From supercars to powerboat engines, Lamborghini has certainly had a tumultuous journey on its way to becoming a multi-billion-pound company. With the 2019 launch of the Lamborghini Aventador and the Lamborghini Huracán, we take a look back at the Lamborghini origin from the swinging 60s to the new generation.
The history of this illustrious supercar brand, from the oldest Lamborghini to the Lamborghini story with Ferrari, is shrouded in tragedy. From some of the biggest tragedies, however, come some of the boldest creative works ever known. In the case of this brand, we turn not to the current Lamborghini CEO, Stefano Domenicali, but to its founder, a visionary with a humble background.
Gifted with a thirst for mechanical knowledge, Ferrucio Lamborghini was born on April 28, 1916, to parents Antonio and Evelina, who produced grapes for a living. He would go on to have a very colourful life, with his passions making their mark on Lamborghini vehicle designs.
Born in Northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, Lamborghini soon developed an interest in the farming machinery being used by his parents. This led him to the Fratelli Taddia technical institute near Bologna.
His passion turned into a profession in 1940, when he was drafted into the Italian Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Here, Lamborghini worked as a mechanic, where he served in the Italian garrison on the Greek island of Rhodes. Though he progressed to supervisor in the vehicle maintenance unit, his luck was about to run out. In 1945, Lamborghini was taken prisoner, not returning home for a year.
Unfortunately for Lamborghini, the tragedy would not end there. In 1947, having married, he lost his wife while she was in childbirth.
Arguably, the first Lamborghini ever made, at least in terms of his foray into vehicle production, came in the same year - 1947. A time of economic recovery, the post-War period afforded many opportunities for industry. With his farming background, he created the first Lamborghini tractor – the Carioca tractor, which took inspiration from the six-cylinder engines in Morris trucks.
Lamborghini also pioneered the fuel atomiser with this new invention, which would help the tractor engine to convert petrol (a very expensive and precious resource at the time) into diesel. Following on from the success of the Carioca, Lamborghini then went on to found Lamborghini Trattori, paying tribute to his industry past.
It’s hard to believe, but the sports car brand did not emerge until some 16 years later. Between tractors and supercars, Lamborghini also ventured into oil heaters and air conditioning companies. Later on, he would also launch the first Lamborghini boat in 1968, but not before his fleet of supercars was to prosper.
Here we return to the famous rivalry with Ferrari. In 1963, he founded Automobilio Ferrucio Lamborghini, which he created to branch out and challenge already well-established touring car brands such as Ferrari.
It took a little while for Automobilio Ferrucio Lamborghini to take off, but in 1966, when the Lamborghini Miura was released, he finally started to achieve recognition within the field. The Miura was the first of its kind in terms of engine layout, with a rear mid-engined two-seat layout that then went on to become commonplace in many supercars.
The rivalry with Ferrari, ironically, began when Lamborghini first tried a Ferrari for himself. Keen to celebrate his success, he purchased his very own Ferrari sports car, and used it at his leisure for racing. However, his mechanical mindset got the better of him: he realised that he couldn’t enjoy racing as much as he liked to because the clutch needed repairing too often, and overall, the Ferrari felt too rough on the road, as well as noisy.
Like a good customer, Lamborghini decided to deliver his feedback to Ferrari founder, Enzo Ferrari. However, a man of pride, he didn’t want to listen to a “tractor mechanic”. After telling Lamborghini he had no time for his feedback, Enzo Ferrari inadvertently sparked off a passion for building a new supercar brand, hence the birth of Automobilio Ferrucio Lamborghini.
Four months later, the Lamborghini 350 GTV debuted at the Turin Motor Show, in October 1963. One year later, he’d sold a modest 13 cars, and changed the name to the Lamborghini 350 GT, but little did he know that success was on the horizon.
As time wore on, Lamborghini began to produce new models every three years or so.
With a transmounted V12 engine and a top speed of 170MPH, the Miura was born in 1966 and spelled the first signs of success for the brand.
Like the “awkward second album” the Islero was not as well received in 1968, and the subsequent Urraco almost saw the demise of Lamborghini in 1972.
Thankfully, the Espada was also on sale from 1968, providing a luxurious four-seater for the Lamborghini range, and quickly becoming one of the brand’s bestsellers.
The Jarama was something of a mixed bag in 1970. As a larger upgrade to the Islero, it failed to meet US safety standards, but was not as much of a blunder as the Urraco.
Bringing the Lamborghini into the modern era, the Countach was on sale from 1974 to 1990, with a more modern design, and a design name that more or less translates to “exclamation!” in English.
The last V8 in the Lamborghini range, the Jalpa was on sale from 1981 to 1988, with a convertible roof – one of the last models before the turn of the new Millennium.
The common theme, for those who are familiar with bullfighting, is that all model names have some reference to the sport. Despite being a Spanish tradition, bullfighting was something of a fascination for Italian-born Lamborghini. The reason? Lamborghini visited a cattle ranch belonging to Don Eduardo Miura in Seville, back in 1962. He was so impressed with the sport that he adopted a bull design into the Lamborghini logo, and named the Miura after Don Eduardo.
So began a custom of naming Lamborghini models with some reference to bulls, right through to 2016. For example, the Espada is the name for a matador’s sword, while the Jalpa is a reference to a breed of fighting bulls.
Post-Millennium Lamborghinis have a far more modern design, with turbocharged engines to boot. The Murciélago, for example, was named after a bat rather than a bull, facing criticism between 2002 and 2010 for its wide design that was difficult to manoeuvre, despite eye-watering speeds.
Preceding this was the Lamborghini Diablo, which had an incredible 11-year production run. Named after a famous bull, this particular model underwent six different iterations during its time.
Just like the cars, the Lamborghini brand itself has undergone many changes. Today, the famous supercar brand is owned by Volkswagen, the well-known company whose name translates from German to “people’s car”.
Lamborghini, by comparison, has no equivalent translation in English, as is customary in some German brands. Though Lamborghini is not in itself, a German brand, it has been owned by Volkswagen since 1998, as a subsidiary to fellow German brand, Audi.
Despite its now German ownership, Lamborghini still produces cars in its native Italy, in the Sant’Agata Bolognese region. Likewise, the tractor brand is still alive and well today, with its headquarters in Pieve di Cento.
As with all supercar brands, modern-day Lamborghinis are best suited to those with discerning tastes. A new Lamborghini Huracán, for example, retails at $320,000 at the highest end over in the US, equating to almost £240,000 in the UK.
The range has also branched out significantly since the 60s: for example, today we have the Lamborghini Urus, a new “super sport utility vehicle” which is the first use of a V8 engine since the Jalpa. This retails at a friendlier £159,925. At the more powerful end of the spectrum, there’s the V12 engine Aventador, which will set you back a nail-biting £271,146.
If you really are looking for a Lamborghini without “breaking the bank”, relatively speaking, then the cheapest model currently on sale would be the 2014 Lamborghini Gallardo, which retails at approximately £146,000, of $191,000. As with any kind of supercar however, we’d always advise going for the best. The 2019 Aventador, for example, will climb to 217MPH and will reach 60MPH in just 2.8 seconds!
From WW2 to present day, it’s hard to believe that a modest tractor mechanic would go on to produce some of the finest supercars ever made. We just hope there are even more rivalries in future – who knows what could come next?