The Lamborghini Story

told through the cars they built

350 GT

Ferruccio Lamborghini was a very proud man. He had every right to be. After World War II he realised that there were thousands of military vehicles left over from the conflict and he made a fortune converting them into agricultural vehicles and machinery.

By the 1960s he was financially comfortable and owned several Ferrari 250s. He felt that they were uncomfortable however and he had endless problems with the clutches. Rumour has it that he went to see the great Enzo Ferrari himself to complain but Enzo, not a man to back down and accept criticism, sent him away with a flea in his ear, telling him that he was just a tractor salesman with a bad driving technique. Ferruccio decided there and then to take Ferrari to the cleaners and he set to work to build superior cars that would take away their market. That is the story anyway – maybe it is true and maybe just a fairytale.

However the first prototype he created was the 350 GTV grand tourer. This was a two-door coupe with a 3.5 litre V12 engine but even though this was shown to the public at the Turin Auto Show in 1963 it wasn't a driveable car and there were even bricks under the bonnet as ballast! However Lamborghini only wanted to see if there was interest in the car before deciding whether or not to press ahead with manufacture.

It soon became obvious that the prototype was very nice but completely impractical. Most engine and bodywork designers in Italy in those days were race enthusiasts and they wanted to produce the fastest and most highly manoeuvrable cars on the planet. These are not usually good specifications for a road car, that has to be both economical to buy and long lasting though.

Ferruchio insisted on many design changes including de-tuning the engine but even so the 350 GT (they dropped the 'V' for the production model) was a car capable of being propelled to 155 mph by it's 280 brake horsepower engine, and accelerating from 0 to 60 in 6.7 seconds. There was a five-speed gearbox, independent suspension and all-round disc brakes. To save weight the bodywork was in lightweight aluminium. There were deep bucket seats for a driver and passenger and several of the early models had a small seat of a sort at the rear.

Technically the car was probably superior to anything that Ferrari built at the time, although it was perhaps not considered as attractive by many people. The sales estimate of 500 a year was never met; in fact only 140 were sold during the three years of production. The simple fact was that Ferrari was well known so people could buy them with a large degree of confidence, whereas Lamborghini were the new kids on the block so were treated with a certain caution.

Nevertheless it was a start, and a profitable one too. Lamborghini were on the map.