Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Lamborghini Press | posted May 07, 2013 17:56
A story unlike any other
Like many of you car nuts who grew up in the 80's, every time I woke up in the morning for school back then, I always saw two things: one was my ever-so-loud alarm clock, and the other was my poster of a yellow Countach on the wall.
Such was the allure of Lamborghini, a company that produced only the most extreme, most inspiring super sportscars ever, thrilling the lucky people that could afford them, and a waking sight for many boys that put them up on their bedroom walls.
The story of Lamborghini begins with its founder: Ferruccio. After serving as an Italian Air Force mechanic during the Second World, Signore Lamborghini made his mark by making tractors, which then saw him venture out into other businesses, building a fortune to allow him to afford the finer things in life: like a Ferrari 250.
Ferruccio was quite fond of Ferraris especially the 250, as he reportedly owned at least three of them. Back in the day, the 250 was plagued by clutch problems, until Ferruccio himself discovered that his proud sportscar actually had the same clutch he used on the tractors he made.
The story goes that Ferruccio Lamborghini went to Enzo Ferrari to complain about his car, only to be shunned by the temperamental founder of the Prancing Horse brand. From then on, Ferruccio Lamborghini decided to begin his own sports car company, the goal of which was to create an everyday sports car... a perfect GT.
Himself a Taurus, he founded the Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini S.p.A. on October 30, 1963, and built a factory on a large plot of land in Sant' Agata Bolognese.
A different approach
Unlike Ferrari, which at the time made race cars and racing engines that were adapted and homologated for road use, Lamborghini wanted to do the reverse: he wanted to make pure, road-going sports cars with the manners of comfortable grand tourers.
Unusually, he hired ex-Ferrari engineers, and commissioned them to build him an engine for his road cars. Being ex-Ferrari men, they naturally came up with an 3.5 liter engine that revs high and comes with racing technologies used at the time, producing 360 horsepower at 9800 rpm. As a result Lamborghini was ired, and refused to pay the engineers their due for an engine that didn't meet his requirement. This is the reason why the first Lamborghini ever shown to the public -the front-engined Lamborghini 350GTV- at the 1963 Turin Auto Show had bricks instead of an engine under the hood so it sat at the right ride height.
The next year, at the Geneva Motor Show, Lamborghini had the redesigned 350GT, and became the first Lamborghini production model ever sold.
Perhaps the most famous early Lamborghini was the P400... otherwise known as the Miura.
The Miura was first shown as the P400 chassis at the 1965 Turin Auto Show, showcasing the engineering vision of two young engineers: Stanzani and Dallara (who later became a name in racing cars). The mid-engined chassis with a unified transmission and engine mounted transverse on the frame was revolutionary for the time, and attracted the eye of Nuccio Bertone of Carrozzeria Bertone.
The famous coachmaker (body designer, builder) said to Ferruccio: “I'm the one who can make the shoe to fit your foot”. With that said, they shook hands and in 1966 at the Geneva Motor Show, Lamborghini would unveil their most iconic model yet: the Miura.
The gorgeous machine built by Lamborghini and designed by Marcello Gandini at Bertone became an true hit, with 764 examples produced from 1966 to 1972.
It's name was derived from the famous line of Spanish fighting bulls and bullfighting, a naming nomenclature that continued down the line to the Islero, Espada, Jarama, Diablo, Jalpa, Murcielago, Gallardo, Aventador and the ultra-limited Reventon.
The signature wedge
The Miura was praised for its inherent design beauty and revolutionary performance, but it was the successor, the Countach, that paved the way for the signature look of Lamborghini in the years and decades to come.
The Countach was unveiled at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show, breaking Lamborghini tradition by being named not after a bull or bullfighting term, but instead after a specific Piedmontese phrase used by men upon seeing a gorgeous woman.
Like the Miura, the Countach was designed at Carrozzeria Bertone by Marcello Gandini, and featured a low, wedge shaped profile, sharp edges, fighter-style inlets on the doors for the engine and intakes on the rear quarter panel. These design cues continued on to later Lamborghinis such as the Diablo, Murcielago and Aventador, especially the quarter panel intakes and the now iconic scissor doors.
The Countach was powered by a series of V12 engines from 4.0 liters up to 5.2 liters, and came with a 5-speed manual. The chassis was made of an aluminum space frame and had the cabin forward, making more room for the massive engine.
The Countach also established Lamborghini's reputation for being outrageous and difficult to drive; widowmakers, as some have called it, given the big power and the tricky rear-wheel drive powertrain. Owners were actually instructed to back up with the driver door open so as to be able to see when reversing into a parking slot; a discovery made by Lamborghini's chief test driver, Valentino Balboni.
Nevertheless, Lamborghini Countach was a very successful model for the brand. Production ran from 1974 up until 1990 for a total of 16 years. They even came out with a 25th Anniversary Countach (above) to commemorate Lamborghini's 25 years in 1988. The special 25th Anniversary edition was designed by a guy named Horacio Pagani. You may have heard of him.
The Baby Lambos
While Lamborghini had been making their primary V12 supercar line strong with the Countach, the company had been dabbling around with the idea of a more affordable Lamborghini. A “baby” Lambo, if you will.
The first in this line was the Urraco; a 2+2 sports coupe powered by a series of mid-mounted V8 engines. The Urraco was produced and sold from 1973 to 1979, showing promise in a new market segment for Lamborghini. Towards the end of the Urraco's production, Lamborghini introduced the Silhouette, a two door targa (removable top) that had more edges and creases in its design as opposed to the more curved Urraco.
This was followed by the V8-powered Jalpa that was manufactured in 1981 up until 1988, but it wasn't until the Gallardo 15 years later that the idea of a baby Lambo really caught on.
Lamborghini, a the time, became one of the first supercar makers to truly venture into the performance SUV scene with the LM002.
The radically designed LM002 was angular and edgy, showcasing the prevalent design theme of Lambo at the time with the Countach. The 5.2 liter V12 was mounted in front; essentially the same engine as the Countach's. Of course, given Lamborghini's extreme nature, a 7.2 liter V12 that was used in powerboat racing could be installed.
The LM002, while called by purists as a bastardization of the brand, actually became a successful model for Lamborghini. The LM002 (produced from 1986 to 1992) proved the viability of the market, tapping into the ultra-rich who desired a high performance 4x4; hence a good portion of LM002 customers were Arab-level rich or powerful dictators.
Uday Hussein, Saddam's son, had an LM002 courtesy of Qaddafi. The U.S. military blew it up in 2004 to supposedly demonstrate the effects of a car bomb. What a shame.
The Modern Lamborghini
The Countach really paved the way for the future of Lamborghini; in a way mitigating the effects of the company's many ownership changes since Ferruccio Lamborghini sold his stake in the early 1970s.
Lamborghini was owned by Rossetti and Leimer in from 1972 to 1977, after which it went under Receivership from 1977 to 1984. Patrick Mimran and Jean-Claude Mimran owned the company from 1984 to 1987, after which it was bought by Chrysler in 1988 and sold again to Indonesian companies M'tech in 1995 and V'Power in 1996.
In 1998, Lamborghini was sold to their current owners Audi AG, and has seen uprecedented growth ever since.
The Diablo was seen by many as a prime example of corporate interference (by Chrysler) of Marcello Gandini's original design, one that saw fruition as the Cizeta V16 (Playstation GranTurismo fans may recognize the name and shape). After Audi took over, Lamborghini has reverted to the edgy designs pioneered by the Countach
The Murcielago took over from the Diablo's reins as a coupe and convertible, featuring a mid-mounted V12 that developed upwards of 670 horsepower in the SuperVeloce variant and drove all four wheels. It was seen by some as an Audi-fied Lambo, given more luxurious features and appointments, as well as a more controllable. Nevertheless, with a 9 year production run from 2001 to 2010 and over 4000 sold, the Murcielago is Lamborghini's most successful flagship to date.
Currently, the Aventador s the new Lambo flagship, and showcases an even edgier design compared to the Murcielago and more power from a 6.5 liter V12 with 4-wheel drive. It is also the first time that a Lamborghini was not offered with a manual transmission, as the Aventador only comes with a 7-speed, single clutch semi automatic gearbox.
Drawing from the experience of the Jalpa, Silhouette and Urraco, Lamborghini began production of the new “baby” model, the Gallardo. The V10 powered Gallardo sportscar and roadster would be Lamborghini's most successful model ever, as 13,059 Gallardos were built and sold from 2003 until 2012, and it is still in production pending its successor.
In between the production models, Lamborghini has issued an extremely limited run of some very special models. 20 examples of Sesto Elemento all-carbon fiber concept car will be sold as a track car this year, while the fighter-jet inspired Reventon was also sold as a 20-car run.
The most limited will be the 750 horsepower Veneno, built to celebrate Lamborghini's 50th anniversary. Only 3 Venenos will be made and like the Reventon and Sesto Elemento, all are already sold.
Lamborghini will also build 200 examples of the Aventador LP-720-4 50 Anniversario as part of the company's celebrations.
Lamborghini's official presence in the Philippines has only just begun with the opening of PGA Cars' Lamborghini Manila dealership in Bonifacio Global City last year. The PGA Cars group, headed by Robert Coyiuto, Jr., opened the doors to the dealership with the presence of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. President, Mr Stephan Winkelmann, himself in attendance.
The company has gone a long way since 1963. Tumultuous is what one can call the company's history, perhaps even losing sight of Ferruccio Lamborghini's original vision of a carmaker that produces perfect grand touring cars, as Lambo now makes all out sports and supercars.
The world is still waiting as to what the next step is for Lamborghini, especially with the next baby-Lambo in the works and the Urus SUV (the successor to the LM002) and even the Estoque rumored to be undergoing development
Lamborghini, a car company that began with an insult, has a very unique story to tell in its 50 years of existence. Perhaps the next 50 will be even more so, as are the next Lamborghini supercars on the line.