Who would have known that a tractor maker who had the temerity of challenging the great Enzo Ferrari could come up with his own line of super cars? And not just any super car, but the perfect vehicles of which two are in the list of the top 10 fastest production cars ever made. Based in Sant’ Agata Bolognese in the Emilia Romagna region of Northern Italy, Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. is the maker of some of the best luxury sports cars in the world.
The Raging Bull of Lamborghini vs. The Prancing Horse of Ferrari
It all started in 1963 when a man named Ferruccio Lamborghini broke the clutch of his Ferrari sports car. Lamborghiniwas the son of viticulturists who reside in the Emilia Romagna region. He had served as a mechanic for the Italian Royal Air Force under the fascist regime in World War II, before venturing into tractor-making utilizing surplus military hardware from the war. The company he established, Lamborghini Trattori S.p.A., eventually became one of the largest manufacturers of agricultural equipment in Italy. He was also involved in the manufacture of air conditioning and gas heating units.
One of his passions was collecting exotic vehicles. He had in his garage several luxury automobiles made by Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Lancia, Maserati and Mercedes Benz. He was not too happy with his Ferraris, however, constantly complaining about its noise and its inappropriateness for the road. When one of his Ferraris bogged down with a broken clutch, Lamborghini discovered that Ferrari was using the same clutch as that of his tractors. He went to Ferrari and demanded a more suitable clutch for such an expensive car. Ferrari ignored him and said a tractor maker has no business telling them how a sports car should be built. Lamborghini fumed and decided right there and then to create his own car company.
Car for the Road, Not for the Track
From the start, Lamborghini had decided not to be involved in motor sports because he deemed it as too expensive that would just drain the company’s resources. This was in stark contrast to the likes of Ferrari that used the sport to show off its technical superiority and vehicle quality.
The first Lamborghini car was the 350GTV and it was unveiled in the 1963 Turin Motor Show. Members of its team included Gian Paolo Dallara, a designer who came from Ferrari and Maserati, and Giotto Bizzarrini, who was an engineer for Ferrari. Bizzarini’s engine, however, had the same race car characteristics of Ferrari that Lamborghini despised. The car was thus displayed without an engine under its hood.
The first models released by the company received praise for its power, comfort and refined looks. Its breakthrough, however, came in 1966 with the release of the Lamborghini Miura sports coupe. After a mere three years of existence, the company was able to dictate the trend, setting the rear mid-engine, rear-wheel drive of the Miura as the standard layout for the super cars of that era.
What’s in a Name
After giving his first two cars alphanumeric designations, namely the 350GTV and the 400GT, Lamborghini decided to name most of his cars after persons or animals associated with the bullfighting industry. Thus, we have the Miura; named after an acclaimed Seville breeder of fighting bulls, the Islero, named after the bull that killed the famous bullfighter Manolete in 1947; Espada, the Spanish word for sword; Jarama, named after the historic bullfighting region in Spain and not the motor racing track; the Urraco, which is a kind of bull breed; Jalpa, which is also a kind of bull breed; Diablo, the famous bull who battled “El Chicorro” in Madrid in 1869; Murcielago, another famous bull whose life was spared by “El Lagartijo” in 1879; Gallardo, an ancestral castle of the fighting bull breed of Spain; Reventon, the bull who defeated a Mexican torero in 1943; and Estoque, a traditional sword used by matadors.
Among the exceptions are the Countach, which is a form of astonishment exclaimed by men in Piedmont, Italy upon the sight of a beautiful woman; Militaire or LM002, the sports utility vehicle line of Lamborghini; and the Silhouette, a popular racing category.
Ownership of Lamborghini
A worldwide oil and financial crisis brought troubles to Lamborghini’s companies in the early 1970s however. He had to sell his tractor business after the countries of Bolivia and South Africa cancelled a large portion of its orders. With the workers unionized, Lamborghini could not lay them off. He sold the company to a competitor.
The automobile group had problems as well. Lamborghini had to sell 49 percent of the company to a wealthy Swiss client named Georges Henri Rossetti. By 1974, he was out of the company when he sold the remainder of his shares to Rene Leimer.
The company then changed hands several times, even landing in the hands of Chrysler in 1987. It was sold to a Malaysian and Indonesian group seven years later. In 1998, the Audi subsidiary of Volkswagen bought Lamborghini. This move finally stabilized the company, with sales peaking in 2008. It declined by almost half during the financial crisis of 2009, but the company continues to design and produce new lines. Its current releases are the V10 engine Gallardo, the V12 Aventador and the V10 designed-for-racetrack Sesto Elemento. Only 20 units of the last model will be made.
Fifty Golden Years of Lamborghini
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Lamborghini is financing a parade of classic and modern versions of its automobiles through the streets of Italy. Lamborghini owners from all over the world have been invited to join the event by conducting their own mini-parades in their respective countries. The climax of the activities will be held in the same Emilia Romagna region where it all started in 1963. The region has been recently hit by natural calamities, with earthquakes affecting its residents. Lamborghini wants to reinforce its solidarity with its birthplace by donating a substantial amount to the area.
The events will be held from May 7 to 11, 2013.
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