Currently reading: The history of Lamborghini - picture special
With Lamborghini celebrating its 50th birthday this year, and a replacement for the Gallardo supercar due in 2014, we turn the clocks back on the outrageously flamboyant Italian brand
8 mins read
28 November 2013

The replacement for the Lamborghini Gallardo will arrive in 2014.

The model, tipped to be named Cabrera, has been spotted testing at the Nurburgring and will launch at the Geneva motor show next year. As development on the new car draws to a close, Lamborghini has also officially ended production of the current Gallardo.

It's the latest chapter in the history of the Lamborghini Automobili company, which started as the brainchild of Italian founder Ferruccio Lamborghini.

Born in 1916, Ferruccio served as a mechanic in the Italian Royal Air Force during the Second World War before going into business building tractors based on surplus World War II military hardware.

By the mid-1950s, Lamborghini’s tractor company was growing at a rapid rate and by the time he expanded into constructing boilers and air-conditioning systems in 1960, Lamborghini had become one of Italy’s great industrialists.

With increased success brought great wealth, which led Ferruccio to purchase a fleet of sports cars – one of them a Ferrari 250GT. It was this acquisition that spawned the idea for Ferruccio Lamborghini to set up his own car company; in his opinion finding that the Ferrari was too noisy and rough for proper road cars, likening them to repurposed track cars.

Lamborghini designed and built his first car – the 350GTV – in only four months, just in time for an unveiling at the 1963 Turin motor show. Despite the favourable press reviews, the 350GTV was a one-off, with Lamborghini re-working the production model and calling it the 350GT.

Debuting at the 1964 Geneva Auto Show, the 350GT was powered by a de-tuned 270bhp 3.5-litre V12 mated to a five-speed manual transmission. The 350GT could accelerate from 0-62mph in 6.8sec and onto a top speed of 158mph – hugely impressive figures in its day. Only 120 examples were made.

Further revisions to the 350GT created the 400GT in 1965. Italian chassis engineer Gian Paulo Dallara tweaked the V12, increasing its displacement to 3.9 litres and a power hike to 320bhp at 6500rpm.

At the 1966 Geneva auto show, Lamborghini unveiled the 400GT 2+2, a stretched version of the 350GT/400GT that featured 2+2 seating with a revised roofline. Like its predecessors, the 400GT 2+2 was well received by motoring journalists, with revenue from sales of the 2+2 allowing Lamborghini to increase labour at his Sant’Agata factory to 170 employees.

During 1965, Lamborghini’s three top engineers, Gian Paolo Dallara, Paolo Stanzani and New Zealander Bob Wallace put their own time into development of a prototype – named P400 – that they envisioned as a road car with racing pedigree, capable of winning on the track as well as being driven on the road by enthusiasts.

Despite being the antithesis of Ferruccio’s original ‘Grand Touring’ ethos, the company founder allowed his engineers to go ahead, deciding the P400 would be useful as a marketing tool, if nothing more.

A version with bodywork penned by Bertone’s Marcello Gandini debuted at the 1966 Geneva motor show. Lamborghini's first mid-engined two-seater saw favourable reaction at Geneva with the P400 going into production the following year under a different name, with Lamborghini’s newly created trademark badge taken from the toughest and smartest of fighting bulls – Miura.

Early Miuras were powered by a transversely mounted 350bhp 3.9-litre V12 derived from the 400GT. At the 1968 Turin motor show, the Italian car maker pulled the wraps off the Miura P400S, which showcased newly added power windows, optional air conditioning, bright chrome trim around external windows and power up to 370bhp at 7000rpm. The last and most famous Miura – the P400SV or Miura SV – featured a power hike up to a heady 380bhp. In total, 764 Miuras were made.


Find an Autocar review

Back to top

In 1968, the replacement for the 400GT arrived in the form of the Lamborghini Islero. Named after a Miura bull which killed famed matador Manuel Rodriguez Manolete, it was essentially a rebody of the 400GT, but was powered by a 325bhp 3.9-litre V12 mated to a five-speed transmission and featured fully independent suspension and disk brakes. Even though Ferruccio Lamborghini believed the car represented a well-developed Gran Turismo product, it failed to attract buyers with only 125 units sold between 1968 and 1969.

The following year, design house Bertone persuaded Lamborghini to allow them to design a brand new four-seater. Crafted by Marcello Gandini, the result was a two-door coupé named the Espada. Again it was propelled by the Raging Bull’s trusty 3.9-litre V12 under the bonnet, which kicked out 325bhp and was the first Lamborghini offered with an optional automatic transmission. A total of 1,217 Espadas were built, making it the most successful Lamborghini model at the time.

In 1970, the Jarama was unveiled at that year’s Geneva motor show. Another Marcello Gandini-designed car, the Jarama was built on a shortened platform as the Espada and was available in two flavours – a 350bhp GT (1970-1973) and 365bhp GTS (1973-1976), both with the familiar 3929cc V12 unit shoehorned in the nose.

Also in 1970, Lamborghini pulled the wraps off its 2+2 mid-engined Urraco coupé at that year’s Turin auto show. The first model leaving the production line in 1973, the Urraco was a more affordable alternative to the contemporary Ferrari Dino and Maserati Merak.

Three versions were available – the entry-level P200 with a 180bhp 2.0-litre V8, P250 powered by a 217bhp 2.5-litre V8 and the range-topping 3.0-litre V8 P300 kicking out 247bhp. Top speeds ranged from 134mph to 162mph. From 1972 until 1979, 791 examples rolled off the production line

With the 1973 oil crisis taking a sledgehammer to sales of high performance cars, Lamborghini hit hard times and Ferruccio sold 51 per cent of his company to long-time friend and Swiss businessman Georges-Henri Rossetti for $600,000.

A year later Ferruccio Lamborghini sold his remaining 49 per cent stake in Lamborghini Automobili to Rene Leimer, a friend of Georges-Henri Rossetti. Having severed all connections with the cars and tractors that bore his name, Lamborghini retired to an estate in the province of Perugia in central Italy, where he would remain until his death.

Back to top

In 1974 the Italian car manufacturer unleashed the eye-popping Lamborghini Countach. Yet another Marcello Gandini design, the Countach was initially powered by the traditional 3929cc Lamborghini engine kicking out 370bhp, which remained until 1982 when the Countach LP500S was launched. Equipped with a 4.8-litre V12 providing the fireworks, yet with the same power output of 370bhp, torque was up to 308lb ft at 4500rpm.

Three years later, the engine was improved again – bored and stroked to 5.2 litres and given four valves per cylinder (quattrovalvole in Italian), this edition badged 5000QV. Power was now up to 449bhp with 0-62mph taken care of in 4.9sec and onto a top speed of 183mph. A 25th anniversary Countach was launched in 1988 named to celebrate the company’s 25th birthday. Mechanically, it was very similar to the 5000QV but sported much-changed styling.

Carrying on where the Urraco left off, the Lamborghini Jalpa was launched in 1981. Being much less expensive than the Countach and still designed by Bertone, the Jalpa was powered by a 3.5-litre V8 pumping out 255bhp at 7000rpm and covering the 0-60mph dash in 6.0sec. In 1988, after falling sales, new owners Chrysler pulled the plug on Jalpa production.

In 1986, Lamborghini took a punt – launching their first four-wheel-drive vehicle – the hefty LM002 SUV. Dubbed the “Rambo Lambo”, its aggressive styling and powerful engine made it a success for the Italian car maker. Equipped with a 290-litre fuel tank and a 5.2-litre V12 from the Countach, production ceased in 1993 with 328 examples made.

In January 1990, the Diablo was launched. Once again penned by Marcello Gandini, the Diablo was powered by a mid-mounted 5.7-litre 48-valve V12 producing 492bhp, accelerating the car from 0-62mph in 4.5sec and not letting up until 202mph.

The Diablo VT was introduced in 1993, with the addition of four-wheel drive. The special-edition Diablo SE30 followed in 1994 to commemorate Lamborghini’s 30th anniversary giving the SE30 a power hike to 523bhp. A facelifted Diablo arrived in 1999 after Audi AG took over the reins of Lamborghini the previous year, culminating in the VT 6.0 which pumped out a hefty 550bhp.

Lamborghini’s new German parent company played an important role in the creation of the Diablo’s replacement - the Murciélago. The new flagship car being styled by Lamborghini’s head of design, Belgian Luc Donckerwolke, the first-generation 6.2-litre V12 produced 572bhp which was mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.

Back to top

A Murciélago roadster open-top car was introduced in 2004 with the second-generation LP 640 launched in 2006, peaking with the ultimate version of the Murciélago,  the LP 670-4 SuperVeloce in 2009 – with 661bhp on tap and rocketing the car from 0-60mph in 2.8sec and onto 214mph. Limited to just 350 examples, it cost £270,000.

In 2003, Lamborghini targeted the baby supercar market with the unveiling of the all-wheel drive Gallardo. Powered by an Audi-derived 5.0-litre V10, output was increased from 493bhp to 513bhp in 2006 when the open-top Gallardo Spyder debuted.

A limited edition Gallardo – the LP 550-2 Balboni – was revealed in 2009, to pay homage to Lamborghini’s legendary test driver Valentino Balboni. It was the first rear-wheel drive Lamborghini to appear from Sant’Agata since the first-generation Diablo and featured a 542bhp 5.2-litre V10 with a top speed of 200mph and 0-62mph time of 3.9sec. The Gallardo is the most successful car to come out of the gates of Sant’Agata with over 13,000 cars sold.

In 2007, Lamborghini realised that building ultra-expensive limited-run hyper cars could be a tangible money-maker, so they built 20 examples of the 650bhp Reventon, which instantly sold out. With a recorded top speed of 221mph, it was officially the most expensive Lamborghini at that time – with a price tag of £840,000.

At the 2011 Geneva motor show, Lamborghini pulled the wraps of its Murciélago replacement – the Aventador. The car’s shape was inspired heavily from the Reventon and their Estoque concept car and is powered by Lamborghini’s new 700bhp 6.5-litre V12 engine – the first all-new V12 engine since the 3.5-litre unit found in the 350GT almost 50 years ago.

The Aventador shatters the 0-62mph dash in 2.9sec and will carry on accelerating up to 217mph. Following recent Lamborghini tradition, an Aventador Roadster was launched in 2012 with Lamborghini claiming identical performance figures for its open-top variant.

That same year, the Italian car maker released the super-extreme Lamborghini Sesto Elemento for track use only. With a kerb weight of 999kg and powered by a 570bhp 5.2-litre V10, the Sesto Elemento can sprint from 0-62mph in just 2.5sec. All 20 examples were sold with a price tag of around $2.5 million.

Not content with that creation, Lamborghini unleashed another outrageous ultra-hyper car in the form of the Lamborghini Veneno at the 2013 Geneva motor show. Based on the Aventador and built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Lamborghini, it is equipped with a brutal 740bhp 6.5-litre V12. Only three production cars were produced, each costing €3.1 million.

Back to top

Lamborghini has also confirmed that its 600bhp Urus SUV concept will go into production in 2017. With Lamborghini’s wild Egoista concept car also showcased for the first time last month, a special edition 50th anniversary Aventador LP 720-4 50 Anniversario and a Gallardo replacement mooted for next year, the future looks very bright – in more ways than one – for the Italian car maker.

Click here to read more about Lamborghini's range.

Aaron Smith

Join the debate

Add a comment…
pauld101 12 November 2013

Raging bull...

Muira, Uracco, Espada, Diablo. Thanks for the memories. Real cars with the heart and soul of the people who designed and built them. Unfortunately, since Wolksvagin took over, there seems to have been hardly any raging and far too much bull. Heartrending that Ducati will probably be sent the same way. Pink Bentley, anyone? Prostitute your brand values? Certainly, Sir, over the bonnet, Sir?
John C 12 November 2013

I love Lambo

I just love Lamborghini and I think it's the best car ever and here I can always find the best of Lambo.
ordinary bloke 10 November 2013

Great gallery.

Firstly, Thank You for publishing this set of pictures. I've always been muddled by the various models that Lamborghini have produced but always admired and coveted them. Your first picture of the 350GT shows what lovely cars they produced early on in comparison to the brutal and striking styling of the later models. I think my favourite is the Espada, an outstanding styling solution to the problem of making a four-seat super-car, and something that Porsche could learn from !

Find an Autocar car review