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Ferruccio Lamborghini served in World War II building engines with the Italian Air Force mechanics corps. After the war Lamborghini began to buy leftover military machines, then reconstructed them into much needed farming tractors. By the 1950’s Ferrucio Lamborghini’s business had expanded into heaters and air-conditioning units, making him a very wealthy man. With a thriving business, Lamborghini was able to turn to his love of cars. Disappointed by Oscas, Maserati, the Ferrari 250GT and dismissed by Enzo Ferrari, Ferruccio decided he could do it himself. Armed with millions of lira, an ex-Ferrari automotive engineer and a state-of-the-art factory in the Italian village of Sant’Agata Bolognese, ferruccio went to build the fastest sports car yet.
Automobili Lamborghini SpA.
Automobili Lamborghini SpA. was officially established in 1963. That year the debut of the first Lamborghini came at the Turin Motor Show. The Lamborghini 350GT was a 3.5 liter V12 preparatory to the 400 GT and later the midengine Miura sportscar in 1966. It was the Miura that catapulted Lamborghini into the forefront of exotic car manufacturers. Ferruccio himself introduced the Miura exotic at the 1965 Turin Auto Show. Miura’s name paid tribute to the famed fighting-bull trainer Don Eduardo Miura, one hundred and eleven Miura sportscars were sold in 1976. Developed alongside the Lamborghini Miura was the Espada which in Spanish is the sword used by a matador in bullfighting. The Lamborghini Espada was a rather sluggish four-seat touring car that had a 4 liter V12 conventional front engine layout. Later improvements on Espada production resulted into three separate car series.
In 1971 Automobili Lamborghini was designing the LP500 Countach prototype car. The LP500S initially had the 4 liter capacity of the Miura but was enlarged to five-liters upon introduction in 1982. The name Countach was an old Italian dialect word that meant surprise or shock, it was the word that came out of Nuccio Bertone’s mouth upon seeing the Lamborghini LP500 prototype for the first time. The prototype was shocking, as it was the first car to sport the famous Lamborghini scissor doors and vertically mounted rear air intakes. The scissor doors were a revolutionary concept whereby the driver would raising the door up, like a hatchback trunk and sit on the door sill. The Countach was also one of the first sportscars to be introduced with Pirelli “P-Zero” tires.
Bankruptcy & the Chrysler Years
Ferruccio Lamborghini’s tractor business was still the main business, the cars were a small side note division. In 1972 high tractor demands spurred Ferrucio to make factory upgrades to accommodate a large tractor order from a South American nation. The order was cancelled and put Ferruccio into financial hardship. He could not recover and was forced to sell the remnants of his tractor business to the Fiat firm. The tractor business was later acquired by SAME Deutz-Fahr group which still sells lamborghini tractors today.
Even though the Lamborghini automobile division had been well received, an intensifying oil crisis in Italy hurt sales. Ferrucio Lamborghini declared bankruptcy in 1978, he sold his remaining shares and left the automotive industry. In 1984 Swiss-based industrialist Mimran took over and sold the Countach, the Jalpa and the LM002. Lamborghini remained sound under Mimran’s control for the next four years.
In 1987 Mimran sold Lamborghini to the Chrysler Corporation. At the time of Chrysler’s purchase, Lamborghini had been in the midst of building the Countach’s successor which would be the Diablo. While the Diablo chassis was fully Lamborghini, Chrysler brought in its resources to help in further development. Design input, pollution controls and new manufacturing techniques along with mass marketing experience benefitted Lamborghini. While the cultures of the two companies was very different and tense at times the Lamborghini Diablo met rave reviews. The collaboration on the Diablo was a success but by 1994 Chrysler was financially lacking and sold Lamborghini off to Megatech.
After Chrysler, Megatech & Audi
Megatech was an Indonesian investment group headed by Tommy Suharto, the youngest son of Indonesian President Suharto. A top-notch management team was organized at the new Lamborghini headquarters which included ex-Lotus Group Chief Executive, Mike Kimberley and ex-McLaren Cars head of sales, Nigel Gordon-Stewart.
Under strong new management and direction, Lamborghini made a revival in world markets. Large inventories held by dealers were sold through aggressive marketing strategies and new models were withheld to create shortages. Thus, reinforcing Lamborghini’s exclusive image and premium value. Sales jumped up from 101 cars sold in 1993 to 301 in 1994, and 414 by 1995. High sales in 1995 were also due in part to the Lamborghini Diablo Sport Veloce which was introduced that year. The Diablo SV had a more powerful V12 engine featuring variable cam timing technology developed by Lamborghini and became the best selling version of the Diablo.
By 1997 Indonesia was in financial crisis, forcing Megatech to sell Lamborghini to the German car company Audi. Through a series of complex transactions Audi AG became the primary owner of Automobili Lamborghini in August of 1998. Audi took an active role in designing the Lamborghini Murcielago, the Diablo’s successor. Once again vast resources for research, development and production by an experienced car company were at hand. While some question the German and Italian marriage, it is hard to overlook the, 200 mile per hour Murcielago and Gallardo range, result. To date, Lamborghini has put out some of the most sophisticated, luxurious and exclusive exotic cars on the market.
The current Lamborghini 2008 range consists of the Murciélago LP640, the Murciélago LP640 Roadster and the smaller, less expensive Gallardo LP560/4 and Gallardo LP560/4 Spyder, production of the Gallardo Superleggera stopped earlier this year. All current models are very, very fast, mid-engined 2-seaters. The Murciélago LP640, the Murciélago LP640 Roadster and the Gallardo LP560-4 come with Lamborghini’s standard four-wheel drive systems. The current head of design is Wolfgang Egger and Lamborghini styling is mostly the work of Belgian designer Luc Donckerwolke. The Estoque concept which is a four seater sedan was just incovered at the 2008 Paris Motor Show.