On April 28, 1916, Ferruccio Lamborghini, the founder of the company that bears his name and is known for stylish, high-performance cars, is born in Italy.
After World War II, Lamborghini founded a business making tractors from reconfigured surplus military machines, near Bologna, Italy. He later expanded into other ventures, including manufacturing air-conditioning and heating systems, and grew rich. Lamborghini’s success enabled him to purchase a variety of luxury sports cars, including a Ferrari, considered one of the top cars of the time. After experiencing mechanical difficulties with his Ferrari, Lamborghini decided to start his own rival sports car company, even hiring a former top Ferrari engineer. Automobili Lamborghini was officially established in 1963 in Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy, and the same year debuted its first car, the Lamborghini 350 GTV, a two-seater coupe with a V12 engine.
The company’s logo featured a bull, a reference to Ferruccio Lamborghini’s zodiac sign, Taurus the bull. Various Lamborghini models had names related to bulls or bullfighting, including the Miura (named for Don Eduardo Miura, a breeder of fighting bulls), a mid-engine sports car that was released in mid-1960s and gained Lamborghini an international following among car enthusiasts and a reputation for prestige and cutting-edge design.
Ferruccio Lamborghini was born in Italy in 1916. He was fascinated with engines from an early age. During World War II he joined the army and was stationed on the island of Rhodes. Fortunately there was little going on there during the war. The island was essentially isolated from the rest of the world. Any cars, trucks or motorcycles that broke down had to be repaired on the spot with reused parts. Lamborghini became known as a wizard at mechanical improvisation and became very much in demand at fixing engines.
After the war he returned to his home near Modena in northern Italy and setup a small car and motorcycle repair shop. He soon realized that there was a desperate need for tractors in the agricultural area in which he lived. He found he could build about one tractor a month from derelict military vehicles. As Italy’s economy grew demand for his high quality tractors started to grow. He began building his own tractor engines. His tractor business became very successful reaching a rate of over 400 a month in 1960. He soon looked at expanding the business and in 1960 began manufacturing heaters and air conditioning units for buildings as well as maintaining the tractor business. This too became very successful.
About this time Lamborghini started to get interested in developing a high performance car. He had owned Oscas, Maseratis and Ferraris but was always disappointed with them. Particularly their engines. There is a now famous story about how he was frustrated with problems he had with a clutch in a Ferrari (a Ferrari 250 GT), and went to visit Enzo Ferrari who’s factory was nearby. Enzo had no time for a tractor manufacture and simply dismissed him. Lamborghini decided there was nothing Ferrari was doing he could not do better. He decided too build his own car with a V12 engine. For the design he found a very talented engineer named Giampaolo Dallara who had previously worked on a Ferrari V12 engine.
The new engine had 4 cams, a short stroke and 4 big bore valves per cylinder. It developed a surprising 350 HP. It was an all aluminum engine with a crankshaft supported by seven main bearings. These crankshafts were machined from SAE 9840 steel. The connecting rods (12) were of SAE 4340 steel. The pistons were of forged aluminum. Each pair of camshafts were driven by their own half engine speed sprocket and silent chain. This engine was really the prototype for all future Lamborghini engines. A body designed by Scaglione-Touring was used to house the engine.
The Lamborghini “350 GTV” prototype was shown to the public on the Turin Auto Show of 1963. Sales started the following year. The car was called the 350 GT. It was a complete success. Over 130 were sold.The future of Automobili Lamborghini looked very bright during the sixties. The 350 GT was succeeded by the 400 GT and then the 400 GT 2+2. The 350 GT and 400 GT 2+2 made the Lamborghini name known throughout the world. With the funds coming in from these cars and his successful tractor business Ferruccio allowed his engineers to design and construction a new car – the Lamborghini Miura. The Miura made the Lamborghini name legendary. It was a car truly ahead of its time. It shocked even companies like Ferrari and Maserati.
Today the vast collection of Ferruccio Lamborghini’s main industrial achievements, including a large number of tractors and some of the most stunning cars ever made in Sant’Agata are on display in the even larger Museo Ferruccio Lamborghini in Funo di Argelato.
On May 8, as part of Lamborghini’s 50th Anniversary, a different type of running of the bulls took place in Italy. Starting out in Milan, a four kilometer convoy comprised of 350 Lamborghinis traveled to Lombardia then Umbria, Forte dei Marmi, Roma and San Giustino Valdarno, eventually making their way to the factory/museum in Sant’Agata Bolognese. In total over 190,000 horsepower was on hand as part of this 3-day event. At the closing celebrations in Sant’Agata, Walter De Silva, Head of Volkswagen’s Design Group, wheeled in a one-off tribute vehicle in the form of the jet fighter styled Egoista. As outrageous as anything before it, this 600 hp, single-seat on wheels was designed as tribute to and to honor the Raging Bull’s past fifty years in a wayAs the feisty little Italian who started it all once said: “Look at what others are not doing with their products, then work to perfect it in yours.” This reverse mantra still lives on today in the continuing evolution of the species. Fifty years on the unconventional designs and angular directness of today’s Lamborghini’s would indeed make that little tractor man quite proud. most befitting of the company.