Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A., commonly referred to as Lamborghini, is an Italian manufacturer of high performance sports cars based in the small Italian village of Sant’Agata Bolognese, near Bologna. Lamborghini is now a subsidiary of German car manufacturer Audi AG, which is in turn a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group. Lamborghini’s latest model, the Reventón, is one of the fastest and most expensive of the Italian supercars. The company was founded in 1963 by businessman Ferruccio Lamborghini (April 28, 1916–February 20, 1993), who owned a successful tractor factory, Lamborghini Trattori S.p.A..
As told by Ferruccio Lamborghini’s son, Ferruccio Lamborghini went to meet Enzo Ferrari at the Ferrari factory to complain about the quality of the clutch in his Ferrari 250 GT. An infuriated Enzo Ferrari sent him away telling him to go drive his tractors because he was not able to drive cars. Lamborghini went back to his factory to have the Ferrari’s clutch dismantled and found that the clutch in the Ferrari was a product of the manufacturer who supplied the clutches used in Lamborghini tractors. Lamborghini installed a stronger clutch from his factory’s warehouse into his Ferrari and solved the clutch failure.
Furious with Enzo Ferrari’s arrogant and aloof manner, Ferruccio Lamborghini promised himself he would never own another Ferrari and would beat Ferrari at his own game by creating a superior sports car of his own.
Ferruccio decided that his car was to have a V12 engine. The talented engineer, Giotto Bizzarrini, was assigned to produce the blueprint. Bizzarrini had worked for Ferrari as an engineer and had experience with the development of the Ferrari V12. The new engine had 4 camshafts, a short stroke, and 2 big bore valves per cylinder. The engine developed 350 horsepower (260 kW). The engine featured aluminum construction, a seven main bearing crankshaft, forged aluminum pistons, and camshafts with their own half-engine-speed sprocket with silent chain. The body was designed by Franco Scaglione.
Born under the sign of the Taurus, Ferruccio Lamborghini used the bull as the badge to mark his new automobile.
The Lamborghini 350GTV prototype was introduced at the 1963 Turin Auto Show. Lamborghini commissioned Carrozzeria Touring to design a more practical model. This was put into production as the 350GT. Sales of the 350GT totaled 130.
Under Ferruccio Lamborghini
The 350GT was followed by the 400GT. Profits from the 400GT and its predecessor gave the company ample capital to design its first supercar, the Lamborghini Miura. The chassis of the new Miura was introduced by Ferruccio himself at the November 1965 Turin Auto Show. The car’s engine was transversely mounted. The styling was executed by Marcello Gandini in less than a year. The completed car was displayed at the March 1966 Geneva Auto Show. The car’s name was taken from the famed fighting-bull trainer, Don Eduardo Miura. The Miura was a success. One hundred and eleven Miuras were sold in 1967. Seven hundred and sixty-one were made in total. The Miura propelled the company into the small world of exotic supercar manufacturers.
The Espada, a four-seat car based on the Marzal concept car, was developed along side of the Miura. The name Espada means sword in Spanish, and referred to the sword used by the matador in bullfighting. Using the 4-litre V12 in a conventional front engine layout, the low slung touring car could attain a top speed of approximately 150 mph (240 km/h). An interesting feature of the Espada was a glass taillight panel that used the same taillights as the contemporary Fiat 124 Coupe. The Espada received minor improvements over its production, resulting in three distinct series.
In 1971, Lamborghini produced the LP500 Countach prototype. The Countach was named after an Italian slang term uttered in surprise by Nuccio Bertone upon seen the car for the first time. The production LP400 Countach was introduced three years later. The prototype was the first car to sport Lamborghini’s now-traditional scissor doors, along with vertically mounted rear air intakes. The Countach’s V12 engine initially had the same 4-litre capacity as the Miura, but this was enlarged to five litres upon the introduction of the LP500S Countach in 1982. The Countach was one of the first cars to use the Pirelli P-Zero tires. Lamborghini’s own test driver would often demonstrate the Countach’s abilities to journalists. Stories of the Countach’s amazing high speed cornering, power and grip were common. Another detail noted by journalists was the manner in which reversing a Countach was accomplished; raising the driver’s door and sitting on the door sill.
In 1972, however, the company suffered a major setback. A massive tractor order from a South American nation was canceled. In preparation of the order, Lamborghini had made upgrades to its factories to accommodate the increase in demand. Financial complications forced Ferruccio to sell part of his share of the tractor factory to Fiat. The tractor business was eventually acquired by SAME (now Same Deutz-Fahr). Lamborghini tractors are still sold today, as part of the SAME Deutz-Fahr Group.
Throughout the seventies, sales of the Countach kept the company in business. Eventually, the automobile division became self-sufficient and profitable. Lamborghini, however, sold all his remaining stock in the company to a Swiss investor. Lamborghini left the automotive industry to pursue wine making from his villa in the countryside. Ferruccio Lamborghini died in February 1993 at the age of 76.
Bankruptcy, Mimran, and Chrysler
The 1970s oil crisis plagued sales of high performance cars, and Lamborghini suffered budget and parts supply problems; cars were sold with two-year back orders, and customers became fed up with waiting for their cars. Also, Lamborghinis were never raced and were never fully developed; the company developed a reputation of building high-performance production cars while Ferrari and Porsche, and Maserati before them built illustrious careers in the racing world. Since the beginning the cars had continuous and expensive reliability problems, in the ’70s things became even worse, as cars now had to meet US emission requirements. All these factors contributed to the company’s demise. Like many other exotic Italian automobiles, the components used were often of poor quality. In 1978, Lamborghini declared bankruptcy. An Italian court was appointed to find a buyer, and the Swiss-based Mimran brothers took over the company. The 1980s saw things turn around for Lamborghini under its new ownership.
In a surprise move, the company was sold to the Chrysler Corporation in 1987. Lamborghini at the time was working on the Countach’s successor, the Diablo. Chrysler brought its vast resources to the playing field, along with design input, pollution controls, and new manufacturing techniques. The end result was another success for the company. The Lamborghini Diablo received fame much like that of its predecessor, and once again put the manufacturer on top of its game.
Post-Chrysler: Megatech and Audi
In 1994, poor economic circumstances at Chrysler forced them to sell Lamborghini to an Indonesian investment group headed by Tommy Suharto. These owners sold the company in the late 1990s, also while suffering from poor economic circumstances. By then however, the German car company Audi AG had gained interest in the ailing Italian company, and in 1998, in a complex series of transactions, Audi AG became the sole owner of Automobili Lamborghini.
Lamborghini’s latest owner once again greatly influenced the design of its cars, such as today’s Murcielago. Audi’s vast technical resources helped produce one of Lamborghini’s most sophisticated cars to date.
The Lamborghini badge with its connotations of exotic motoring has been licensed for use on unrelated products such as mountain bikes, watches, cigar lighters, humidors, sunglasses, and notebook computers from Asus in Taiwan.
Lamborghini’s outrageous supercar models have brought Lamborghini much fame. The Miura, the Countach, the Diablo, and the Murciélago, continue to be some of the most desired super cars of all time. The current (2007) range consists of the Murciélago LP640, the Murciélago LP640 Roadster and the smaller, less expensive Gallardo, Gallardo Spyder and Gallardo Superleggera. All are extremely fast, mid-engined 2-seaters with Lamborghini’s standard all-wheel drive systems. Their styling is largely the work of Belgian designer Luc Donckerwolke. Future models may include a rear-wheel-drive version of the Gallardo and possibly an SUV in the spirit of the LM002. The next generation of Lamborghini models will be penned by Walter de’Silva, who designed the 2006 Miura concept car and who replaced Luc Donckerwolke as head of Centro Stile Lamborghini, Lamborghini’s in-house design department.
Ferruccio Lamborghini had set a rule that Lamborghini would not be involved in motor racing. He saw such a program as too expensive and too demanding in company resources. Consequently, no Lamborghini racing car was fabricated under his management. The closest the company came to building racing cars at that time was when the company’s test driver Bob Wallace made a few highly modified prototypes based on existing models. Notable among these are the Miura SV based Jota and the Jarama S based Bob Wallace Special.
Under the management of Rosetti, Lamborghini entered into an agreement with BMW to build a production racing car in sufficient quantity for homologation. However, Lamborghini found itself unable to fulfill their part of the agreement. The car was eventually developed in-house by the BMW Motorsport Division, and was manufactured and sold as the BMW M1.
Lamborghini developed the QVX for the 1986 Group C championship season. One car was built, but lack of sponsorship caused it to miss the season. The QVX competed in only one race, the non-championship 1986 Southern Suns 500 km race at Kyalami in South Africa, driven by Tiff Needell. Despite the car finishing better than it started, sponsorship could not be found and the program was cancelled.
Lamborghini was an engine supplier in Formula One between the 1989 and 1993 Formula One seasons. It supplied engines to Larousse, Ligier, Lotus, Minardi and to a ‘Lamborghini’ team, although this last was not viewed as a works team by the car company. The 1992 Larousse/Lamborghini was largely uncompetitive but noteworthy in its tendency to spew oil from its exhaust system. Cars following closely behind the Larousse were commonly colored yellowish-brown by the end of the race.
Late in 1991, a Lamborghini Formula One motor would be used in the Konrad KM-011 Group C sports car, but the car would only last a few races before the project was canceled. The same engine, badged as a Chrysler by Lamborghini’s then parent company, was tested by McLaren towards the end of the 1993 season, with a view to its use during the 1994 season. Although driver Ayrton Senna was reportedly impressed with the engine’s performance, McLaren pulled out of negotiations, choosing a Peugeot engine instead, and Chrysler ended the project.
Two racing versions of the Diablo were built for the Diablo Supertrophy, a single-model racing series held annually from 1996 to 1999. In the first year, the model used in the series was the Diablo SVR, while the Diablo 6.0 GTR was used for the remaining three years.
Lamborghini developed the Murciélago R-GT as a production racing car to compete in the FIA GT Championship, the Super GT Championship and the American Le Mans Series in 2004. Their highest placing in any race that year was the opening round of the FIA GT Championship at Valencia, where the car entered by Reiter Engineering finished third from a fifth-place start. In 2006 during the opening round of the Super GT championship at Suzuka, a car run by the Japan Lamborghini Owners Club garnered the first victory (in class) by an R-GT.
A GT3 version of the Gallardo has been developed by Reiter Engineering.
A Murciélago R-GT entered by All-Inkl.com racing, driven by Christophe Bouchut and Stefan Mucke, won the opening round of the FIA GT Championship held at Zhuhai International Circuit, achieving the first major international race victory for Lamborghini.
Lamborghini has had a number of owners:
* Ferruccio Lamborghini 1963–1972
* Georges-Henri Rossetti and René Leimer 1972–1977
* bankrupt 1977–1984
* managed by Patrick Mimram 1980–1984
* Patrick Mimram 1984–1987
* Chrysler Corporation 1987–1994
* Megatech 1994–1995 (Permission granted for the Creation of Lamborghini Latinoamerica S.A.)
* V’Power, Mycom 1995–1998
* Audi AG 1998-present