In this week's debut issue we'll talk about the origins of Lamborghini and the company's first ever car
Ferruccio Lamborghini was born on April 28, 1916, in Renazzo, Italy. Since childhood, Ferruccio showed a great interest in mechanics, and was heavily drawn to farming machinery.
During his early years, he studied at the Fratelli Taddia (Taddia Brothers) technical institute near Bologna and, in 1934 he found work at the Cavalier Righi factory in Bologna and, shortly thereafter, he started a mechanical workshop with a friend.
In 1940, he started working as a mechanic for the Italian Royal Air Force at the Italian garrison on the island of Rhodes, where he became the supervisor of the vehicle maintenance unit. Howewer, Ferruccio was taken prisoner when Rohodes fell to the British at the end of WW2, and was only able to return home the following year.
Shortly after returning home, Ferruccio got married to Italian woman Clelia Monti, but unfortunately she died two years later in 1947, while giving birth to their son Tonino.
Lamborghini's short racing experience
Ferruccio Lamborghini's Fiat Topolino Mille Miglia racecar
Around that time, Ferruccio opened a garage in Pieve di Cento and, in his spare time, modified an old Fiat 500 “Topolino”, transforming it into a 750cc open-top two-seater, and entered it in the 1948 Mille Miglia.
Before becoming what it is today, the Mille Miglia was a full-on race where the slower cars are released first. Ferruccio himself raced in the 1948 event, but his participation ended after 1,100 km (around 700 miles), when he ran into the side of a restaurant in Turin, wrecking his Fiat. That accident made him lose all kinds of enthusiasm for motorsport.
Lamborghini Trattori, Ferruccio Lamborghini's new business
Ferruccio Lamborghini in front of one of his tractors, celebrating another success
In 1947 Ferruccio Lamborghini recognized an emerging market in post-War Italy devoted to agricultural and industrial revitalization. Using parts from military vehicle engines and differentials from ARAR centres (Azienda Recupero Alienazione Residuati), Lamborghini built the first of his “Carioca” tractors, themselves based on the six-cylinder petrol engines of Morris trucks. As petrol in Italy was prohibitively-priced, Lamborghini augmented the Morris engines with a fuel atomiser of his own creation, which allowed the tractors to be started with petrol, then switch to the cheaper diesel fuel.
Based on the initial success of the Carioca, Lamborghini founded Lamborghini Trattori and began manufacturing tractors. Within a few years, the company’s production had risen from one tractor a week to about 200 a year, and new Italian-made engines were replacing the old war surplus. The enactment of the Fanfani law of 25th July, 1952 helped the company make a further quality leap. In fact, it was in the first half of the 1950s that Lamborghini was transformed to all effects into an industrial affair.
Lamborghini's wealth and the argument with Enzo Ferrari
A Ferrari 250 GT similar to the one owned by Ferruccio
Lamborghini’s increasing wealth allowed him to purchase faster, more expensive cars than the tiny Fiats he had tinkered with during his youth. He owned cars such as Alfa Romeos and Lancias during the early 1950s, and at one point, had enough cars to use a different one every day of the week, adding a Mercedes-Benz 300SL, a Jaguar E-Type coupé, and two Maserati 3500 GTs. Of the latter, Lamborghini said that Adolfo Orsi, then the owner of Maserati, was a man he had a lot of respect for, since he had started life as a poor boy, just like Ferruccio himself, although he didn’t like his cars much. In 1958, Ferruccio went to Maranello to purchase a Ferrari 250GT, a car of which he would’ve later owned various models. But he soon found out that Ferrari’s gearboxes were quite weak and needed constant rebuilds, much to his disappointment. He had previously expressed dissatisfaction with Ferrari’s after sales service, which he perceived to be substandard, and brought his misgivings to Enzo Ferrari’s attention, but was dismissed by the notoriously pride-filled Modenan, who said:
In the 60s it was simply not allowed to criticize a Ferrari, and that's exactly what Ferruccio did
After successfully modifying one of his personally-owned Ferrari 250 GTs to outperform stock models, Lamborghini gained the impetus to pursue an automobile manufacturing venture of his own, aiming to create the perfect touring car that he felt no one could build for him. Ferruccio was convinced that a grand tourer should have attributes that were lacking in Ferrari’s offerings, namely high performance without compromising tractability, ride quality, and interior appointments. A clever businessman, Lamborghini also knew that he could make triple the profit if the components used in his tractors were installed in a high-performance exotic car instead.
A brand new, ultra modern factory
Ferruccio Lamborghini in front of a Jarama and a tractor, with the Automobili Lamborghini factory in the background
In 1963, Ferruccio bought a large portion of ground in Sant’Agata Bolognese and built a large, modern factory. In May of the same year, he founded Automobili Lamborghini, with one precise objective: to produce a refined grand touring car capable of competing with offerings from established marques such as Ferrari.
Ferruccio Lamborghini visiting Don Eduardo Miura's ranch
The world of bullfighting is a key part of Lamborghini’s identity. In 1962, Ferruccio visited the Seville ranch of Don Eduardo Miura, a renowned breeder of Spanish fighting bulls. Lamborghini, a Taurus himself, was so impressed by the majestic Miura animals that he decided to adopt a raging bull as the emblem for the auto company he would soon found.
Lamborghini's first sportscar, the 350 GTV
Lamborghini's first car, the 350 GTV, had a very futuristic design for its era, and it still looks beautiful today
Lamborghini’s first car, the stunning 350 GTV, was presented at the 1963 Turin Car Show.
The company’s first models, such as the 350 GT, were released in the mid-1960s and were noted for their refinement, power and comfort.
Designed by Franco Scaglione and Giorgio Prevedi, the 350 GTV had a sleek, futuristic body and was characterized by two retractable headlights, and a large rib that divided the bonnet in two, as well as an horizontal air intake placed in the right part of the hood, paired with Ferruccio’s signature. The back has a more squared shape instead, in stark contrast to the futuristic front.
The car’s body was built by Carrozzeria Sargiotto in Turin and the tube frame chassis was built in Modena by Giorgio Neri and Luciano Bonacini.
Ferruccio Lamborghini in 1963. In the foreground we can see the 350 GTV's V12 engine, while in the background there is the GTV itself
The 350 GTV had a longitudinal, front mounted, 3497cc, dry sump, naturally aspirated V12 engine designed and built by Giotto Bizzarrini, a former Ferrari chief engineer.
The engine was capable of developing 347 hp (342 bhp) at 8,000 rpm and 326 n/m (240 lbf/ft) of torque, and was mated to a 5-speed ZF manual gearbox. Ironically, though, the engine never actually sat inside the car, as it was found out during the assembly process that the body panels couldn’t fit around it.
As such, for the entirety of the Turin Car Show the GTV’s engine bay was filled with bricks, and it also lacked foot pedals, brake calipers and windshield wipers.
The 350 GTV seen from a rear three-quarters view
After the 1963 Turin Auto Show, the 350 GTV was placed into storage, where it remained until the mid-1980s, when car dealer Romano Bernandoni and his cousin, Lamborghini expert Stefano Pasini, convinced the management to sell it to them. Bernandoni and Pasini did not receive the gauges and steering wheel with the car. They did, however, receive several proposals to modify the car into running condition and accepted one. During the modification process, the car’s colour was changed from its original pale blue to deep metallic green at the owner’s request.
The 350 GTV was then sold to a Japanese collector, who placed it in the Noritake Collection. Several years later, the 350 GTV was placed on display at the Lamborghini Museum in Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy, where it is currently staying.
The 350 GTV was Lamborghini’s first concept car, and a forerunner of the company’s first production car, the 350 GT.