The history of Lamborghini begins with a contentious feud between Lamborghini and Enzo Ferrari one fateful day, but the story of the iconic Italian sports car company begins a bit further back in history
Ferruccio Lamborghini knew the ins and outs of vehicles well. He earned a reputation as a superior mechanic while stationed in Rhodes island during World War Two, serving as a mechanic for the Italian Royal Air Force. With limited parts, he was forced to improvise often and developed his ability to create.
Upon returning home, he used this ability to meld together efficient tractors from surplus military machine parts. Eventually, he added other business pursuits such as making heating systems. His business took off, earning him a nice income. He decided to dabble into the world of luxury, buying a Ferrari sports car. When his Maranello needed a replacement clutch, he kindly asked for a replacement from Enzo Ferrari and made some suggestions for improvements.
Ferrari snubbed him, replying with “You're just a silly tractor manufacturer, how could you possibly know anything about sports cars?”
That was the wrong thing to say to the determined Lamborghini. He swore he would create his own sports car on par (or exceeding) Ferrari’s. Most people laughed at the idea, until he proved them wrong. Later, Lamborghini would even hire one of Ferrari’s old development chiefs Giotto Bizzarrini to create powerful 3.5 liter V12 engines.
Automobili Lamborghini was created officially in 1963 in Bolognese, Italy. Later that year, his first car, the Lamborghini 350GTV, was released a mere four months after the meeting with Ferrari at the Turin Auto Show. It was show ready, but not quite driving ready. It lacked an engine, which was filled with bricks for the show.
The company chose a bull for its logo, meant as a nod to Lamborghini zodiac sign. Many of the vehicles were named in reference to bulls in some way such as the Miura (named for a famous bull breeder).
A few years later, the company made a memorable debut at the 1966 Geneva International Motor Show. They showed the world the Miura, known as the first supercar of the world. At the time, this vehicle offered cutting edge design, balance, and speed.
This car helped bring significant fame and attention to the Lamborghini, setting a high standard for any following vehicles released by the company.
But the next released car did not fail to impress. It was the the Lamborghini Countach, which got its name because a head up in the company saw the concept and yelled out “Countach”. Depending on who you ask, this term is a swear word or a family friendly exclamation in Piedmontese dialect. The sleek design made it a favorite of many people for posters hanging in their bedroom. The car made its way into pop culture, becoming a striking image throughout the 1980s. It unveiled the now iconic upward swinging doors of the company.
The success of the Countach launched the company into fame and put it on equal ground with competing with Ferrari head on across the world. But in the world of pop culture among teenage boys, it was no contest: Lamborghini won all the way.
Even though this model was launched decades ago, it remains arguably the most iconic vehicle made by Lamborghini. It is usually what people think of when they think of “Lamborghini”
But the world of sports cars is constantly evolving. In the late 1980s, Lamborghini competitors released iconic and cutting edge cars. It was time to innovate yet again.
The company then released the Lamborghini Diablo. The namesake is meant to honor a bull whose endurance led to an unusual several hour bullfight back in 1869. This vehicle could reach top speeds of 202 miles per hour. This would be the last model experienced by Lamborghini before he passed away in 1993.
The company failed to continue its excellence in the 1990s, however. Many of the vehicles released during this time lacked the company’s iconic quality and innovative design.
Only a few years after creating the company, Lamborghini decided to embrace retirement in the early 1970s. He sold his interest and left to spend his days in his vineyard.
The company changed ownership several times. At first, it was sold in 1972 to a Swiss company. It went through many sales before being purchased in 1987 by Chrysler.
Chrysler released several successful cars, including the Jarama and Urraco. This success was not sustained however, and Chrysler sold the company in 1993 to Indonesian investors. When the Asian financial crisis hit in 1998, they sold the company to Volkswagen who purchased the company for $111 million.
Under their hands, the company released notable cars such as the Murcielago (which can reach incredible speeds up to 250 miles per hour). The name comes from a bull who stabbed the matador 24 times and yet survived.
The best selling car in company history came about in 2004, which was the Gallardo. The namesake is meant to honor an iconic breed of bulls. Instead of being powered by a V12 engine, it is powered by a V10.
It was not until 2011 that a car was released not suited with the iconic Bizzarrini V12 engine. This vehicle was the Aventador, also the first all new car released under Stephan WInkelmann (who took over as company president in 2005). The name, of course, comes from a bull engaged in a historic battle in 1993. It reaches top driving speeds of 217 miles per hour.
Over the years, Lamborghini slowly grew from a small unknown company to one of the world’s most sought after luxury car producers. Many innovators and CEOs played a role in shaping the company, but it always maintained its connection to bull roots with its names and its unique style.
Eventually, Lamborghini surpassed Ferrari in the esteem of the public, giving poetic justic to Lamborghini for that fateful encounter with Ferrari. As Frank Sinatra once said "You buy a Ferrari when you want to be somebody. You buy a Lamborghini when you are somebody."
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