Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A., commonly referred to as Lamborghini, is an Italian manufacturer of high performance sports cars (supercar) based in the small Italian village of Sant'Agata Bolognese, near Bologna. Lamborghini is now a subsidiary of German car manufacturer Audi AG, which is in turn a subsidiary of Volkswagen. Lamborghini is the main counterpart to Ferrari in the Italian sports car business. The company was founded in 1963 by businessman Ferruccio Lamborghini (April 28, 1916–February 20, 1993), who owned a successful tractor factory, Lamborghini Trattori S.p.A..
As told by Ferruccio Lamborghini's son, Ferruccio Lamborghini went to meet Enzo Ferrari at the Ferrari factory to complain about the quality of the clutch in the Ferrari 250 GT he owned. Enzo Ferrari sent him away telling him to go and drive tractors because he was not able to drive cars. Lamborghini went back to his factory, had his Ferrari's clutch dismantled and realized that the clutch manufacturer was the same who supplied the clutches for his tractors. In his warehouse he found a spare part which he thought suitable, and when it was installed the problem was solved.
Ferruccio decided that his car was to have a V12 engine, and enlisted the services of talented engineer Giotto Bizzarrini, who had previously worked on a Ferrari V12. The new engine had 4 cams, a short stroke and 2 big bore valves per cylinder, and developed a surprising 350 horsepower (260 kW). The engine featured aluminium construction, with a crankshaft supported by seven main bearings, forged aluminium pistons, and camshafts with their own half-engine-speed sprocket and silent chain. The car the engine was mounted in was designed by Franco Scaglione's Scaglione-Touring.
This Lamborghini 350GTV prototype began making public appearances in 1963, starting with the Turin Auto Show. Sales of the production model, known as the 350GT, began the following year with great success, with over 130 examples sold. Born under the sign of the Taurus, Ferruccio Lamborghini used the bull as the badge by which to mark his new automobile.
The 350GT by Lamborghini was followed up by the 400GT. The excellent sales of the 400GT and its predecessor gave the company sufficient funds to design its first supercar - the now-legendary Lamborghini Miura, which was premiered by Ferruccio himself in November 1965 at the Turin Auto Show. The car's engine was transversely mounted. The styling was executed by Marcello Gandini in less than a year; a completed car was displayed at the Geneva Auto Show in March, 1966 (the Turin car was only a chassis). The car's name was taken from that of a famed fighting-bull trainer, Don Eduardo Miura. The Miura was a success for Lamborghini: 111 were sold in 1967, and it propelled the company into the small world of exotic supercar manufacturers.
At the same time, the Espada, a four-seat car based on the Marzal concept car, was developed. The name Espada means sword in Spanish, and referred to the sword used by the matador in bullfighting. Using the 4-litre V12 in a conventional layout up front, this low slung touring car could attain a top speed of around 150 mph in comfort. One interesting feature of the Espada was a glass taillight panel that used the same taillights as the contemporary Fiat 124 Coupe. The Espada received minor improvements in keeping with the time as the years went by, ending up with 3 different versions.
In 1971, Lamborghini brought the unusual-looking LP500 Countach prototype, named after an Italian slang term uttered in surprise by a person who had just seen the new car. The production LP400 Countach was introduced three years later. The prototype was the first car to sport Lamborghini's now-traditional scissor doors, along with vertically mounted rear air intakes. The same 4-litre V12 engine was used, an uprated 5-litre engine arriving later in the Countach production. The Countach was also one of the first cars to use the new Pirelli P-Zero tyres when they came out. Lamborghini's own test driver was sometimes the "chauffeur" for motoring magazines' journalists, and stories of the Countach's amazing high speed cornering, power and grip were common. Another point noted by journalists was the manner in which reversing a Countach was accomplished; raising the driver's door and sitting on the door sill.
In 1972, however, the company suffered a major setback. A massive tractor order for a South American nation was cancelled, rendering upgrades Lamborghini had already made to its factories in anticipation of the demand useless. The money lost drove Ferruccio to sell part of his share in the tractor factory, which was taken over by Fiat. The tractor business was eventually acquired by SAME (now Same Deutz-Fahr). Lamborghini tractors are still sold today, as part of the SAME Deutz-Fahr Group.
Throughout the seventies, sales of the Countach kept the company in business. Soon enough, the car division became self-sufficient and profitable. Lamborghini, however, sold all his remaining stock in the company to a Swiss investor, leaving the automotive industry behind to pursue wine making from the comfort of his villa in the countryside. Ferruccio Lamborghini died in February 1993 at the age of 76.
The 1970s oil crisis plagued sales of high performance cars, and Lamborghini suffered budget and parts supply problems; cars were sold with two-year back orders, and customers became fed up with waiting for their cars. Also, Lamborghinis were never raced and were never fully developed; the company developed a reputation of building toys for rich playboys when Ferrari and Porsche, and Maserati before them built illustrious careers in the racing world. Since the beginning the cars had continuous and expensive reliability problems, in the '70s things became even worse, as cars now had to meet US emission requirements. All these factors contributed to the company's demise. Like many other exotic Italian automobiles, the components used were often of poor quality. In 1978, Lamborghini declared bankruptcy. An Italian court was appointed to find a buyer, and the Swiss-based Mimran brothers took over the company. The 1980s saw things turn around for Lamborghini under its new ownership.
In a surprise move, the company was sold to the Chrysler Corporation in 1987. Lamborghini at the time was working on the Countach's successor, the Diablo. Chrysler brought its vast resources to the playing field, along with design input, pollution controls, and new manufacturing techniques. The end result was another success for the company. The Lamborghini Diablo received fame much like that of its predecessor, and once again put the manufacturer on top of its game.
In 1994, poor economic circumstances at Chrysler forced them to sell Lamborghini to an Indonesian investment group headed by Tommy Suharto. These owners sold the company in the late 1990s, also while suffering from poor economic circumstances. By then however, the German car company Audi AG had gained interest in the ailing Italian company, and in 1998, in a complex series of transactions, Audi AG became the sole owner of Automobili Lamborghini.
Lamborghini's latest owner once again greatly influenced the design of its cars, such as today's Murcielago. Audi's vast technical resources helped produce one of Lamborghini's most sophisticated two-seaters to date.
Lamborghini's cars are among the most powerful, expensive and exclusive serial-manufactured cars on the road today. Lamborghini's various models have different exclusive features, such as carbon fiber construction, high-tech V10 and V12 engines, and styling penciled by such names as Franco Scaglione, Touring of Milan, Zagato, Mario Marazzi, Bertone, ItalDesign and Marcello Gandini.
Jorge Antonio Fernandez Garcia set up his company, automoviles Lamborghini Latinamerica (based in Argentina), in 1994 with special permission granted by Automobili Lamborghini in Italy. The first cars, called the Eros and the Coatl were presented in 2000. These are hand-made Diablo-based special sportscars and from 2003 they are offered for sale only in South America.
The Lamborghini badge with its connotations of exotic motoring has been licensed for use on unrelated products such as mountain bikes, watches, sunglasses, and notebook computers from Asus in Taiwan.
Lamborghini's outrageous supercar models have brought Lamborghini much fame. The Miura, the Countach, the Diablo, and the Murciélago, continue to be some of the most desired super cars of all time. The current (2007) range consists of the Murciélago LP640, the Murciélago LP640 Roadster and the smaller, less expensive Gallardo, Gallardo Spyder and Gallardo Superleggera. All are extremely fast, mid-engined 2-seaters with Lamborghini's standard all-wheel drive systems. Their styling is largely the work of Belgian designer Luc Donckerwolke. Future models may include a rear-wheel-drive version of the Gallardo and possibly an SUV in the spirit of the LM002. The next generation of Lamborghini models will be penned by Walter de'Silva, who designed the 2006 Miura concept car and who replaced Luc Donckerwolke as head of Centro Stile Lamborghini, Lamborghini's in-house design department.