This is the car that runs through Lamborghini’s DNA today, moving them away from Grand Touring cars and threw them into the world of Hyper cars. This car was a crazy looking car in 1966 and the cars engine placement made it famous the world over. Simply put, it put Lamborghini on the map.
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Back in the 60’s Ferruccio Lamborghini was massively against creating race cars or basically anything outside of grand tourers. So in the dead of night during a period of 1965, three Lamborghini engineers decided to work on a secret project to try and convince Ferruccio to take a chance on a more racing inspired super car. Gian Paolo Dallara, Paolo Stanzani and Bob Wallace spent their own time in the night, after everyone else had gone home, working on a secret project called they called the P400. When they finally brought this design to Ferruccio he loved it, thinking at the very least it would be a solid marketing move.
The Prototype shown at the 65 Turin Auto Show
The car was shown without a body at the 1965 Turin Auto Show, its engine layout (which I discuss further down) was so impressive to patrons of the show that many placed orders even before seeing how the final car would look. The press and public went crazy for this car and this would change Lamborghini forever.
After the reaction from the Turin Auto Show, Lamborghini commissioned Bertone to style the prototype ahead of the 1966 Geneva Motor Show. One of their designers, Marcello Gandini, was put in charge of the design project and I’m sure even he wasn’t aware that this car would make him a legend of the design world.
The styling was very unique and radical, although it doesn’t look as crazy as the Countach, you must remember this was the 1960’s and this design was really out of the box thinking. Some interesting features were the eyelashes around the pop-up headlamps and the pop-up headlamps themselves. The sleek lines and low profile design made it look like a thoroughbred racing car that would easily cut through the air on a race track. This was also Lamborghini’s first car with an interesting set of doors, which didn’t open upwards like modern Lambo Doors, but instead were designed to look like bull horns when open.
The design of the prototype was completed just days before the Geneva Motor Show and as such the company hadn’t checked that the engine would fit, which it didn’t, instead they decided to fill the engine bay with ballast and keep the hood locked throughout the show, which they had also done a few years earlier with the 350GTV.
The engineers had taken cues from the Mini which had been released a few years earlier and decided to mount the engine transversely in the mid section of the vehicle. This had a few advantages which included the front-rear weight distribution was closer to 50/50 than it is on most cars, secondly it allowed for the design of the car to look spectacular as the car could tightly wrap the engine bay at the back.
The engine fitted was a 3.9 liter V12 which was taken from one of Lamborghini’s tractors at the time and the engine was then tuned up to 345 bhp from its original 270. The same engine was also used in the 400GT before it and based on the 3.5 liter one which was in the 350GT originally designed by Bizzarrini.
This V12 block was so good that Lamborghini would use the same basic block in its cars until 2010 when they ended production of the Murcielago.
The car would be produced from 1966-1973 and 764 were built, which for the first ever mid-engine 2 seat sports car and a hand built car for that matter isn’t a bad sales number. It was a marketing and commercial success for the company and it gave Ferruccio confidence in the style of car which is why he urged the company to make an even more radical car when they started designing the Countach in 1970.
This car really is really the one that would setup the ingredients for what makes a Lamborghini from then on and even now after the company has been taken over by different companies on four separate occasions, this basic Lamborghini Super car strategy still lives on and that to me is the reason I absolutely love the Miura.