One of the greatest automotive legends tells us that Ferruccio Lamborghini, a successful Italian manufacturer of farm tractors, built his first sports car, the 1963 350GT, as a V-12-engined middle finger to Enzo Ferrari, after Enzo displayed little sympathy for the problems Ferruccio experienced with his Ferrari road car. Thus one of the great automotive rivalries was born, and millions of Farrah Fawcett posters shared the walls of boys’ bedrooms with pictures of scissor-winged Countaches as a result. This year, Automobili Lamborghini is celebrating its 40th anniversary not only by launching production of the all-new, V-10-engined Gallardo–which is smaller and cheaper and has two fewer cylinders than the Murcielago, even if it looks basically like a 7/8th-scale version of the hard-edged, V-12 machine–but also by establishing the Registro Lamborghini, to recognize some of the better examples of the 10,000 Lamborghinis still on the road; by finishing a new Restoration Centre, which will assist owners of historic Lamborghini models in factory-specified restorations; and by opening the Centro Stile Lamborghini, a concept design studio that will be directed by Luc Donckerwolke, the 38-year-old Belgian designer who had a major hand in the styling of both the Murcielago and the new Gallardo. Adjacent to the legendary factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese, near Modena, is the Lamborghini Museum, which opened two years ago to encapsulate and celebrate Lamborghini’s history as the thorn in Ferrari’s side. This two-story, glass-walled testament to the Company of the Bull displays in all their splendor rare Lamborghini models such as the very first and last Countaches ever built, a 1998 GT2 prototype race car, the last Diablo ever built, and a gold 1966-68 Miura.
A Brief History of Automobili Lamborghini
* Ferruccio Lamborghini founds Ferruccio Lamborghini Automobili in Sant’Agata Bolognese. The first prototype, called the 350GTV, makes its debut at the Turin Motor Show in October.
* The 350GT production model, a refinement of the original prototype, is unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show. The 350GT features a V-12 engine developing 280 hp, driven by four camshafts, a five-speed gearbox, independent suspension and four disc brakes. The public’s response to the prototype is unequivocally enthusiastic. Production of the 350GT starts shortly afterwards.
* The Miura P400 designed by Marcello Gandini, with a transverse 4-liter V-12 engine, makes its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. The Miura is Lamborghini’s first mid-engined sports car. Lamborghini’s reputation as a manufacturer of spectacular sports cars grows.
* The Islero 400GT, likewise launched at the Geneva Motor Show, features an aluminum quad cam V-12 engine developing 320 hp, independent suspension and disc brakes. Intended as a businessman’s car, the Islero, although shorter than the 400GT 2+2, is roomier and offers an unobstructed all-round view thanks to its larger windows.
* The visually strikingly Espada is another new appearance on the market. It is based on the Marzal study presented by Bertone in 1967 and combines the looks, performance and handling of a top sports car with the comfort and luxury of a saloon. The Espada goes on to become one of the most successful models built by Lamborghini.
* The Islero S and GTS appear in the late summer of 1969. These models have a modified interior, significantly improved suspension and a more powerful engine with an output of 350 hp. Their most striking features include ventilation orifices with pronounced contours behind the front wheels, lightly flared wheel arches and fixed triangle panes in the doors.
* The Miura P400S, an evolution of the P400, has a more potent 370 hp engine and an enhanced sheet-steel chassis.
* The rather functional successor to the 400GT Iserlo, the Jarama 400GT, is built on an all-new floor pan derived from the Espada. The 4-litre V-12 engine is positioned between the front wheels, and the chassis consists of a unitary steel platform frame. The Jarama 400GT is notable for its speed and agility. Sensible and deliberately unspectacular, the 400GT is a bold vision placing emphasis on power rather than beauty.
* With a design from the studio of the renowned body stylist Bertone, the new Urraco P250 with a transverse 2.5-liter V-8 mid-mounted engine and an output of 220 hp steals the limelight at the Turin Motor Show. The P250 is described as a rare and beautiful blend of balance, harmony, innovation and passion.
* A second revision of the Miura P400 prototype of 1966, the P400SV, features completely redesigned front and rear suspension, with modified tyres and very striking fenders. The alterations which the new model incorporates result in a gutsy sports car powered by a 4-liter V-12 engine with 385 hp.
* Marcello Gandini calls on the engineering expertise of Paolo Stanzani in developing the Countach LP500, a competition-inspired prototype which likewise celebrates its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. The car is ideally equipped for high-speed driving, with a dynamic wedge-shaped aluminium body and extremely stable roadholding.
* The revised Jarama appears under the designation Jarama 400GTS. It is distinguished by more power and significant improvements. The Jarama 400GTS is the last front-engined Lamborghini coupe. The Countach LP400 prototype is unveiled in Geneva in the same year.
* The production-ready Countach LP400 celebrates its dbut in Geneva. Gandini’s second design for Lamborghini is a spectacular achievement, signaling a new departure. The car once again features the 4-liter V-12 engine. It has a tubular space frame, doors opening upwards, semi roll-down side windows and an output of 375 hp.
* The Urraco 200 and 300, the successors to the P250, go on sale.
* The Silhouette, a two-seater coupe with targa roof, has its first showing at the Geneva Motor Show. The Silhouette blazes the trail with its dynamic, aggressive looks and the 3-liter V-8 engine’s impressive power output of 260 hp, combined with everyday suitability.
* In an attempt to design a series of fast off-road vehicles for the Mobility Technology International Company, Lamborghini develops the mid-engined Cheetah, signalling its entry into the military market. With the public showing more interest in the exotic off-road model than the military version, the Cheetah’s emphasis is shifted towards the civilian market.
* The LM001, the follow-up to the Cheetah, goes into production. Another new series-mature model making its first appearance that year is the Jalpa, the successor to the Silhouette, with a transverse V-8 mid engine developing 255 hp.
* The Countach LP500S receives a new five-litre engine producing 375 hp. The new model comes as Lamborghini’s response to tougher emission standards.
* The LM002 is the sucessor of the LM001, the engine is a front-mounted V-12.
* Featuring the new technology of four valves per cylinder, the Countach receives its third product upgrade and is renamed the LP500S QV.
* Lamborghini celebrates its 25th anniversary as a manufacturer of extravagant sports cars and unveils the last Countach, a special jubilee edition.
* Lamborghini builds the Diablo, the fastest sports car in the world and capable of clocking up a top speed of over 200 mph.
* The open-top roadster version of the Diablo makes its first appearance at the Geneva Motor Show. Production of the LM002 is wound up.
* The four-wheel-drive Diablo VT makes its first public appearance in March in Geneva. To this day, it enjoys a unique status in its class. * In September of the same year, the Diablo “Special Edition” is unveiled at the factory in Sant’Agata. Production is limited to 150 cars, built in the course of 1994 and 1995.
* In April, Lamborghini presents a new engine developing 950 hp, destined for use on power boats. * The racing season comes to a close with the last two competitions off the coast of Dubai, and Lamborghini is crowned World Champion in Class 1.
* A cherry red Diablo Roadster VT is presented at the Bologna Motor Show, after which the roadster goes into production immediately.
* The Diablo SV (short for Sport Veloce), a more sporty version of the Diablo and inspired by the legendary Miura SV, makes its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. The 525 hp engine whisks the SV from 0 to 62 mph in less than four seconds
* A further new model, the Diablo SVR, is launched and competes with outstanding success in the Lamborghini monomarque championship. Twenty-six Diablo SVRs line up to compete on Europe’s main racing circuits.
* The Lamborghini marine engine is once again overall winner in Class 1 of the Off-Shore World Championship.
* The 1998 Diablo model boasts a further increase in performance, with the new engine developing 530 hp.
* Under the tutelage of Audi, its new corporate parent, Lamborghini reveals the Diablo’s successor, the Murcielago, named for a famous Spanish fighting bull. It features a 571-hp 6.2-liter V-12 and all-wheel drive.
* Lamborghini unveils its “entry level” model, the Gallardo coupe, at the Geneva motor show. It sports a 500-hp V-10, mid-mounted.
Source (chronology): Lamborghini