50 Years Of Lamborghini
50 years of the bull! Lamborghini epitomizes super fast, luxurious sports cars. But it didn’t start out to be the aeronautics inspired, jet themed cars that we’ve seen this year. In fact the company starts from a very humble beginning. It all started with one mans vision for a touring car.
Ferruccio Lamborghini was born to grape farmers in the northern part of Italy. As a boy growing up on a farm he was attracted to the farm equipment and the mechanical machinery more than the crops. He was so compelled by machines that he focused all his studies on them at a technical school in Bologna. Once the war started he was quickly drafted into the Air Force and served as a mechanic until 1945 when he was taken prisoner. After being held for a year he was able to return home.
After the war he opened a garage where he worked on cars, but in his spare time he would go to work hot rodding a Fiat 500 Topolino. By 1948 he had his hot rod Fiat 500 ready to race in the Mille Miglia. With number 427 painted on the side and his co-driver Baglinoi in the passenger seat they roared off into the countryside. The Mille Miglia open-road endurance race is a 1,000 miles long but Ferruccio only made it 700 miles before crashing into a restaurant in Turin. That was the end of his racing career.
His garage become successful enough for him to branch out and start a tractor business in 1948. And that business was extremely important to the post war economy. Enough so that he became a very wealthy man. That wealth allowed him to pursue his automobile passion by acquiring cars such as Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Jaguar, Maserati and even a Mercedes 300SL. Ten years later he started buying Ferraris. In fact he owned at least three, although he regarded them as track cars repurposed for the road. “Bumpy and noisy with poorly built interiors”.
Being a mechanic Ferruccio was knowledgeable about the shortcomings of his cars and brought his opinions to Enzo Ferrari. Ferrari was a prideful man and brushed Lamborghini off as a tractor salesman. Fed up with driving hours away to get his Ferrari clutch serviced, he decided to modify the clutch until it worked how he wanted. After owning many different cars Ferruccio still had not found the perfect touring car. With the tractor business booming and the new oil heater and air conditioning factory humming along he ventured out on his latest idea. To build the perfect touring car.
As a business man, mechanic and car aficionado he had a plan for the perfect GT car. The 350 GT had an all-aluminim alloy V12 engine, five-speed transmission, superleggera body, independant suspension and vacuum disc brakes. The original engine was putting out around 400hp but Ferruccio had his team detuned the engine to 270hp for a smoother ride. He wanted the car to last 40,000 miles between service visits. He later replaced the engine with a 4-liter version putting out 320hp and the 400GT was born.
While Ferruccio fancied his touring cars the team wanted to produce a high performance, two seater, mid engine sports car. His team worked at night on their secret project code named P400 and eventually presented it to Ferruccio who gave them the go ahead as it could be used as a marketing tool. In 1965 they brought a rolling chassis to the Turin auto show which won praise from the showgoers and the press. By 1966 they started production of the car known as P400, with Bertone in charge of the styling and the in house engineering team designing the mechanics the Miura was born and with it the fighting bull trade-mark badge.
There were several different version of the Miura. The P400 was the first with a 3.9L V12 putting out 350hp, while the P400S added chrome, power windows and 370hp. The final version was the P400SV putting out 385hp and adjusting some limitation to the transverse engine and gearbox case.
In the two years between 1968-1970 the factory created the Espada, Islero and Jarama. Using the same engines the three cars were an exercise in styling. In 1973 Lamborghini veered away from it’s V12 roots and produced a V8 to be housed in its newest member of the family the Urraco. A year later they introduced the Coutach to the world and for the
At the same time after a few years of hard times for his tractor and auto companies Ferruccio sold his interests and severed all connections to the autos that bore his name. He retired to a life of wine making and hunting and in 1993 died of a heart attack.
The Espada was the last grand touring car that Ferruccio was involved in making. The transmission was innovative as it was the first automatic transmission that could handle the torque that the V12 put out. It had unusual gear system with three ratios; drive, 1 and reverse. The Espada was in production for ten years before it became the last GT car made by Lamborghini.
The company changed hands to a few different owners after Ferruccio left. They went on to produce the Silhouette, Jalpa and LM002 all while still manufacturing their core vehicle the Countach. In 1990 they finally introduced the Diablo, a mid-engined 5.7L V12 putting out almost 500hp. After the Diablo they introduced the Mucielago and shortly afterward the Gallardo.
The 2000s saw a dramatic shift in deign to a more angular approach inspired by jet planes. The Reventon was the first to embody these traits and it made way for the Aventador which is still in production today. Most recently Lamborghini has been releasing small batches of new designs such as the 20 production run Sesto Elemento, the 3 Venenos and the on-of-a-kind Egoista developed for the 50th anniversary party.
The last 50 years of the bull have shown us that this company can endure the hard times and always recreate itself. The Gallardo just finished it’s production closing with 14,022 units produced, which is almost half of the total cars the brand has created. With the Last Gallardo coming off the production line we are sure to see a new bull come into the stable soon.