It all started for Lamborghini back in the early 1960's when Ferruccio Lamborghini allegedly had a falling out with Enzo Ferrari. Lamborghini was a successful Italian businessman, heading up a major Company that manufactured tractors and air conditioners, and was a long time owner of Ferraris. Lamborghini continually had issues with his cars and thought he could do better and build the ultimate GT car himself.
Lamborghini's first car, the 350 GTV, was presented to the world in 1963 at the Turin Motor Show. The reaction from the worlds motoring press was generally positive although many questioned the controversial coach work of the Scaglione designed body.
In 1964 Lamborghini's first production car, known as the 350 GT went on sale. This car was a subtle variation on the original prototype and was fitted with 3463cc V12 engine that produced 320bhp. In 1966 the 350 GT evolved into the 400 GT, and shortly after the 400 GT 2+2, both designated as such due to the new cars increased engine capacity of 3929cc.
In total less than four hundred of the 350 GT / 400 GT / 400 GT 2+2 models left the Sant' Agata factory.
In 1968 the Islero replaced the 400 GT 2+2. Again a front engined GT car, the Islero was successful and even by today's standards these GT cars being some 40 years old are very capable cars.
Lamborghini really hit the headlines in 1965 when at the Turin Motor Show he unveiled a running chassis that featured a transversely mounted V12 engine located directly behind the cockpit. This car, even at the time without a body, took the motoring world by storm. Ultimately, this car which became known as the Miura (a name given to a brilliantly fearsome and courageous fighting bull) evolved into one of the most iconic supercars ever built. In total 764 of the Bertone bodied Miuras were built between 1966 and 1973. There are believed to be some dozen Miuras in Australia.
In 1968 Lamborghini unveiled the Espada. The Espada was as practical as the Miura was futuristic. This car, which also featured Lamborghini's trade mark 3929cc V12 engine, was a genuine 150mph grand tourer capable of transporting four adult passengers in comfort. The Espada, which means sword in Spanish, was one of Lamborghini most successful cars. Evolving over a ten year period in excess of twelve hundred of this model was sold.
The Islero was replaced in 1970 by the Jarama. This model was overshadowed by the Espada, and whilst produced over a nine year period from 1970 through until 1978, only 327 of the Jarama and Jarama S models were built. These cars which until recent times have been overlooked by enthusiasts of the marque are genuinely exciting cars.
Since day one there were always strong rumours that Lamborghini would manufacture a smaller capacity car that would be produced in greater numbers. Enter the Urraco! Initially produced with a 2643 V8 engine the Urraco P250 or "baby bull" hit production at a very difficult time in the Company's history. Due to financial pressures with his tractor business in 1972 Lamborghini was forced to sell off 51% of his beloved Company to Swiss businessman and friend Georges Henri Rossetti. In this difficult time the Urraco was forced into production, arguably too early, as many of the early production models encountered reliability problems and did not sell anywhere near as well as Lamborghini had hoped - particularly in the USA. Regardless, the Urraco was popular in Europe and sold well in Australia and is for many one of the most beautiful looking cars ever built. It is estimated that fifty of the P250 and P300 Urracos found their way to Australia. The P300 was a more powerful refined car with a four cam 2997cc engine delivering 250bhp.
The Urraco evolved into the Silhouette (55 cars built from 1976 to 1977) and then the Jalpa (410 cars built between 1982 and 1988) models which continued the mid engined V8 theme.
Arguably, the world's greatest and most recognisable supercar is the Countach. In prototype form the Countach was first shown to the world in 1971 at the Geneva Motor Show. It is fair to say this car caused a sensation, though at the time when show cars were dime a dozen, it was never thought this car would enter production. Well it did, and the Countach mesmerised people of all ages the world over for two decades. In 1974 when the first Countach LP400 left the production line the 3929cc V12 reportedly pumped out 375bhp at 8000rpm. In its most powerful form the 5167cc Countach Quattrovalvole pumped out an astonishing 455bhp. Not bad for a car that is now more than twenty years old!. From its purist form the LP400 Countach evolved into the LP400S with the flared wheel arches to accommodate the massive Pirelli P7 tyres, then the LP500S with engine capacity expanded to 4754cc, then the Quattrovalvole or QV with engine capacity further expanded to 5167cc and as the name suggests an engine with four overhead valves per cylinder. The 25th Anniversary model was the final Countach that was essentially the same mechanically as the QV, however, its body was further enhanced. The Countach lived for almost twenty years, which is remarkable for any car let alone a supercar that was hand made at the rate of some two cars per week. Just under 2,000 Countach were built during this time.
For most the Countach is THE car and no matter where they go and in what company, they tend to attract as much attention from the public as they originally did all those years ago when the car was first released.
The Lamborghini Company's financial woes continued throughout the 1970's and its existence was really hand to mouth. Lamborghini sold his remaining share of the Company in 1974 to another Swiss, Rene Deimer a friend of Rossetti. Throughout the 1970's the company struggled as the unions strangled many businesses in Italy and the oil crisis dampened the market for supercars.
Further ownership changes occurred in 1979 and under Swiss ownership the Company slid into receivership. The factory was saved from liquidation by the Mimram family who in 1980 took control of the Company. The Mimram family transformed the Company in their seven years of ownership before selling to US giant car maker Chrysler in 1987, who saw the Lamborghini brand as a means to enhance its image.
During the Mimram years Lamborghini embarked on a project to develop an off road 4WD powered by the famous Lamborghini V12. This ambitious project was targeted at the military market and particularly the oil rich middle eastern countries. It is fair to say the project failed and in total some 330 cars were built from the mid 1980's through until the early 1990's.
Under Chrysler's ownership the Diablo was born. Amazingly, as the successor to the Countach, this car first appeared seventeen years after the first production Countach left the factory. The Diablo (which is Spanish for devil) was the most successful Lamborghini ever built with some three thousand cars built between 1990 and 2001.
Financially Lamborghini continued to struggle and subsequently Chysler sold out to Indonesian investors in 1994.
In recent times Lamborghini has been more successful than ever. The Volkswagen Audi Group acquired Lamborghini in 1998 and under the ownership of the German giant, Lamborghini had the support and financial backing to ensure the Company a very bright future. Enter the Murcielago in 2001. The 6192cc V12 Murcielago with a power output of an amazing 580bhp at 7,500 rpm has permanent four wheel drive and continued the tradition of the Countach and Diablo and with its vertically opening scissor doors.
The Murcielago was joined by its baby brother the Gallardo in 2003. In the tradition of the Urraco, Lamborghini once again had a "baby bull'. This one had teeth and the car featured a 72 degree 4961cc V10 engine that was capable of propelling the car to speeds of in excess of 300 km/hr.
Both the Murcielago and Gallardo have evolved throughout their production with sports, limited edition and now a roadster or spyder version of each model available.