It was on the family estate at Renazzo, north of Bologna in Italy that Ferruccio Lamborghini was born a dedicated and determined Taurus, on April 28, 1916. The logo of his company suggests just that - a grounded, healthfully sturdy, snorting golden bull, with his head lowered and ready to charge, against a rich velvet black background. The male bovine theme of ambition, solidarity, stability, and strength is followed by the various names of Lamborghini models, such as Islero ('a logical successor to the 400 GT, a great classic and very traditional in its body, designed by Marazzi'), Miura ('a sports car for the young at heart who want to go like hell and be seen' and also 'too extrovert'), Espada ('the Lamborghini of the mature man, the next step after Miura') and Urraco ('an ideal car for women who like to go fast').
The Love for Machine
Ferruccio's natural inclination toward machinery led him to take a course in Industrial Technology at the Fratelli Taddia Institute near Bologna, where he graduated in 1940. Soon after, during the time of the Second World War, he was drafted and landed up in the army, stationing him as a ground crew member of the Air Force, on the island of Rhodes in Greece, where he served as a mechanic.
The island, however, fell to the hands of the British by the end of the war in 1945. Italy's economic condition was sinking due to the effects of World War II and the only way to revive it was through the natural resources they had. Then, in 1946, after he was released from British captivity, where he was held as a prisoner of war, Lamborghini went straight back to Modena in Northern Italy to live his love of mechanics. By this time, in 1947, he married, but tragically lost his wife, who gave birth to his first child, Tonino. Ferruccio began manufacturing exercise-equipment for Italian women who wanted to have a trim silhouette. However, it didn't do so well in post-war Italy, where there were other concerns.
He opened up a garage or rather a small car and motorcycle repair shop. His love of fast cars and speed had him enter quite a few races with his Fiat barnstormer, and in 1948, attempted the Millie Miglia, in the 750cc class with Baglioni as his team-mate. Agriculture was one of the best ways to step up in the economic department. Lack of machinery and the demand for it sparked Lamborghini to rev up to the matter at once, with ample energy. There was a dire need for tractors in the agricultural area near his hometown, where he was living at that time. He focused all his attention and energies in purchasing and assembling war-torn military vehicles in his workshop to make reliable tractors. He started to build his own tractor engines.
By the 1950s, Lamborghini's tractor company, Lamborghini Trattori S.p.A., had become one of the biggest companies, selling agricultural equipment and reaching over a rate of around 6 tractors a day and 400 tractors a month in 1960. He also set his foot in other ventures like manufacturing air-conditioning and heating systems to invest his profits. At the back of his mind, however, the wish to build his ideal car still raged on.
Beginnings of the Lamborghini
Ferruccio was fond of Ferrari's and the blooming success with his business allowed him to be able to afford several of them. He thought of them, however, as too noisy and rough for the road and was quite disappointed with them, mainly their engines. He makes mention of how their clutches got burned (Ferrari 250 GT) and went straight to Enzo Ferrari's factory, which wasn't too far. Every time he went there he was made to wait and he thought that all the people there got some malicious pleasure out of it. Ferrari had retorted to Ferruccio's displeasure, saying that once he had kept the King of Belgium waiting, so Mr. Lamborghini, who was simply a builder of tractors and boilers, had nothing to object about really. Ferrari had cracked, 'You know how to drive a tractor, but you'll never learn to drive a Ferrari.' Enzo Ferrari, thus, proud of his position and obstinate with his view about Ferruccio and all of Lamborghini's suggestions to make improvements fell on deaf ears.
Lamborghini had just about enough and sought to build his own car the way he wanted it, and a sturdy one at that! What Lamborghini decided to do firstly was to get a bigger clutch, which he did, from Borg and Beck. Then, discarding Ferrari's cylinder heads with a single overhead camshaft and 12 rockers, he replaced with those of his own design with twin cam shafts. He then put the engine back in 250GT and fitted 6 horizontally mounted carburetors (the one that would be on the 350GT just 2 years later). Lamborghini was pleased with the result and often waited for the test drivers from Maranello (a town in Northern Italy, 18km from Modena) sporting a ProvaMo on their plates at the entrance to the superhighway near Modena. He realized his Ferrari blazing speedily up to 25kph faster than theirs, which he knew was due to his ingenious four-cam conversion. They would ask him what he's done to his car to which he used to answer with a knowing smile, 'Oh, I don't know."
Ferrari never spoke to him again after that. Lamborghini acknowledges modestly and respectfully that Ferrari was a great man, but that it was just too easy to upset him.
The Establishment of Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini
A lot of people thought it a mad extravagance as making that kind of car in those days was a risk. They thought he's just squander his fortune and never get any profit from it. But, a determined Lamborghini trusted too well that it was a risk worth taking. As he had gained a lot of experience with other companies, he knew just the kind of space and facilities he needed to build a structure that functioned optimally well before he bought a large plot of land in Sant'Agata Bolognese. There was an opinionated and brilliant team of engineers who were willing to take part in making Ferruccio's dream come true. These included Gianpaolo Dallara, Paolo Stanzani, Giotto Bizzarrini and others. He was, thus, able to set up a well-lit central ultramodern functional building, adjacent to the office building. This was rather ideal for him, because if he noticed something not quite done the way he'd envisioned it, he could simply roll up his sleeves and go to work on the cars himself.
By late 1962, he had begun working on his project and established officially 'Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini' in Sant'Agata Bolognese, Italy. And, thus began the history of 'Lamboghini Automobili'. Lamborghini had commissioned the engineering firm Società Autostar to design a V12 engine for use in his new cars. He turned to Giotto Bizzarrini, who had successfully designed some of Ferrari's very recent engines. For the rest of the car, there were two young, enthusiastic and promising engineers, Giampaolo Dallara and Giampaolo Stanzani.
The 350 GT
Lamborghini surprised the automotive universe, with his two-seater coupe 350 GTV prototype in 1963. The original Bizzarrini-designed 3.5 V-12 was a race motor, ably developing 400 hp at 11,000rpm. They realized that they should decide a car meant for mass production and replaced the expensive dry sump oiling system made for race-cars with a conventional wet sump oil, cut back on exotic materials to reduce costs. Giotto Bizzarrini was responsible for the V12 engine, whilst Giampolo Dallara and Giampolo Stanzani looked after the chassis. The styling was done by Franco Scaglione. By 1964, the 350GT's production was in full swing, building 120 of them.
Lamborghini soon began working on the two-seater bodied 400 GT, whose engine was increased to a 4-liter model. Later it developed into a 400 GT of 2+2. The combined production of the 400 GT reached up to 273 units.
The Turin auto show of 1965 had a decidedly profound impact on the history of the company, and the whole of the automotive industry. The passionate and enthusiastic engineers, Dallara and Stanzani, were trusted by Lamborghini and came up with bright advanced ideas based on the state-of-the-art in race cars at that time, which was the two-seater sports car. They, thus, codenamed their project 400 TP, having the 4-liter 12-cylinder engine of the 400 GT mounted transversely behind the cockpit, with the gearbox and the differential put together with the engines base of a single casting.
They made the chassis absolutely lightweight, and of bent, welded and drilled sheet metal. The two designers went up to Lamborghini who approved of their idea at once, thinking it would be great to have it advertised, though it wouldn't sell more than 50 globally. However, this time, Lamborghini was not quite aware that he might have made the wrong decision. The chassis was built promptly to have it exhibited at the Turin Auto Show in October 1965. The expert on cars and engines, Giueseppe 'Nuccio' Bertone believed wholly in Lamborghini's talent and capabilities, saw the chassis and said that he's found 'a shoe that fits him'. Thus, hands were shook.
Marcello Gandini, another Italian car designer who worked for Gruppo Bertone, gave Bertone a hand with interpreting his ideas to create a unique and dramatic body for Lamborghini's chassis, which on its own was robustly eloquent and aggressive, yet dignified. The result was a snazzy prototype Miura. The Spanish Miura bulls are aggressive, dangerous, large and cunning in bullfighting, as they are highly intelligent. Lamborghini had an instinctive sense to give his cars names associated with bulls and bullfighting, as he'd visited a Miura ranch, which inspired and induced to make these bulls a symbol of his own industrial empire.
By June 1966, the company was ready with an astounding number of exquisite new car models. Everyone readied the Miura, from October to February, working at a feverish pace for oblong hours, seven days a week, to present the new model at the Geneva Motor Show of 1966. Their efforts were more than paid off as the Miura stood out divinely at the Motor Show in Geneva. One Saturday afternoon, when Ferruccio Lamborghini had brought his orange Miura to the Monte Carlo Grand Prix and parked it upfront the Hotel de Paris, there were so many people ogling at this mechanic wonder that the whole square in front of Casino was flooded and jammed, resulting into their being a manic interest in the car and orders too. It was a definite success!
The company went on at its normal pace and in 1972, the production of the P250 Urraco, the 400 GT Jarama, the 400 GT Espada and P400 Miura SV was in full swing. That year sales plummeted a bit. Due to the hurried start of its production in 1972, the Urraco, whose quality had been neglected a bit had its sale experience a bit of a setback and was put once more into production to improve its quality. The S version of the car arrived in the October of the same year.
In the year that followed, whilst the Countach prototype awaited its production, the Espada's body, dashboard, central instrument panel and various other components were further modified and brought to perfection, along with giving her a new set of wheels to speed on. The new Series III was presented in October 1972. The production reached a money-minting figure of 1226 units.
The production model of the Countach was codenamed LP 400 as its V12 was increased to 4-litre (3929 cc). The model was presented at the 1973 Geneva Motor Show. By the end of 1973 began the standard production of the Countach. A green model, featuring for the first time a large single front windshield wiper, was exhibited at the Paris Motor Show, which now remains part of the collection of the Lamborghini Museum. The model range for 1974, thus included the Countach, the Espada Series III, the Jarama S and the Urraco S.
War and Difficulty
The world outside the automotive one, however, was changing drastically due to the Arab-Israeli War which made way for oil crises and fear about supply of petrol. Super sports cars that guzzled large amounts of fuel changed their face from being respected and stylish to those being the outward extravagant expression of exploitative and unjust rich. Lamborghini tried his best to deal with the situation of the growing fuel crises and plummeting sales, by presenting two new Urraco models, one two-liter model called the P200 and a 3-liter model, P300. The social situation wasn't doing too well and there was a drop in its sales.
The Jarama went quite out of production. Bertone proposed a study which was based on the mechanics of the P300 at the 1974 Motor Show in Turin. Bravo, with its wedge-shaped coup was quite unusual in deference to the front and rear hood and the front and side black windows jointed without visible posts. Lamborghini began working alongside Bertone and came up with, Silhouette, a Urraco model that had the same 3-litre 260 hp V8 engine of the Urraco P300, mounted in the middle transversely behind the cockpit, had a removable roof-panel and the body and chassis were both made entirely out of steel.
The slacking economic situation and production difficulties soon began to hinder the running of the company. There was equipment which just sat around in the company as it watched the sales drop. Outside help was needed.
Collaboration with BMW
Jochen Neerpasch, head of BMW Motorsport, extended his collaborative support to Lamborghini in 1976. However, more complications ensued when the company decided to design and build an entirely new off-road vehicle (something that had never been done at Sant'Agata before) owing to contacts with military suppliers of off-road vehicles, particularly with MTI (Mobility Technologies International). The idea of the Cheetah came about - a high-performance off-road vehicle and good for even the roughest terrain. There were various technical and legal problems, making it impossible for the small Italian company to produce the Cheetah, lack of investments also being a major concern. The collaboration with BMW melted away.
Now, all productions, except that of the S version of Countach (which meant 'wolf whistle' in particular and cat-calling in general, invented by Walter Wolf), slowly and gravely came to an end in the span of a year - Espada in 1978, the Urraco, and finally the Silhouette in 1979. Business was sullenly shrinking and the only thing the company could do to survive was to trudge on with the one extraordinary model. The company was surviving on the sale of Miuras, during the 70s. And it worked, though not as colorfully and in the ecstatic, golden, manic pace as it had been for the company so far. Between the years of 1978 and 1982, 237 units of the Countach were delivered.
Bankruptcy and Liquidation
Bertone still quite staunchly believed in the company and in 1980, presented an idea and study of a car, suggesting it would have no roof. It was based on the P300, called the Athon whose name was intended as a 'hymn to the sun', but it had no follow-up, and the company keeled over toward bankruptcy and then liquidation. By 1980, the story of Lamborghini was considered quite over. An Italian court was appointed to find a lawyer.
All the years of the enticing name that had carried with it these legendary cars took not much time for a couple of Swiss brothers, Jean Cluade and Patrick Mimran, who were wealthy owners of a sugar empire in Senegal and were car lovers too. The judge entrusted the company to them and they at once set to reconstruct it. And so was formed the 'Nuova Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini SpA' in January 1981. Later the ownership went to American businessman and Chrysler chairman Lee lacocca, known for engineering the Mustang. Later, it went to Megatech in 1994. It then went to V'Power, finally arriving in 1998 in the hands of Audi AG in 1998.
Getting Back to the Roots
In the meanwhile, Ferruccio, well-grounded and a peasant at heart, went back to his roots. He got straight into wine-making with a 750-acre estate at Panicorla in the Umbrian region of central Italy. The red wine came onto the market with the name 'Colli di Trasimeno' and quite quickly got the name of 'Sangue Di Miura', which means 'the blood of Miura'. He remarried when he was 58 to Maria Teresa and became a father for the second time and had a second child, a daughter called Patrizia. Ferruccio wine has received many awards due to its exceptional quality. Ferruccio Lamborghini was awarded the title 'Commedatore' and was knighted 'Cavaliere Del Lavaro'. He died of heart attack on 20th February, 1993 at the age of 77. He was buried in his hometown Renazzo.
So, this is what throbbed vibrantly throughout the Lamborghini history - a humble determined man with mechanics in his blood, of a modest background came, lost no enthusiasm in spite of changing times. Ferruccio Lamborghini, a man of forethought and vision, made his dreams on speedy wheels a dreamy reality.
You buy a Ferrari when you want to be somebody. You buy a Lamborghini when you are somebody. - Frank Sinatra