The Lamborghini story: A brief history and its cars by Carphile
Lamborghini was conceived as a marque that would create sports cars to rival Ferrari
Over half a century later the rivals may still compete in the showroom but the Sant’Agata manufacturer has more than earned its place at the super car table, establishing itself as the maker of some of the world’s most beautiful and desirable performance cars.
Lamborghini – the early years
It’s one of the all-time great automotive stories. In the early 1960s, Ferruccio Lamborghini, the wealthy and successful industrialist, dissatisfied with the clutch of his Ferrari, decided to take it up with Enzo Ferrari himself. Legend record Ferrari’s response was a rather dismissive “What does a tractor manufacturer know about making sports cars?”. Unsurprisingly, Ferruccio left their meeting a little miffed and decided to build a sports car that would show him.
Automobili Lamborghini SpA was founded in 1963, their home an ultramodern factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese, just over 30km from Ferrari. In only a matter of months the striking 350 GTV prototype, designed by Bertone, was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show.
Lamborghini’s first car
The production 350GT emerged in 1964, a year after the concept. In the transition from concept to production, the 350 GT design had received a makeover from Carrozzeria Touring, the result was less polarising and more practical in the real world. Powered by a 3.5 litre V12 designed by (ex-Ferrari) engineer Giotto Bizzarrini, the front-engined, two seater GT was a genuine Ferrari 250 rival.
The Lamborghini badge – the raging bull
Lamborghini’s raging bull logo took inspiration from Ferruccio Lamborghini’s zodiac sign, Taurus and his passion for bullfighting. The bull fighting theme continues in the names of many of Lamborghini’s cars – Miura, Murcielago, Aventador.
After the 350GT, Lamborghini went from strength to strength. Within a couple of years Lamborghini had launched the mid-engined Miura, (arguably) the world’s first Supercar and one or the most beautiful cars of all time. Cars like the Espada, Jarama and LM002 off roader, showed that Lamborghini were a company unafraid to go against design norms and tread their own path.
However, the early 1970s oil crisis and the resulting economic downturn was a tough time to build exotic super cars. Between 1973 and 1998, the ownership of Lamborghini changed several times.
Despite these challenges Lamborghini managed to produce flamboyant, super cars like the Countach, whose angular lines in the pre-internet age graced many an eighties bedroom. Or it’s successor, the Diablo, briefly the fastest production car in the world and the first Lamborghini production car to break the 200mph but more importantly, with a top speed of 202mph, 1mph faster than Ferrari’s flagship F40.
Lamborghini’s first major car of the new millennium and the first under Audi had taken control of the company in 1998 was the Murciélago. The all-wheel drive, mid-engined super sports car boasted 6.2L 572HP engine (both of which would increase over the car’s run) and stayed in production for more than a decade.
Under Audi ownership Lamborghini is a very different company from the low volume sports car manufacturer it once was. When Gallardo production ended in 2013, over 14,000 had been built, making it the best-selling Lamborghini of all time.
Today Lamborghini make the Huracan and Aventador super cars.
If you’re a Lamborghini owner, be sure to visit our Lamborghini owners’ club page to find out about clubs near to you as well as information about forthcoming meetings and events.