Ferruccio Lamborghini founded the factory that produces the cars that bear his name in 1963, at the age of 47.
A self-made man, some say he was unhappy with the treatment he received from the producers of GT cars, others that he was motivated to produce, in his own words, "the perfect car".
Whatever his reasons, he progressed from being a successful manufacturer of tractors and air-conditioning equipment to create the world's most exotic cars. These included landmark cars like the bewitching Miura, the awesome Countach, the elegant Espada and the original 350 and 400 models as well as the Islero, Jarama, the imposing LM002 "off-road" car and the Urraco, Silhouette and Jalpa V8 engined cars.
The various superb Diablo models drove Lamborghini onwards to the 21st century and both the Murciélago and Gallardo are continuing the bloodline and are, like the great cars of the past, lauded with high praise for the sheer power and intensity of the driving experience they offer.
Automobili Lamborghini has had a turbulent and eventful history. Sometimes events seem to conspire to give the impression that soon these great cars would be no more... now, that raging bull that is the badge every Lamborghini carries still roars in mighty defiance!
LAMBORGHINI - A LIVING LEGEND
The whole history of Automobili Lamborghini is directly related to the man who had the inspiration, the skill and the determination to turn a dream into reality.
Ferruccio Lamborghini was born in Renazzo, a little village near Bologna, on the 28 April 1916. His parents were farmers but Ferruccio did not inherit from them any great love of the land and, from the very earliest days of his life, showed a far greater interest in technology and mechanics.
He completed his technical studies in Bologna and soon after was able to put his knowhow to the test in the Italian military. After capture by British and American forces during the Second World War, despite being a prisoner of war, he was placed in charge of much military vehicle maintenance on Rhodes for the British Army!
It was probably due to this experience that once he returned home, he started buying old military vehicles and converting them into tractors, something that Italy desperately needed after the War. The success of this enterprise prompted him to buy a workshop in Cento, near Renazzo, where, from 1948 onward, Lamborghini tractors were produced. In 1959 the Lamborghini product line was extended to including heating and air conditioning units
Having obtained a degree of great personal wealth, Ferruccio Lamborghini was able to indulge his passion for the best cars of the time – Jaguars, Mercedes, Maseratis and Ferraris. He experienced poor standards of production and workmanship with one particular Ferrari and having had no satisfaction from Enzo Ferrari, he then decided to turn his attention to cars and in doing so, his life took a decisive turn and the car world was never the same again.
It is interesting to note that, (despite this high-handedness!), for his services to racing, Enzo Ferrari was given the title ‘Commendatore’, ie: he was commended by the government in Italy. By contrast, Ferruccio Lamborghini, for his services to Italian agriculture and the lives of many Italians after the war, was made ‘Cavaliere dell Lavoro’ – a knight of labour!
He opened a car factory in Sant’ Agata in 1963, which started delivering cars in 1964. Year after year this factory has produced cars that have been the ideal of beauty and perfection expressing better then anything, Ferruccio Lamborghini’s desire for the very best.
From 1963 to 1972 the company grew at a steady rate, the only limiting factor being the launch of new cars which sometimes slowed down production capacity.
The year 1972 however, was marked by the worst crisis ever known by Lamborghini, coupled with the oil and petrol embargo and a general world recession which resulted in a dramatic reduction in sales. Ferruccio was forced to sell 51% of the company to a Swiss businessman, Georges-Henri Rossetti. Then in 1974 he sold the remaining 49% of his shares to a friend of Rossetti, René Leimer. The new shareholders did not have day to day involvement in the company and were reluctant to invest and the company found itself in difficulty with suppliers who were concerned over late payment of invoices.
1977 was probably the worst year for Automobili Lamborghini. Strategic mistakes on the part of the new owners caused Automobili Lamborghini to over invest in an off-road vehicle without the prospect of sales. The under-evaluation of an agreement with BMW for the production of the M1 series of sports cars was cancelled by the German company in 1978.
The situation was so serious that the Bologna courts were forced to place Automobili Lamborghini in receivership. Fortunately, the company was entrusted to Alessandro Artese, an expert in Italian commercial law, who was also a car enthusiast. Together with Ubaldo Sgarzi, the Automobili Lamborghini sales manager and Giulio Alfieri, technical director, they managed to pull the company through a difficult time, whilst searching for new shareholders.
The company never closed down, thanks to the determination of its employees, the passion and loyalty of its clients and the support of its distributors. This situation lasted until July 1980 when the Bologna court decided to sell the company to the Mimran family, famous tycoons in the food industry. The new owners, whose passion for cars was well known, started rebuilding the company investing in the plant and in new products and the search for a skilled workforce.
Decisive improvements were achieved from 1984 to 1986: Automobili Lamborghini took off again and new foundations were set for growth whilst the symbol of the company, the raging bull, became even more well established and known around the world.
The growth rate was so fast and so demanding upon capital expenditure that it made it almost impossible for the Mimrans to support it properly. The need for a bigger and stronger partner became obvious and Chrysler seemed to be an ideal choice.
Chrysler, fortunately, found Lamborghini extremely attractive, thanks to its motivated management, its new products, the quality of the workforce and Chrysler’s own fascination of the marque: Chrysler asked the Mimran family for total share capital and an agreement was reached between them and signed in Sant’ Agata on the 23rd of April 1987.
On 7th of May 1990 after 19 years of work and 1997 cars produced, the Countach went out of production giving way to the Diablo.
Yet another crisis of the world market was approaching. The ensuing years were very hard for automobile manufacturers and were a disaster for the world economy. The recession became dramatic and the supercar market in 1992 registered a significant drop in sales.
In September of the same year Automobili Lamborghini presented the Diablo Special Edition to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the company’s foundation.
Ferruccio Lamborghini died at the age of 76 on 20 February 1993.
In January 1994 Chrysler Corporation agreed to sell Automobili Lamborghini to MegaTech, an Indonesian company.
In 1994 Lamborghini won, for the first time, the Class 1 World Off-shore championship, setting a leadership standard that continues today.
On the 24 of July 1998 an agreement between the shareholders of Lamborghini and Audi was signed in London for the complete take-over of the company. Finally the House of the Bull has a strong owner, widely respected in the automotive world for it’s technical competence and commercial success, that will open new perspective of success to the supercars built in Sant’ Agata.
In January 2000 the face-lift of the Lamborghini Headquarters started. It was completed in Summer 2001.
On the same occasion, the replacement of the Diablo was unveiled: the Lamborghini Murciélago with a Roadster version following in 2004. The Gallardo was launched in 2003 at the 40th Anniversary of the founding of Automobili Lamborghini and the last few months have been full of rumours about more (and more varied) new cars from Lamborghini in the next few years!
THE REALISATION OF A DREAM
Perhaps the best way to appreciate the story of Automobili Lamborghini is to go back in time and follow its development. The history of these cars demonstrates how the dream became a reality.
1963 The factory Automobili Lamborghini opened in Sant’ Agata Bolognese. The first Lamborghini prototype, called the 350 GTV, was shown at the Turin Motor Show in October.
1964 The 350 GT, a refinement of the original prototype, was shown at the Geneva Motor Show as a statement of Lamborghini’s intent to be a true player in the sports car market. The vehicle featured a 3.5 litre, four-cam V12, a fully synchronised five speed transmission, limited slip differential, four wheel independent suspension and all round disc brakes. An enthusiastic public reaction prompted production to begin. A chassis for a mid-engined car was also shown at Turin in 1965 with the intention that the best ‘Carrozzeria’ in Italy should contend to design the bodywork of this car…
1966 Characterised by its 3.9 litre engine, the 400 GT was produced as a derivative of the 350 GT. Simultaneously Lamborghini began building its own transmissions and finaldrive units and combined this feature with the 3.9 litre engine, revised bodywork and +2 seating to produce the 400 GT 2+2 model. A production prototype, designed by Marcello Gandini of Bertone, called the Miura, made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show using the chassis as shown previously at Turin. The car caused a stir, as its bare chassis had during the previous year and further established the reputation of Lamborghini.
1968 Launched at the Geneva Motor Show in this year, the Islero 400 GT featured an aluminium, quad cam V12 engine; all wheel independent suspension and disc brakes; comprehensive cockpit fittings and luxury interiors. Described as a businessman’s express, the Islero, although shorter, was roomier than the 400 GT 2+2. Described as the only truly four seater GT car, the Espada combined the looks, performance and handling of a top-line sports car with comfortable and luxurious accommodation for four. Built of solid steel “unibody” construction, the Espada became one of the most admired and successful Lamborghinis.
1969 Criticism of the Islero 400 GT design inspired an improved model in the late summer of 1969, tagged Islero S or GTS. Modifications included a reworked interior, several suspension improvements and a much more potent engine. “Mailbox slot” hot air exhaust vents behind each front wheel, a slight flare to all wheel arches and fixed triangular quarterlights on the front portion of each door window were all additional features on this Islero GTS model.
1970 The Miura S, an upgraded version of the original Miura, featured stronger chassis construction, rear suspension modifications, ventilated disc brakes and an engine with reshaped combustion chambers, higher lift cams and bigger carburettors, all contributing to even stronger performance. The successor to the Islero, the Jarama was built on an all new “unibody” floor plan derived from the Espada. The car was surprisingly nimble and fast. Deliberately unspectacular, the Jarama was rightly described as more bold than beautiful.
1971 A third revision to the original Miura of 1966, the SV featured completely redesigned front and rear suspension, with updated tyres and rims that dictated wider rear fenders.
1971 Marcello Gandini, assisted by Paolo Stanzani’s engineering expertise, designed an all new competition inspired sports car prototype, the Countach, which was shown at the Geneva Motor Show. The car featured high speed dynamics, high cornering limits, a handmade aluminium body and a dramatic “wedge” body profile.
1972 Having the body design executed by Bertone in an attempt to produce a “special” look, Lamborghini unveiled the Urraco 250 at the Turin Motor Show. It was described as having a genuine beauty and a rare blend of balance, delicacy, grace, innovation and passion that seemed ageless. The revised Jarama was referred to as the Jarama S. The car was distinguished by its hood scoop, side fender vents, parallel parking wipers and five bolt wheels. It had more horsepower and there were significant interior improvements, including better seating, instrumentation. It was the last front engined Lamborghini car. Ferruccio Lamborghini famously considered the Jarama S to be his perfect Lamborghini! The first Countach prototype appeared at the Geneva Motor Show.
1973 The second Countach prototype was shown at the Paris Motor Show and also the Urraco 250S was launched – a detail improvement of the original car.
1974 The Countach LP400 production vehicle was shown at the Geneva Motor Show. A second Gandini design for Lamborghini, it stole the show! The car featured a 3.9 litre V12 engine, tubular chassis and superior performance to most other cars.
1975 A replacement for the Urraco 250, the Urraco 300 was introduced which featured many improvements and detailed changes to engine, transmission, suspension and bodywork.
1976 The Silhouette, a new vehicle based on the Urraco 300 was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show. It received favourable reviews due to its aggressive good looks, stunning performance and a practical day-to-day driving ability.
1977 In an attempt to build a series of vehicles for Mobility Technology International, Lamborghini produced the Cheetah, an entry into the military market. Receiving less interest from the army than the public, the vehicle was adapted for the civilian market.
1978 Created largely due to interest expressed by a Lamborghini fan and racing driver, Walter Wolf, the Countach 400S used much wider, low profile, Pirelli P7 tyres requiring alterations in the suspension geometry of the car and fibreglass fender flares.
1981 As a follow up to the Cheetah, the LM001 went into production and was available with a rear mounted 4.7 Litre Countach V12.
1982 The Countach 500S featured a new 4.7 litre engine, produced 375 bhp and 302 Ib.ft. torque, and was designed to meet tightening emission standards in the USA. The Jalpa was introduced and went into production. It featured a new transversemounted midship V8 engine and 5 speed transmission. It was a two seater design with a modular instrument panel, excellent ergonomics and an updated equipment package, including a new ventilation system. The LMA prototype is produced from the previous LM001 design. The newest model featured front engine placement, revision to the suspension, chassis and power steering. It was able to carry extra people where the engine had been in the Cheetah and LM001. It was redesignated LM002 in anticipation of a production series.
1985 Featuring a “quattrovalvole” four valves per cylinder engine, the Countach received its third major revision and was renamed 5000 QV. Other alterations from previous models included revisions to suspension and brakes.
1988 Lamborghini celebrated its 25th anniversary as a manufacturer of exotic sports cars and introduced the last Countach variant, the 25th Anniversary Edition.
1990 Lamborghini produced the first Diablo, the fastest production car in the world at that time, reaching a top speed of over 202 mph.
1992 An open-top version of the Diablo, the Roadster was presented at Geneva.
1993 On February 20 of this year, Ferruccio Lamborghini died in hospital, near his home and vinyard in Umbria in central Italy. This vinyard is still owned by his daughter Patrizia and produces wines of ever improving quality. In March 1993 the Diablo VT, 4WD, was introduced to the press and the public during the Geneva motor show. In September the Diablo Special Edition was introduced to the public at the factory in Sant’ Agata Bolognese. Production was limited to 150 units built during 1994-1995.
1994 The Class 1 Off Shore season started off well for Lamborghini engineers who had increased power from their engines (8 litre V12s) to almost 950bhp! November: the 1994 Off-Shore season ended with the last two races in Dubai. Lamborghini was World Champion in Class 1 for the first time.
1995 A magnificent/bizarre special cherry red Diablo Roadster VT with a fuchsia pink interior was presented at the Bologna Motor Show. Production of the Roadster took off immediately! Ferrucio’s son, Tonino, completed the “Centro Studi e Ricerche Ferruccio Lamborghini” as a tribute to his father outside the Lamborghini factory in Cento where heating and air-conditioning equipment is still made.
1996 At the Geneva Motor Show the Diablo SV (Sport Veloce) was presented, a simplified and more sporty version of the Diablo, inspired by the legendary Miura SV. With an engine power of 525 bhp, reduced weight and a shorter final drive ratio the car reached 100 km/h in less than 4 seconds. The Diablo SVR was also presented, to compete in a Lamborghini mono-marque championship. The championship successfully took off with 26 Diablo SVR’s lining up on the main European circuits. The Class 1 World Off-Shore Championship was once again a victory year for the Lamborghini marine engine.
1997 The Lamborghini SVR Championship successfully continued with the participation of about 30 Diablo SVRs and it ended with the last race in Zhuhai, China. Also for this year Lamborghini marine engines were again the World Class 1 Offshore Championship winners.
1998 The Model Year ‘99 Diablo was presented at the Paris Motor Show with major engine improvement which delivered, with new variable intake valve timing and new electronics, an increase to at least 530 bhp (390 kW) in all models. The brakes were also improved with much wider discs and an advanced ABS system developed by the Lamborghini. The dashboard has been completely redesigned and the new headlamps give a fresher look to the front of the Diablo. The Lamborghini SVR Championship successfully continued with the participation of 30 Diablo SVRs starting with a race in Melbourne, Australia. The Lamborghini marine engines were still heading the World Class 1 Offshore Championship. Five boats equipped with Lamborghini engines and gearboxes were leading the group of 11 participants for most of the season…
1999 The Diablo GT, a high performance version of the Diablo with numerous body parts in carbon fibre, a 6 litre engine and a sportier chassis and suspension, was shown at the Geneva Motor Show. This model was produced in a limited edition of only 80 units. The 1999 Lamborghini SVR Championship opened the season on the Monza race track with 26 Diablo SVRs. Lamborghini’s marine engines won many races in the 1999 Class 1 World Offshore Championship by powering 5 out of 9 boats participating in the events. At the Bologna Motor Show at the beginning of December, the Diablo GTR was presented. This model is derived from the Diablo GT and was intended for racing only. The 6 Litre V12 engine now had an output of 590 bhp (575 in the GT) and was equipped with all the necessary devices needed for race track competition.
2000 At the Detroit Motor Show, at the beginning of January, the Diablo 6.0 was presented with a 6 litre V12 engine (5.7 Litre V12 in the previous versions). The power increased to 550 bhp and the body was mainly made of carbon fibre. In May 2000 the Lamborghini GTR Supertrophy started. The Championship saw a line up of more than 20 Lamborghini Diablo GTRs. In June 2000 the Class 1 Offshore Championship started with most of the boats being equipped with Lamborghini engines, yet again…
2001 In September the newly refurbished Lamborghini factory was inaugurated and the new 6.2 litre Murciélago was unveiled. The car was shown to the world’s Lamborghini Clubs that month, sadly just days before the tragedy of the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York.
2002 Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. began to design a longed-for successor to the Jalpa and the variant of the Murciélago that was to become the Murciélago Roadster.
2003 At the 40th Anniversary celebrations of Automobili Lamborghini in May 2003, the 5.0 litre, V10 engined Gallardo was launched and fulfiled its great promise with excellent sales figures throughout the world in this and during the following years.
2004 Lamborghini marine engines won yet another World Class 1 Offshore title in this year, as they have done most years since the inception of the worldwide formula in the 1990’s.
2005 In this year, Automobili Lamborghini have launched the Gallardo SE variant and also the Gallardo Spyder, to much acclaim.
2006 In 2006 Automobili Lamborghini announced the new incarnation of the Murciélago, the LP640 – with even more power, even more style, even more…
2007 In 2007, Automobili Lamborghini added the Murciélago LP640 Roadster and the limited edition Gallardo Superleggera. Press and public acclaim followed both cars onwards in a near-frenzy of appearances in magazines and online media of all kinds.
In addition, there has been lots of speculation about the fabulous Reventón... Automobili Lamborghini will make just 20 of them and they have polarised opinion at least as much as any new Lamborghini ever has!
2008 This year, the fabulous Gallardo LP560-4 was launched. Numerous performance and appearance revisions and additions ensured that this car was far more than ‘just’ an upgrade!
Also at the 2006 Paris Motor show, Lamborghini showed a fantastic 4 door design called the Estoque. It was a revolutionary car in Lamborghini terms that may see production in the next few years…