March 14, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Butch Atherton’s reason for being interested in cars is straightforward.

“I’m a guy,” Atherton says. “I’m supposed to like cars.”

Specifically, he says he’s always been into exotics.

“The Italians are well-known for making absolutely absurd cars that really have no reason to exist,” Atherton says.

But, as he points out, they exist all the same, two of them on a rack in his garage: a yellow 1999 Lamborghini Diablo roadster and a red 2009 Ferrari 430 Scuderia Spider 16M. Atherton has other vehicles, including a 1965 Shelby Cobra, a 1982 Rolls-Royce Corniche, and motorcycles, but the Diablo and 16M are the stars of his collection.

Butch Atherton's cars

“About 10 years ago I retired from the automotive business. And I decided to start buying some of this stuff up because the economy was starting to turn around,” Atherton says.

“I knew these two cars were going to be going up in value, so they were an investment.” Atherton has driven them, but for every mile one is driven, it will lose about $3 in value. Maintenance can represent a major cost, which is why Atherton has thus far serviced them himself.

Given how rare and special they are, it is understandable that he takes good care of them.

The Diablo is one of only 100 produced, and, as per Lamborghini tradition, it’s named for a fighting bull. The Diablo, specifically, was named after a ferocious bull raised by the Duke of Veragua in the 19th century. It has a V12, 5.7-liter engine with 529 horsepower. It is all-wheel drive, the first Lamborghini to have ABS brakes, and the first Lamborghini capable of going faster than 200 mph. Some of its other upgrades include larger wheels, larger brakes, and a front suspension hydraulic lift.

Butch Atherton's Lambo engine

“It was built for shock and awe,” Atherton says. “It was supposed to be the prettiest car ever made.”

The 16M is one of 499 in existence. The car was built to celebrate Ferrari’s 2008 Formula One World Constructors’ Championship, its 16th overall (hence the 16M). Ferrari has won the award more than any other constructor, seven more than Williams Grand Prix Engineering, which has won the second most championships.

The 16M is the fastest convertible Ferrari has built to date. Michael Schumacher, winner of seven Formula One world championships, helped develop it and took it on its final test run. It features a 4.3-liter V8 engine, carbon-ceramic brakes, upgraded suspension, and an F1-Superfast2 automated manual transmission. The car is also track-ready.

“They’re not practical by any means,” Atherton says. “They’re hard to get in and out of, they’re hard to work on, they’re expensive to work on. But they do have their own little personality that you can not really not fall in love with them.”

However, a distinctly Italian trait causes this Italian love affair for Atherton.

“[The manufacturers] take risks on design, we don’t like to do that too much in America,” he says.


This article was printed in the April/May 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Butch Atherton's yellow Lamborghini Diablo rearend