Historic Car Brands
Ferruccio Lamborghini was a well-established tractor manufacturer in Italy when he decided to enter the high-performance, luxury sports car market in 1963. He’d already had a play with car-building, producing a few Fiat-based sports cars when he was a young man.
Early Lamborghinis were a mixture of front-engined and mid-engined designs, before the company specialised in mid-engined vehicles, with only a few exceptions.
The first Lamborghini was the result of collaboration by Giotto Bizzarini and Gian Paolo Dallara. It was a front-engined, two-seater coupe.
Lamborghini 350GT – Dan Lindsay
The 3.5-litre powerplant was a scaled-up V12, based on a racing engine that Bizzarini had designed and the tubular chassis and all-independent suspension were penned by Dallara.
The body design was done by Carrozzeria Touring, following evaluation of competitive designs by Ghia, Scaglione and Zagato.
Interestingly, after testing the prototype 350GTV, Bizzarini left the company! The following month Ferruccio Lamborghini tasked Dallara with making the prototype production-ready, with the assistance of engineer Paolo Stanzani and test driver Bob Wallace.
Lamborghini 350GT – Dan Lindsay
Dallara and Stanzani de-tuned the dry-sumped, 400hp engine to a more flexible, wet-sumped 350hp, but that still provided a top speed of 250km/h. The mods included replacing the 36mm downdraft racing Webers with a set of six side-draft DCOE 40s and that allowed a lower bonnet line. They also modified the original Bizzarrini chassis for street use.
The body was redesigned by Carrozzeria Touring, with rotating hidden headlights replaced by ’bug-eyed’ fixed headlights.
Launched as the Lamborghini 350GT at the 1964 Geneva Motor Show the new brand became instant success and 120 were sold around the world, before being replaced by the four-litre GT400 in 1966.
Only 23 of this model were sold before being replaced by the higher-roofed GT400 2+2 model. This car also picked up a Lamborghini-designed gearbox. Some 250 of these cars were sold.
1965 Turin Salon Miura Chassis (before restoration) – Miuragirl
In the same year, the Miura arrived and became an overnight sensation; almost rivalling the adulation that had been heaped on the Jaguar E-Type. The press’ and buyers’ appetites had been whet the year prior, when a rolling chassis was previewed at the Turin Motor Show.
Power came from the four-litre V12, mounted transversely in front of the rear axle. Lamborghini formed the engine and gearbox in one casting, in the same way that Issigonis did with the Morris Mini. That shared lubrication continued until the last 96 Miura SVs, when the case was split to allow more appropriate oils to be used for each element. Some 275 P400 Miuras were sold between 1966 and 1969.
1967 Lamborghini Miura – Michael Barrera
The P400S model was launched in late-1968, with the addition of more luggage space; power windows; chrome trim around external windows and headlights; new overhead console and switches. Enlarged engine intake manifolds and different camshaft profiles provided an additional 20hp.
The P400SV arrived in 1971 and the most obvious changes were deletion of the ‘eyelash’ ribbing around the headlights, replaced by plain black plastic and wide rear fenders to accommodate fatter rear tyres. A new camshaft and quad triple-barrel Webers took output to 385hp and 400Nm.
Nearly 500 Miura S and SV models were sold, including one race-modified Jota and one roadster.
1971 Lamborghini Espada S2 – Entheta
Contemporary with the mid-engine Miura was a string of front engine Lamborghini models: the Islero and the Espada in 1968, and the Jarama in 1970.
The Islero was the GT400’s successor, with less radical styling at the front and a lot less radial than the Espada. The Islero had a 325hp version of the four-litre V12 that was later raised to 350hp. This model suffers from early quality issues and wasn’t a success, with only 125 being sold in its two-year life span.
The Espada had the same powertrain as the Islero, but with a four-seat body and it proved to be a success, with more than 1200 were sold between 1968 and 1978.
Lamborghini Jarama – Karmann
The Jarama replaced the Islero, but with styling akin to the Espada’s. It had a 350hp version of the V12 that was later increased to 365hp in the 1972 ’S’ version.
The Urraco – ‘little bull’ – P200 was a shrunken and more affordable Miura, aimed at the Ferrari Dino and Maserati Merak market. Powered by a two-litre, mid-engined and transversely-mounted V8 that put out 180hp, it could manage 215km/h. The P250 had a 220hp 2.5-litre engine and the P300, a 260hp three-litre.
Lamborghini Urraco S – Brian Snelson
After 1970, the only Lamborghini models with a front-engine layout were the 4×4 LM002 in 1986 and the Urus SUV.
In 1973, the Oil Shock had a disastrous effect on high-end car sales and Ferruccio Lamborghini sold the car company, retaining the tractor business. That purchase proved unsuccessful and Lamborghini went bankrupt in 1978. It was resurrected by the Mimran brothers in 1980, who eventually sold out to Chrysler in 1987, who unsold it to a Malaysian investment group in 1994. Subsequently Lamborghini was bought by Volkswagen AG, under the supervision of Audi.
Despite its financial difficulties Lamborghini continued to develop new models.
Lamborghini Countach LP500S – Nrbelex
The Countach was developed as the Miura’s successor and appeared firstly in 1971, as the LP500 prototype. Production didn’t begin until three years later, as there were many issues to be solved.
While previous Lamborghini model names were inspired by bull-fighting – hence the ‘bull’ logo – the ‘Countach’ broke with tradition. It’s said the name came from a reaction by an employee, using the local dialect, and is actually an expletive – politely translated as: ‘Wow!’
The Countach broke new ground for Lamborghini, because the V12 engine was mounted longitudinally, not transversely, as in the Miura. The aim was to achieve less rear axle weight bias and to that effect the engine was mounted with its output shaft facing forwards, coupled to a five-speed transmission located between the two seats, with a prop shaft running back to the rear differential.
Another advantage of the longitudinal layout was improved cooling, compared with the transverse Miura installation.
Over its very successful 16-year production life the Countach received many upgrades, including engine capacity increases to five litres and 5.2 litres.
Lamborghini Diablo SV and Countach – Brian Snelson
The Silhouette P300 was the Urraco replacement, mounting a three-litre V8 transversely behind the seats. It was the first Lamborghini to have a targa roof. The Silhouette led to the Jalpa that had a 3.5-litre V8.
Dubbed the ‘Rambo-Lambo’ at its launch the LM002 was a departure from sports cars to a 5.2-litre, V12-powered 4×4. Lamborghini already had some experience in building heavy duty military-style 4x4s, so decided to make a top-shelf variant for the public.
‘Rambo Lambo’ LM002 – Tony Harrison
Civilian models were outfitted with a full luxury package, including full leather trim, tinted power windows, air conditioning, and a premium stereo mounted in a roof console. Lamborghini commissioned Pirelli to create the Pirelli Scorpion tyres with run-flat casings.
For those requiring even more power, the Lamborghini L804 type 7.2-litre marine V12 – commonly found in Class One offshore powerboats – could be ordered.
Lamborghini found nearly 330 customers globally for the LM002 monster.
In the late-1980s and 1990s many Lamborghinis were successful with sports car racing teams around the world and the company also provided 3.5-litre, V12 Formula One engines from 1989 until 1993.
Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT – Tony Harrison
The Countach-replacement Diablo roared into being in 1990, powered by a fuel-injected, 5.7-litre version of the V12, with an output of 529hp. Subsequent variants had six-litre engines, with up to 575hp. VT variants had four-wheel-drive.
The Lamborghini Murciélago was sold between 2001 and 2009. Successor to the Diablo and flagship V12 of the automaker’s lineup, the Murciélago was introduced as a coupé. It was the brand’s first new model under the ownership of Audi.
A roadster variant was introduced in 2003, followed by the more powerful and updated LP 640 coupé and roadster and a limited edition LP 650–4 Roadster. The final variation to wear the Murciélago nameplate was the 660hp LP 670–4 SuperVeloce, powered by the largest (6.5 litres) and final evolution of the original Lamborghini V12 engine.
Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 – Alexandre Prevot
Production of the Murciélago ended in late-2010, with a total production run of 4099 cars. Its successor, the Aventador, was unveiled at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.
Lamborghini Gallardo – William Hoiles
Subsequent Lamborghini vehicles have been very successful in global markets, powered by VW Group mechanicals. The huge LM002 was replaced by a more sensible Urus SUV.
Lamborghini Urus 2 – Alexander Migi