Lamborghini Brand History: Here’s How Luxury Sports Cars Became a Reality

Lamborghini brand history

“I had never stopped thinking about the perfect car. All I had to do was construct a plant to build it.”

– Ferruccio Lamborghini

Ferruccio Lamborghini – A History

Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. was founded in 1963 by Ferruccio Lamborghini, an industrialist who was born to grape farmers in Italy. Ferruccio began his career as a mechanic during the Second World War in the Italian Royal Air Force and later went on to head a number of successful businesses.

Ferruccio’s initial venture was in tractors manufactured from leftover military excess hardware from the Second World War. The Lamborghini Trattori with its headquarters in Pieve di Cento still manufactures tractors in Italy. This was in 1948. Following its success, Ferruccio started expanding into building boilers and air-conditioners in 1960. Continuous success in all his ventures led him to buy a fleet of sports cars because of his love and interest in the mechanics and motors of such beautiful vehicles.

This was when the seed to build an automobile company was planted in his mind. In direct competition with Ferrari, Ferruccio in 1963 started building refined, luxury sports cars from his own company, Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. Even in their initial days, Lamborghini cars were known for their refinement, power, luxury and comfort.

Automobili Lamborghini – The Rise of an Empire

Ferruccio considered Ferrari as repurposed race cars and did not approve of them for proper roads. His aim was to create cars that had similar power and style but with the right build for pure road use. He commissioned the V12 Engine from Autostar, a group of engineers who had previously built engines for Ferrari. The V12 engine designed by Bizzarrini who led Autostar had a displacement of 3.5 litres, a 9.5:1 compression ratio, and a maximum output of 365 PS at 9800 rpm. This engine which would come to be known as the Lamborghini V12 in the later years did not particularly please Ferruccio. This led to legal issues over non-payment of agreed-upon charges to the engineers which were later resolved through the court. This V12 engine served as the basis for a number of engine designs for Lamborghini cars for almost 5 decades after that.

Ferruccio himself handpicked designers for building the chassis and body of the cars. He included fresh graduates and new talent he believed in, who all turned out to be geniuses in their fields later.

The 350GTV was built in just four months and unveiled at the Turin Motor Show in 1963. This year marked the official establishment of the Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. The production model of 350GTV was renamed as 350GT with minor changes in its design including a new chassis. The V12 was detuned and the newer model ready for mass production was launched in 1964 at the Geneva Motor Show. It sold 120 cars in the 3 years it remained in production.

In 1966, Lamborghini launched the 400GT (2+2) which was actually 350GT with a bigger engine. The V12 engine displacement was increased to 3.9 litres by Dallara. The commercial success of this model led to Ferruccio expanding the size of his operation at the manufacturing plant. The 400GT was later replaced by a new model named Islero with an in-line six-cylinder engine that was made from one-half of Lamborghini’s V12 design.


In 1965, the engineers of Lamborghini built a car with an unusual layout and engine mount that was named P400 initially. They unveiled it in the Turin Salon in 1965 and received deserved acclaim for its design. Lamborghini named it Miura and approved it for production in 1967 after which the design of Miura has become the basis for mid-engine two-seat high-performance sports cars. Miura pushed Lamborghini ahead of the race of automakers and also sold just over 100 units by the end of that year.

The next couple of years saw the launch of newer versions of the Miura itself: the Miura S, the Miura P400 Roadster more commonly known as the Miura Spider – an open-top version of the coupé.

“I wish to build GT cars without defects – quite normal, conventional but perfect – not a technical bomb.”

– Ferruccio Lamborghini

Ferruccio stuck to his mission of building GT cars even though he had the means and support to participate in motorsport races.

In 1969, Espada was launched which was successful with a 3.9-litre, front-mounted version of a tuned V12, generating a power output of 330 PS.

In 1970, Jarama was unveiled with 2 versions: a 350bhp GT and 365bhp GTS, both with the 3929 cc V12 unit. Another model unveiled the same year was the 2+2 mid-engined Urraco coupé that was offered as an affordable alternative to Ferrari Dino and Maserati Merak.

The Exit of Ferruccio Lamborghini

The 1973 oil crisis hit Lamborghini financially and forced him to sell 51 per cent of his share to Georges-Henri Rossetti for 600,000 dollars. One year after that, Lamborghini sold his remaining shares to Rene Leimer and retired to his estate in Perugia where he lived off the remaining days of his life until his death in 1993.

The company continued production of various successful models in the coming years. In 1974 the Countach was launched which was succeeded by the Countach LP500S in 1982. Again in 3 years, it was renamed as 5000QV with the engine stroked to 5.2 litres and given four valves per cylinder. Then arrived the Jalpa, with a 3.5-litre V8 capable of producing 255bhp at 7000rpm and going from 0 to 60 mph in 6 sec.

Entry of Chrysler

In 1987, Chrysler Corporation took control of Nuova Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini S.p.A., buying the Mimran Brothers out for 25.2 million dollars. Chrysler, with the intention of reviving Lamborghini, entered the extra-premium sports car market. They also entered motorsport to build engines for the Grand Prix teams under Lamborghini Engineering S.p.A.

Countach’s successor, the Diablo after much disruption during its inception was revealed finally in 1990 in Monte Carlo. At that time, Diablo was the fastest car in production in the automobile market.

Indonesian and Malaysian Ownership

Following the crash in sales in 1992, Chrysler started looking for buyers unable to justify its investments. The company transferred hands to Indonesian investors who also had interests in Vector Motors, a sports car manufacturer. They decided to expand the number of models on offer from Lamborghini to increase sales. In 1995, the Diablo was updated to SuperVeloce which turned out to be a major hit among car enthusiasts.

Still running on losses despite the increase in sales, under the leadership of Vittorio di Capua, Lamborghini began cost-cutting measures. By 1997, the company had crossed beyond the break-even point with di Capua’s aggressive changes.

Another Ownership Change

In 1998, Volkswagen’s subsidiary Audi AG bought Lamborghini for 110 million US dollars. They believed that Lamborghini could strengthen Audi’s sporty profile, and on the other hand, Lamborghini could benefit from Audi’s technical expertise. Vittorio Di Capua was replaced by Giuseppe Greco in 1999, with experience from Fiat, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. The same year, Diablo had its final transformation as a GT model which was produced in limited numbers only.

After almost 10 years, Lamborghini introduced a new model in its line-up, the Murciélago. It was updated in 2005 with a more powerful engine generating 640 PS and renamed the LP 640. This model also introduced the new E Gear which would eventually replace the manual transmission in the future years.

In 2003, a smaller, V10 fitted Gallardo was birthed that was later offered in variants like the Spyder (convertible version), the Balboni (a low cost, rear-wheel-drive variant) and the Superleggera (a lighter and powerful track-focused version).

The latter part of that decade saw various revisions of the Murciélago and Gallardo models. Reventon was a limited edition variant of the Murciélago. Murciélago was discontinued officially in 2010. The Gallardo received a facelift in 2008, with a more aggressive design and an engine overhaul, a 5.2-litre uneven firing unit and generating 560 PS in the base model, which was called the LP 560-4. The variants followed up with the update as well and the Gallardo used the company’s new single-clutch E Gear transmission now.

The Aventador, a 700 PS replacement for the Murciélago, debuted at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. The Aventador was the first new Lamborghini Automobile in 10 years with an angular design language and an entirely new V12 engine and marked the retirement of the original Lamborghini V12 engine designed by Bizzarrini. A roadster version was introduced in 2012 with two removable roof panels.

In 2013, the Veneno was introduced, Lamborghini’s interpretation of a racing prototype meant for the road. There was also a roadster version of the same in 2014. Veneno sold lesser than 10 units at 4,500,000 US dollars each making it the most expensive Lamborghini ever.

More Models from Lamborghini

2011 – Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Super Trofeo Stradale

2012 –  Sesto Elemento (Sixth Element), a limited edition car based on the Gallardo Superleggera with a newly designed body and aesthetics for track use only

2013 – Aventador LP 720-4 50° Anniversario: 200 units in total of coupé and roadster variants were produced. Huracán LP610-4, Gallardo’s replacement was introduced.

2015 – Aventador SV

2016 – Centenario: Debut of Lamborghini’s four-wheel steering system and torque vectoring

2017 – Launch of Aventador S LP 740-4, LP640-4 Performante (Huracan’s variant), and Urus (Production Form)

2018 – The ultimate track focused iteration of the Aventador called the Aventador Super Veloce Jota (SVJ)

2019 – Lamborghini’s First hybrid automobile called the Sián FKP 37

2020 – Production of 10,000th unit of Urus

2021 – Announcement of the end of the line of the Aventador

2022 – The last Aventador, 2022 Lamborghini Anventador Ultimae

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