolds’ Trans Am from “Smokey and the Bandit,” and the faux Ferrari 250GT California Spyder launched off a balcony in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Cars range in age from his grandfather’s 1915 Buick and a 1925 Flint owned by GM founder William C. Durant to the latest Aventador offered by the Lamborghini works. Of course, he has a couple of 2020 Corvettes on order, too. Three wooden boats, several classic motorcycles and motorbikes, and one Hummer H1 round out Adell’s collection.
What serves as his automotive vending machine is strategically positioned at Adell’s suburban Detroit broadcast studio: two brick buildings, each fitted with seven overhead doors. A quartet of pristine cars stacked two high resides behind each door, totaling 56 collectibles at the ready. What Adell calls “dinner cars” are ready for each evening’s drive home. His wife supports this hobby as long as the ride of the day doesn’t leak fluids or infect the Adell garage with nasty odors.
We met Adell at his 310-acre estate near Metamora, Michigan, to witness the chasm of difference between his Lamborghini tractor and supercar. This combination working farm, horse stables, indoor riding arena, and weekend residence was the perfect place to savor the two most interesting Lamborghinis in the Adell collection.
His 2019 Aventador SVJ, blessed with 760 horsepower and active traction and state-of-the-art aerodynamic aids, served as the ideal to-and-from-lunch ride. Even though its naturally aspirated V-12 is positioned inches from occupants’ ears, that energy converter is a model of prime audio behavior as long as the shift paddles are clicked into the upper gears.
We leapt from rest to 60 mph in less than three seconds with no hint of tire spin or tail wiggle. While the scissor doors demand yoga folds upon entry, the spectacle they create upon arrival is worth the price of admission.
This Lamborghini is not only spectacular to see and drive, it’s also distinguished by the record it holds around the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife as the world’s fastest production sports car. The J designation—for Jota—stands for the ultimate (and usually final) edition in any Lamborghini series. With a price of $600,000 and a production run expected to end at 900 cars, this Aventador is unquestionably one of the planet’s most desirable hypercars. Adell feels lucky to own one.
And then imagine his pride as the sole U.S. owner of a modern Lamborghini tractor. Upon its launch in 2013, the Nitro 130 T4i won Europe’s “Golden Tractor” award. Importing this 5.5-ton machine in 2017 cost Adell $140,000, including duties and freight, plus a year of negotiations in Italian. Three ocean containers were needed for shipping: the tractor fitted with temporary small-diameter tires in one bin plus two additional containers for the wheels and tires.
Ferruccio Lamborghini founded his tractor making enterprise in 1948 to accelerate Italy’s return to prosperity after WWII. Initially, the business relied on war surplus engines and parts, but by 1956, a new plant was up and running to manufacture some of the best tractors money could buy in Europe. Profits generated by this enterprise enabled Lamborghini to enter the sports car business in 1963.
To concentrate on his real passion, Lamborghini sold tractor making operations in 1973 to SAME (Societa Accomandita Motori Endoterici). The only surviving links between the two businesses are the Lamborghini name and the distinctive raging bull insignia.
Italy’s Giugiaro Design massaged the Nitro’s aesthetic details. Its climate-controlled cab is reinforced with a substantial roll cage and equipped with seven hinged glass panels for entry and ventilation. The control layout mimics automotive convention to the letter. There’s a clutch pedal to the left, a throttle on the right, and a pair of linked pedals in the middle to allow braking the front, rear, or both axles simultaneously. The stick shift to the right of the driver offers five gears in the familiar H-plus-dogleg pattern. A stalk on the left side of the steering column selects the direction of travel to provide five forward and five reverse speeds. Aventador designers could learn a lesson or two about outward visibility with a stint in this tractor’s seat.
The Nitro’s 3.6-liter Deutz four-cylinder diesel engine is turbocharged and intercooled to produce 127 hp and an impressive 651 lb-ft of torque multiplied several times over before delivery through 52-inch front and 66-inch tall rear tires. (Germany’s Deutz engines descended from N.A. Otto, inventor of the four-stroke internal combustion cycle.) This Lambo’s Mitas radial farm tires were manufactured in Iowa.
The Nitro’s engine, transmission, and rear axle bolt together to form a solid structure requiring no separate frame members. The front axle pivots off the engine’s nose to accommodate uneven terrain. Since there is no suspension per se, the only resiliency is provided by the tire sidewalls.
To avoid soiling the Nitro’s raging bull badge, we steer clear of Adell’s tilled fields and restrict our driving to pavement winding through the estate. Even though the surfaces appear to be perfectly smooth, the nose of the tractor finds a bump every now and then to mimic a semi bouncing over poorly maintained interstate. The steering and all controls are light to the touch—this is definitely a gentleman’s workhorse that never asks its operator to break a sweat. In spite of its monstrous dimensions, it swings through close turns with ease. While Adell has topped out this machine at its governed speed of 31 mph on trips to town, the short straights and tight sweepers servicing the estate limit our maximum velocity to 25 mph.
Ironically, Adell’s lack of serious yearning for speed is a trait he shares with his favorite brand’s patron saint. After his first and only attempt at competitive driving ended with a shunt two-thirds of the way through the 1948 Mille Miglia, Ferruccio Lamborghini left motorsports pursuits to others.
Adell acknowledges that frequent manufacturer invitations to driving schools and hot-lapping events don’t tempt him. “I’ve got a family to consider and too much at stake to risk my health and prosperity on a track,” he explains.
Let that snippet of wisdom be a lesson to all of us less fortunate folks. If you choose carefully, you can still experience the thrill of a Lamborghini, albeit one of a very different, more agricultural sort.