HISTORY

 

“I have had all the most beautiful GTs in the world, but in each of them, I have found defaults: too slow, too incomfortable, too hot or bad finished. Now, I want to build a car without default. Not a technical masterpiece, but very normal, very conventional: a perfect car.”

 These are the words of Ferruccio Lamborghini when he presents his first car, the 350GTV in 1963. But when the Miura appears, in 1966, one can not say that it corresponds exactly to that program: the Miura is surely not conventional, normal, perfect or too slow, but it is definitively a technical masterpiece.

Ferruccio Lamborghini is a self-made man. This Emilian (he was born in Cento da Ferrara in 1916) comes from a modest farming family and is proud, exigent and decided. After putting on several success-full business (tractors in 1948, oil burners, air conditioners and even écran) and owning the best automobiles available, he decides it is time to satisfy his passion for aesthetic creation and noble mechanic. His difficulties with his personnal Ferraris (persistant clutch and transmission problems) and the condescension that Enzo Ferrari demonstrats to him (“Lamborghini, take care of your tractors and I will take care of my cars”, after another visit at the Ferrari factory) probably helps him taking his decision. At the noon of his life, he tries something very audacious: creating a new automobile marque. His first idea is to build “an italian E-type Jaguar”. He also once says that “six cylinders is enough”, thinking of the Jaguar. Luckily, he does not keep promise.     

“Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini SAS” is officially founded in 1963, but as early as 1962, Ferruccio Lamborghini have the flair to pick up first-class personnel: Giotto Bizzarrini (ex-Ferrari engineer, the 250 GTO was his) for designing the V-12 engine and as project-engineer; GiamPaolo Dallara (also ex-Ferrari engineer where he worked with Carlo Chiti and ex-Maserati engineer where he worked with Giulio Alfieri, his relative)  as chief engineer; Paolo Stanzani has engineer; Robert “Bob” Wallace (a New-Zealander who have been a mechanic for various team) who would soon become the chief test-driver; and various technicians (italians, germans and even japanese).

Ferruccio Lamborghini does not take shortcuts: early in 1963, he buys 90 000 m2 of land in Sant’Agata Bolognese near Modena and he builds a 15 000 m2 factory. “Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini SAS” is entirely financed by the pocket of Ferruccio Lamborghini (an almost 500 millions Liras investment at the time).

The first Lamborghini, the 350 GTV, is a prototype designed by Franco Scaglione. The first castings for the engines are made by ATS, Carlo Chiti’s firm and the chassis is fabricated by Neri e Bonacini. The car is assembled and the tractor plant in Cento. It receives a rather cold welcome at the first press presentation (26th october) and then at the Torino Salone in november 1963. It is more of a styling exercise, without an engine in it. The first true production car, the 350GT, with revised bodywork by Touring, is a good and refined car, technically advanced compared to contemporary Ferraris, Maseratis and others. It establishes Lamborghini as a serious and competent car maker, and also ... Ferrari’s rival.

From the beginning, it is obvious that Lamborghini isn’t interested into racing (mainly for commercial reasons but also because Ferruccio fears for his son, Tonino, who would have been attracted by competition), so Bizzarrini resignes quickly and goes to other projects (like Iso cars and then Bizzarinni cars, among others). Dallara and his team work on “detuning” a bit the engine and on the car that became the 350 GT (that soon evolves into the 400 GT and then the 400GT 2+2).

The Miura is born from after-hours discussions beetween Dallara, Stanzani, Wallace and others of what should be a new GT, but with possible racing version as an ulterior motive. The “revolutionary” idea, from these days standards, is to relocate the engine in a central-rear position and transversaly in an entirely new chassis, but using “in-house” components. Touring and Bertone are contacted to skin the chassis and finally Bertone is choosen. The car is designed and built only in a few months. Marcello Gandini, the young Bertone’s designer, has the genious to sign a real masterpiece (1). This fact alone is largely responsible for the success of the car.

The Miura is definitively the star of the 36th Salon de Genève in March 1966. It is a totally new automobile that is so radical, so technically advanced, so low, so sexy. Words like “400 hp, 1 meter high, 300 km/h” are exploding all over the place. It is an immediate and exceptional success. The car is trully an aesthetic masterpiece as well as a technical bomb. Already, at the Torino Salone, November 3rd 1965, the radical chassis, almost race-car like, with its mid-engined transverse V-12, from a manufacturer only 2 years old,  causes enthusiasm but also scepticism from others.

Lamborghini is the victim of its success: orders are coming from all over and the car has not even did a single km! The initials plans are to sold 50 cars. Dallara has the task of putting this dream car into a real coherent road car. Production have to start very soon. Bob Wallace and Guerrino Bertocchi are responsible for active road tests. Development of the car is done in a hurry and the first car is delivered very late 1966. In fact, the car is sold so soon that it is not properly developed (total prototype testing did not exceed 15000 km when the first Miuras are sold). Hopefully, development continues and the Miura will evolved into 3 versions : the P400, the P400S and the P400SV.

The Miura is definitively the car that made the Lamborghini name famous. Without the Miura, perhaps Automobili Lamborghini would not have survived. It even helped creating a new niche on sports-car market: the “super-cars”. The perfect symbiose between technique (Lamborghini) and style (Bertone ) was achieved like never before. Even now, few cars (maybe no cars) have reached that balance or have had the same impact. Viva Miura!

 

  (1): See “Designing the Miura” menu for a historical update.


 
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