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- August 26 2015 The History of Lamborghini
The History of Lamborghini
There are few car marques that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you hear the name. Perhaps the most evocative of all is Lamborghini.
Here at Minutia Detailing, we work on all types of car, from everyday runners to concourse superstars. If you look at our Gallery, you’ll see in the past few months we’ve detailed some stunning cars – Porsche 964 Speedster, BMW M3 CSL, Ferrari F430 Scuderia and a limited edition Lotus Exige S – but this week, we had the pleasure of working on a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera.
There’s something about a Lamborghini that stirs the loins, or in James May parlance, ‘makes you go all fizzy.’ It’s a combination of the V12 roar, the unutterably beautiful, borderline outrageous lines, the vicious power and the hunkered down driving position but it wasn’t always like this…
1963 was one hell of a year. Dr. No was released, Iron Man and the X-Men made their Marvel Comics bow, McLaren Auto was established and Jose Mourinho was born. A ‘power year’ if ever there was one but something else happened that, unbeknownst at the time, was about to represent a paradigm shift in the automobile world the likes of which had never been seen before. 1963 was the birth of Lamborghini, the Raging Bull.
Born to grape farmers in 1916 in Renazzo di Cento in the northern Italian Emilia-Romagna region, Ferruccio Lamborghini decided as a young man to focus his attention of farming machines rather than farming itself and studied at the Fratelli Taddia technical institute near his home. In 1940 he was drafted into the Italian Royal Air Force as a mechanic where he found an aptitude for mechanical improvisation, repairing cars, trucks and motorcycles on the spot with re-used parts.
When he came back from the war, he set up a business near Bologna making tractors from reconfigured surplus military machines. He diversified into air-conditioning and heating systems from where he made his fortune and with an obsession for fast cars, he bought a Ferrari 250GT which he wasn’t happy with. This story has become something of a mixture of truth and myth but it’s said that Lamborghini was constantly frustrated with the clutch, the poor servicing and allegedly the nasty espresso he was given on his too frequent visits.
He went to visit Enzo Ferrari to voice his displeasure who dismissed the mere tractor maker as a nuisance, supposedly saying ‘the problem is not with the car but the driver’! For both an Italian man of principle and a mechanical genius, not only was Ferrari’s diatribe a bare-faced insult, it was an open challenge.
Lamborghini established his eponymous car company ‘Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini’ in 1963 in Sant’Agata in the Bolognese region. With just a rag-tag group of engineers and designers, his wish to go from opening the factory doors in spring ’63 to delivering a concept in November the same year for the Turin Auto Show was ambitious even by today’s standards.
The 360bhp, V12 350 GTV ‘grand tourer’ was, ironically, designed by former Ferrari designer Giotto Bizzarrini and was unveiled to mostly positive reactions from the critics.
‘In the past, I bought some of the most famous GT cars, and found several flaws. They were either too hot, not very comfortable, not fast enough, or not finished to perfection. Now I want to make a flawless GT. Not a technical marvel, just a very normal, very conventional, perfect car’
Ferruccio Lamborghini to journalist Athos Evangelisti, 1963
Updated versions of the GTV followed including the 350 GT and the 400 GT and not just the Italians but the rest of the high-end European and US manufacturers started to take notice of what was happening in Sant’Agata including, crucially, the buyers.
Then, in 1965, Lamborghini did something so radical it caught the car world with its metaphorical pants down.
Designed ostensibly at night against the express wishes of Ferruccio himself who preferred big GT cars to the ‘all style, no substance’ playboy Ferraris, the engineers of the car designated 400 TP made an unbelievably bold decision to mount the 3.9-litre V12 engine in the middle of the car, directly behind the driver and the modern-day supercar was born.
The boss famously said that ‘a car like this should be built because it would make for ‘good advertising’, even though it will clearly never sell more than fifty worldwide’. How very wrong he was!
The Lamborghini Miura (named for Don Eduardo Miura, a breeder of Spanish fighting bulls who also bred bulls called Murciélago and Reventon…) was a game-shifting car whose indelible mark on the car world can never be underestimated. As a PR master, Lamborghini parked a bright orange Miura in front of the casino in Monte Carlo and onlookers went nuts. It was the wildest car they had ever seen. That was, until 1973 came along…
Launched as a prototype codenamed LP 400 at the Geneva Motor Show, the 4.0-litre V12 Lamborghini Countach was as stunning a car as had ever been produced. Purists will look to the Ferrari 250GTO or the Jaguar E-Type but for pure eye candy, the Countach was out there on its own.
It produced 375bhp with a top end of 192 mph (309 km/h) and was designed by famous Bertone designer Marcello Gandini. It was a brutal supercar with scissor doors, an uncomfortable ride, poor driving position, ridiculously heavy steering and not a car that can be driven quietly but that aside, it was automotive pornography.
The iconic white Countach was the bedroom poster for almost every 80s kid who dreamed of driving an outrageous sports car and the company produced a number of versions during the 1974 – 1990 production run of 2,049 cars, culminating with the 25th anniversary edition designed by today’s king of bonkers supercars, Horacio Pagani.
In 1990, when production of the Countach ceased and with the company under the ownership of Chrysler, the Diablo was launched. It was the world’s fastest production car with a 5.7-litre V12 engine (uprated to 6.0-litre) and a top speed of 202 mph.
In the words of former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, the Lamborghini Diablo was designed ‘solely to be the biggest head-turner in the world’ and indeed it was.
In 1998 after the ownership of Lamborghini had been seemingly passed from pillar to post, the chairman of Volkswagen AG went on perhaps the most expensive shopping spree ever, buying Bugatti, Bentley and Lamborghini and in 2001, the last Diablo, the GT, rolled off the production line.
The replacement for the Diablo, the Luc Donckerwolke-designed Murciélago represented a rebirth of the famous marque and was named after one of Don Eduardo Miura’s famous fighting bulls. It was followed swiftly by the Gallardo, first offered as a 5.0-litre V10 and then as a 5.2-litre V10.
The Gallardo was famously used by the Italian ‘carabinieri’ as well as the Metropolitan Police and it has acted as a stablemate to the flagship Murciélago and to the current flagship model, the Aventador. It was discontinued in November 2013, replaced by the Huracán (Spanish for ‘hurricane’ and also quite fittingly, the Mayan god of wind, storm and fire.)
Fast forward to the jet fighter-inspired Reventón and Sesto Elemento and you have a marque that has turned heads for 60 years and will continue to do so. More than Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche and Mercedes, Lamborghini , as a man and as a brand lived by a simple philosophy, perfectly put by Ferruccio himself: ‘look at what others are not doing with their products, then work to perfect it in yours’.
We think that the feisty Italian who started out making tractors would be immensely proud of the cars that carry his name. The House of the Raging Bull lives on.