Collector Car Corner – Lamborghini history a unique, surprising sports car story

Collector Car Corner - Lamborghini history a unique, surprising sports car storyThis 1966 Lamborghini Miura is the car that started the ball rolling for Lamborghini, formerly a tractor builder in Italy. (Lamborghini photo)
Collector Car Corner - Lamborghini history a unique, surprising sports car story

Lamborghini has its own racing series that travels the country. This photo was taken at Watkins Glen in New York and the class attracted 18 cars to the starting grid July 1 of 2017. Here, two Lamborghini Huracans, which are four-wheel drive and develop 610 horsepower, receive attention in the Glen’s garage area. (Greg Zyla photo)

Q: Hello Greg. I read in one of your columns a while back that Ferruccio Lamborghini, a noted tractor manufacturer in Italy, was unhappy with the brand new Ferrari he purchased. You said that he complained about what he didn’t like directly to Enzo (Ferrari), who proceeded to tell him to concentrate on tractors and leave the sports car building to him (Ferrari).

What’s the latest when it comes to Lamborghini and can you give us any updates on the racing series? Thank you, Joe O., Ocean City, N.J.

A: Joe, I’d be happy to. Let’s start with “the future,” as when I attended last year’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen, there was a line of 18 Lamborghini race cars sitting in the pit ready to compete.  If this doesn’t tell you how well Lamborghini is doing these days, nothing will. The touring series is called the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series and attracts many name drivers. (I missed this year’s event due to a vacation with family).

As for the history of the Lamborghini brand, it is true what happened between Mr. Lamborghini and Mr. Ferrari. I first learned of this conflict reading an article in a USAir magazine while on a flight about five years ago. I dug up more information and found that Lamborghini hired away Ferrari’s top engine man, Giotto Bizzarrini, to help build his first car in 1963. Not surprisingly, the car featured a “Bizzarrini” V-12 engine for power.

Collector Car Corner - Lamborghini history a unique, surprising sports car story

Known as the enemy “Lockdown” in the 2014 movie “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” the Lamborghini Aventador was released for sale as one of the most popular Transformer toys ever offered to countless kids and toy collectors of all ages. (Hasbro Toys photo).

Although no one expected big sales, Lamborghini moved forward as there was sufficient interest, especially the car-loving Italians. By 1966, Lamborghini debuted what many felt was one of the finest built sports cars ever with his all-new Miura. The Muria really started the sales rolling and today is worth many, many dollars on the upper scale collector car market. The Miura is a rear-drive, mid-engine sports car and was on the receiving end of numerous awards and citations by the motoring press.

However, everything was not perfect, especially when trying to build a new sports car. Along the way there were difficulties for Lamborghini as more and more demands from both fickle consumers and government clean air laws that came his way. Still, Mr. Lamborghini survived and things were going OK until 1973, when the oil embargo brought not only Lamborghini to its knees, but just about every other car manufacturer that didn’t build small economy cars. Clearly, the mid-engine, powerful Lamborghini sports cars were gas-guzzlers from the word go, as were all the other exotic high-powered sports cars of the day from a Corvette 427/430 L-88 to a Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer, the latter, which debuted in 1973 and featured a 12-cylinder for power.

Because Lamborghini was nowhere near as strong as Ferrari when it came to cash flow and capital reserves, the company was forced into bankruptcy in 1978 after ownership changed hands three times since 1973 trying to save the brand. Thanks to Chrysler Corporation, itself a near bankrupt company years earlier, they took control of Lamborghini in 1987 and then quickly sold the badge to a Malaysian and Indonesian company in 1994.

Finally, in 1998 Volkswagen stepped up to the plate and bought Lamborghini. Volkswagen then brought in the Audi people to control the further advancement, and under this group of German craftsman and Audi head of motorsports Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich‘s influence, the Lamborghini today is a successful, albeit very expensive, sports car that sells 700 horsepower V-12 and 610 horsepower V-10 powered sports cars called Aventador and Huracan, respectively. The Aventador was the antagonist star of the movie “Transformers: Age of Extinction” released in 2014.

The Huracan is also the Lamborghini that competes in the touring Super Trofeo Series. After seeing this class race at Watkins Glen International as part of the touring series in person, I can attest to its moniker as “The World’s Fastest One-Make Series.”

Hope this all helps and for all Lamborghini fans out there, you’re in good hands with Volkswagen/Audi and Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. Remember, too, that even though Volkswagen/Audi owns and supplies capital and monies needed, Lamborghinis are still 100-percent built in Italy by Italian sports car craftsmen and women at its headquarters in Sant’Agata, Bolognese, in northern Italy.

Hope this all helps Joe and thanks for the letter.

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader questions on auto nostalgia and motorsports at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, Pa. 18840 or email at greg@gregzyla.com).

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