Once upon a time, Signore Lamborghini built tractors and Signore Ferrari built race cars. Then they met.
“Amico,” Ferrucio might have said, “Your cars, they are too harsh, too ruvido—you need to make them better for the street.”
“Madonna!” cries Enzo Ferrari angrily, “You cafone! Go back to your tractors, peasant!”
Much enraged gesticulating later, a car company is born. A half-century later, here’s a look back at the best fighting bulls ever to come out of Sant’Agata Bolognese.
While Lamborghini’s first efforts were smooth grand-tourers with front-mounted V-12s, it was just the sort of mid-engined rocketship Ferruccio hated that would eventually put the company on the map. Penned by a young Italian stylist in his twenties and underpinned by chassis designed by engineers named Gian and Paolo and Bob (no, really, Lamborghini’s test-driver at the time was a Kiwi named Bob Wallace), the Miura is a top contender for “Most Beautiful Car Ever Built”. Imagine fitting wheels to Monica Bellucci and you get the general idea.
Of course, like a true Italian thoroughbred, the Miura can be a bit temperamental. As the fuel-tank is front-mounted, the car starts getting a bit unbalanced as it burns through fuel – which its transversely-mounted V-12 does at an alarming rate. And, speaking of burning through fuel, stop for too long at a traffic light and the racing-spec carburettors start filling up with high-test gasoline and the whole thing goes on fire.
However, she’s a heart-stopper, and possibly the first true supercar. Bellissima!
Don’t know what this is? Sure you do—it’s the Countach, perhaps the most recognizable supercar ever made. You could show this thing to a newly discovered Amazonian tribe and their chief would immediately make the universal symbols for “scissor doors” and “cocaine”.
It’s the car named after a swear, as the first word out of famed designer Nuccio Bertone upon seeing angular prototype was a Piedmontese expression of surprise most-oft uttered upon seeing a beautiful woman. Which is to say, they could have called it the Lamborghini Are Those Real.
The early models were especially gorgeous, before all the fender-flaring and spaceship wings. However, the car is—how to put this delicately—utter crap to drive. Its design entirely fails to take into account the fact that an actual human being is expected to fit in there: for instance, the pedals are set so far off to the right, you’d have to have legs like a pair of allen keys to operate them.
1993 Diablo VT
1993 was a hell of a year: the World Trade Center bombing, the formal legal passing of NAFTA, the resignation of Brian Mulroney, Jurassic Park hit theatres, Cypress Hill got all Insane in the Brain. Also, Ferrucio Lamborghini died.
Even as he passed, a 500hp, mid-engined hypercar was blowing past the 200mph mark, and had just been released with all-wheel-drive to try to tame the beast. Best of luck with that.
2010 LP550-2 Valentino Balboni
Lamborghini’s chief test-driver is a gentleman named Valentino, and quite frankly, one wonders how he gets anything done with every single heterosexual woman on the face of the planet flinging themselves at him. As a special gift, Lamborghini made a special car, built to his specifications.
That means two-wheel-drive only (most other Gallardos are all-wheel-drive to handle the power), and a traction control that can be turned all the way off. And, presumably, it comes with unique seats made to fit those gargantuan brass coglioni.
Brendan McAleer is a freelance auto-writer based out of North Vancouver, BC, and a member of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada. His work appears in BBCAutos, Road&Track, Autos.ca and elsewhere. Follow him on twitter @brendan_mcaleer.
Photos of the 1966 Miura and 1974 LP400 courtesy of the author.
Photo of the 1993 Diablo VT courtesy of exfordy.
Photo of the 2010 LP550-2 Valentino Balboni courtesy of the Car Spy.