Lamborghini’s story starts in 1963. Following World War II, Ferruccio Lamborghini founded his tractor factory. By the early Sixties, Lamborghini was a powerful and successful man,
but when he said he would build a super sports car to compete with Ferrari, many people thought he was mad. Constructing that kind of car was seen as an unexplainable extravagance that would squander his wealth without making profit.
He started working on this project in late 1962, and by May 1963 he had founded
‘Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini’, buying a large land in Sant’Agata Bolognese to build a large, ultramodern factory.
For his first car’s engine, which needed to be the best V12 in the world, Lamborghini turned to Giotto Bizzarrini, who had designed some of Ferrari’s most recent engines. For the rest of the car, he hired two promising young engineers, Giampaolo Dallara and Giampaolo Stanzani. The first model had to be put out quickly, given that Lamborghini had only a few months between first building the factory, and the date set for its official presentation. The event chosen for this was the Turin Auto Show of November 1963, and, in 1964, the 350 GT was born.
By 1965 the coupes from Sant’Agata were starting to be noticed. Dallara and Stanzani were young, passionate and enthusiastic. The two young engineers conceptualized to put a barely tamed version of a full-fledged race car on the road, rather than a reinterpretation of the
traditional GT. Their project, codenamed 400 TP, had the 4-litre 12-cylinder engine
of the 400 GT transversely mounted behind the cockpit. The chassis was made of bent, welded sheet metal that was drilled to make it more lightweight. Lamborghini approved the project immediately. The chassis was briskly completed, and exhibited at the Turin Auto Show in October 1965.
One person who believed in that chassis was Nuccio Bertone, a Turinbased coachbuilder and expert on cars and engines. He saw the chassis, approached Lamborghini and said, “I’m the one who can make the shoe to fit your foot”. The two shook hands, beginning an extraordinary adventure.
Marcello Gandini interpreted Bertone’s ideas, creating a unique and sensational body for the Bologna-built chassis, something that – in its blend of aggressiveness, elegance, originality and class – was to prove unrepeatable: the sensual Miura.
The chassis presented as an experimental prototype in the autumn of 1965 had become the most stunning road car in the world – in just four months. The Miura reigned at the Geneva Motor Show. Enthusiasm soared and, in a sensational coup, Lamborghini raised it further by bringing the Miura to the Monte Carlo Grand Prix. He parked the orange Miura in front of the Hotel de Paris that Saturday afternoon, attracting so many oglers, they jammed the square in front of the Casino, arousing even more interest and orders. The Miura was a runaway
In the years that followed, the groundbreaking Miura was succeeded by halo models Islero and Jota. At the 1971 Geneva Motor Show, an even more spectacular car proved to be the true star, not only at the Lamborghini stand but throughout the entire show. It was a car created through a stroke of combined genius by Lamborghini and Bertone, which the company’s trusty deputies Stanzani and Gandini brought to life in record time. This spectacular model was the LP 500, better known as the ‘Countach’.
Its sleek and aggressive snout, the flat windscreen connected seamlessly to the front bonnet on one end and the roof on the other, the roof that - in turn - continued over the engine hood, forming a single gradual curve that went from the front fenders to the tail panel of the body. This marked a completely new stylistic concept, once again upsetting preconceived notions.
With sales of sports cars gradually slowing down because of the oil crisis of 1973, Lamborghini declared insolvency in 1980. They were quickly bought by the Mimran siblings, Jean-Claude and Patrick, and renamed the company ‘Nuova Automobili Ferrucio Lamborghini, SpA’, developing the Countach into a 5.2 liter, 455-hp supercar; and the original Cheetah into the successful LM002 SUV in 1986.
In April 1987, Lamborghini once again changed hands, going to Chrysler, who proceeded with project 132, to eventually become the 5.7 liter, 492-hp Diablo, which would eventually include an all-wheel-drive VT variant, for Viscous Lamborghini History Traction, setting the tone for future allwheel-drive Lamborghinis.
Chrysler sold Lamborghini to group of Indonesian investors in 1994, mildly disrupting the management of the company but leaving automobile production relatively unaffected.
In 1998, Lamborghini approached Audi for technical assistance on a new V8 engine. In return, the German automotive giant offered – successfully – to purchase Lamborghini, a winning relationship that stands to this day. Within the Audi era, Lamborghini produced the spectacular successor to the Diablo, the Murcielago in 2001, and Gallardo in 2003. These two hypercars have been recently replaced by the Aventador and Huracan, respectively, as the company enjoys an upturn in the highly-competitive hypercar market.
What awaits Lamboghini in the future? Only time will tell. For now, it is enough that we enjoy the sight of their exquisite vehicles – once considered the rarest of rare – on our shores!