The cars we loved.
Love hate relationships can produce moments of productive passion, fueled by anger and frustration. This was the case of Ferruccio Lamborghini and the Ferrari sports cars he loved. After a string of quality and reliability problems drove Ferruccio to protest, he eventually ditched his beloved Ferrari and set out to build his own sports car. After all, isn’t that what wealthy Italian industrialists do when they can’t get their way? The 46-year-old Ferruccio even went so far as to confront Enzo Ferrari, who was then 64, to voice his complaints.
The tractor maker’s main goal with his the new Lamborghini S.p.A. car company would be to build cars that were rugged and reliable like the tractors his company had been building. So in 1963 Ferruccio gathered together a team of some of the best engineers in Europe and started development of his first car in the small town of Sant’Agata, just a few miles from his rival Ferrari in Maranello.
Ferruccio was no stranger to engines or cars, as he built and raced cars in the 40’s. After driving his car through a window of a café, Ferruccio decided he was done with racing and would stick with the mechanical side of things, be they tractors, helicopters or cars.
Lamborghini’s products embodied an engineering philosophy that would separate them from early Ferrari s. That philosophy centered around creating a more refined car suited for road use as opposed to Ferraris which were at the time thinly disguised street legal race cars. After showing his first prototype, a two seat 350 GTV (with no engine) at the Turin Auto Show in 1966, Lamborghini followed up with a quickly developed production model. The two passenger 350 GTV was designed by Carrozzeria Touring and featured a 3.5 liter 270 hp V12 engine. It was said that Ferruccio was unimpressed with the 350GTV’s build quality and insisted on a redesign after selling only 120 cars.
The two-seater 350 became the 400 GT after some key modifications, including stretching the wheelbase and redesigning the interior to a 2 + 2 configuration. The new quad headlight car was a strikingly long, low and wide. As a 2 + 2 that was well suited for high-speed cruising, it was a rarity among Italian sports cars. Once again a powerful V12 engine was fitted, this time a 4.0 liter making a whopping 370 hp! Porsche style synchromesh gears made for smooth and precise shifts from its 5-speed manual transmission. The big cruiser could reach 167 mph while delivering a comfortable ride. Luxury touches like hand crafted wood interior accents, leather seats and air conditioning reminded you that you were driving an expensive Italian sports car.
Sales of both the 350 and 400 GT were strong. The popularity of both cars, fed by the favorable press, led to expansions of Lamborghini’s factories. The 400 GT was eventually overshadowed by the Miura, a car that when released in 1966 made almost everything else look dated from Lamborghini and its competitors. Production of the 450 GT ended in 1968 with a total of 250 models. Like Ferrari Lamborghini’s small line of cars was released in a sequence and often were more sought after than equivalent Ferrari. When new, a 400 GT sold for around $20,000, today they easily go for $300,000 or more at auction. Not bad for tractor builder.