Investigating The Legacies Of Montjuïc And Lamborghini With A Beautiful 350 GT
Photography by Virgiliu Andone
Just a couple of days before this shoot, there was snow on the streets of Barcelona. No, that doesn’t happen too often. Actually, it nearly never happens. On the day of, it was cloudy and the light was flat; nothing like the gorgeous golden glow that this place is famous for. So much for stereotypes. Despite the handicap, I try to talk myself into accepting this as some kind of blessing in disguise. Let me explain. We set up to do a story about defying expectations. It stars an atypical Lamborghini and an ever-transforming part of the Catalan capital. So, when I think about it, I should have expected the weather to throw its own curve ball into the mix.
I’ve wanted to do a shoot on Montjuïc for a very long time. One of the two emblematic peaks that tower above Barcelona, this place seduces you with its panoramic views over the city and then blows you away with its own character. It’s hard to think of other places of the same scale as this that can claim to have hosted an International Exhibition, F1 races, and the Summer Olympics. Despite all that, Montjuïc keeps its wonderfully understated nature, its leafy streets oozing with a charming, relaxed vibe. It’s impressive, but it’s never overpowering, it’s actually very welcoming—especially now that the usual fleet of tourist buses are sparing it from the usually inevitable crowds.
I knew it would take a very special car to connect with the energy of this great hilltop, and when I saw the silver 1964 Lamborghini 350 GT in the lavish den that Auto Storica keeps it in, it became clear that this was just the thing to do it. Auto Storica performed a full restoration of the car back in 2013, and today its 3464cc V12 is happily deploying all of its 280 horses to make short work of these sloping roads. This bull was originally red, but for once I was selfishly happy its later owners decided to paint it in this new color—it seems just perfect for its surroundings, and more elegant in the hypothetical vacuum.
It’s a good looking vehicle any way you look at it, but the Lamborghini may seem like a surprising choice. After all, Barcelona has a homegrown automotive legacy, with some beautiful creations that have left the entire motoring world weak at the knees—Pegaso, anyone?
But this 350 GT makes a lot of sense too. Whether by way of over-rationalizing or simply deconstructing my gut feeling, it all started to gel. It’s the Lamborghini that does not look like a Lamborghini to anyone but the initiated. It’s also the first production car from the brand, making it arguably even more pioneering than the Miura or Countach, which typically receive all the credit for shifting paradigms. Just as Lamborghini initially defined itself with the debut of the 350 GT, time and time again, Barcelona has collectively chosen Montjuïc as the setting to define the outside world’s perception of the city.
The founding fathers of the Sant’Agata Bolognese company expected a future filled with luxurious and somewhat understated GTs as opposed to the more radical creations that followed, and as the site of the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, but also later, for the 1992 Summer Olympics, as well as the now mostly forgotten Spanish Grand Prix circuit, Montjuïc also went through a series of major transformations in its bid to become the model for what the city stood for. In both cases, history never quite confirmed the intended legacies. Lamborghini turned into the purveyor of some of the most outrageous cars ever built, while, in the eyes of the outside world, Barcelona is still first and foremost the city of the Catalan Modernism. So, I imagine you asking, these two are brought together because they are basically historical dead ends? Fair point, but are they really?
Even before the shoot, I had a feeling that things were not going to be as clear cut as this, but, the more time I spent capturing them, the more I realized my initial instincts were right. In the wide open spaces on Montjuïc, it’s impossible not to look at this car and start to see the connective thread between it and the Miura. The more you look at the lower body, the more you see the same vision, no doubt helped by the contribution of Carrozzeria Touring, who adapted the rather crude execution on the 350 GTV prototype to the production version.
I think Giorgio Prevedi and Franco Scaglione’s vision is better served by the production model, even though it lost its pop up headlights and the taillights are not quite as well integrated as in the design’s first iteration. It has a delightful surface treatment and an attitude that you can only find elsewhere on the much more famous Miura. Looking on, the spectacularly architectural greenhouse and the slim rear end, dominated by powerful horizontal lines has little to nothing to do with Gandini’s Miura. But then it started to scream Countach to me.
The angular and revolutionary successor to the Miura recovered some of the design intent of the 350 GT in my opinion, with its hard, fast lines and surprising volumes. It looked to the outside world as if Lamborghini reinvented itself with every new flagship model, but I think there is a shared undercurrent between the work of the designers who established the company’s early aesthetics. We might just have been tricked here. What appeared to us as a jagged path only connected by the avant garde might have actually been incredibly smooth when seen from within the company. Looking at the 350 GT on the lawn of an exhibition, it is hard to see the connection, but here, in the open, I’d argue that it becomes impossible to ignore.
And that brings me to another thought. It looks like a strong connection. Here. On Montjuïc. Where a splendid Spanish Renaissance style palace shares the limelight with the Mies van der Rohe pavilion. Where a medieval fortress is a stone’s throw away from a post modernist stadium. Where Miro is a few steps away from Calatrava. Anywhere else, these things should not work well together. In fact, some were designed to be strong reactions against each other.
And yet here they are true complements. This could be the true magic of this place. It is, after all, a model for the city, without being a typical one. It’s a model hidden in plain sight. Because it does not dictate. It liberates. It creates bridges. It opens new avenues and it harbors a lasting internationalist feeling, encouraging people to embrace their differences and discard the idea that nothing can be more than the sum of its parts. And it does all that with a certain nonchalantness that makes it all the better—this is not a contrived melting pot.
As the sun finally peeks out and Barcelona starts looking more like its usual self in the background, I start to ponder the idea that I might have been fooled into making connections that were never really there. I’m not disappointed about the validity of that thought, though. I feel privileged for the experience. I consider it a gift. The gift of being inspired, of having your mind lit up by simply being somewhere special. How could I ever ask for more than that?