There’s Nothing Better Than A Book Of Lamborghinis
The book: Lamborghini Supercars 50 Years: From the Groundbreaking Miura to Today’s Hypercars
Author: Stuart Codling, Photography by James Mann
Purchase: Click here
It is difficult to believe that just over 50 years have elapsed since Ferruccio Elio Arturo Lamborghini took it upon himself to build his own car with a V12 engine, and found his eponymous company, Automobili Lamborghini, in the small Italian town of Sant’Agata Bolognese.
Difficult, because the company’s history feels much more expansive than the years indicate, and that’s because in many ways it is—the company whose cars are adorned with the emblem of a fighting bull has weathered more than its fair share of turmoil—but Lamborghini has always managed to produce evocative automobiles that have captured the imagination. Penned by Stuart Codling, author of several automotive books, and a highly regarded Formula 1 writer, Lamborghini Supercars 50 Years: From the Groundbreaking Miura to Today’s Hypercars, charts the course from the company’s early, humble beginnings through today’s ownership under Volkswagen-owned Audi.
Lamborghini’s parents were grape farmers, and early on, the young Lamborghini’s synergy with the farm equipment was evident. This environment aided him in developing mechanical abilities at a young age, and instill in him a love for cars, and motorcycles. First, though, he would have to make his fortune.
After serving as a mechanic in the Italian Air Force during World War II, he founded Lamborghini Trattori S.p.A, which would over time become one of the largest agricultural equipment manufacturers in the country. Now having the means, Lamborghini was able to indulge. As detailed by the book, and a story often recounted by others, after owning a succession of sports cars, including several Ferrari 250 derivatives, he became frustrated with the clutch of his Ferrari 250 GT, and took it back to where it came from.
After being rebuffed by il Commendatore himself, Enzo Ferrari, supposedly with the quip, “the problem is not with the car but with driver”, Lamborghini took the ailing car back to his workshop, and discovered that the clutch was similar to those he utilized in his tractors. The gauntlet had been laid down, and with ambition, know-how, and to be sure, millions of Italian Lire, Lamborghini set out to build his own car, and show up Ferrari.
Lamborghini would not enter into automobile manufacturing solely to avenge a snub. He also thought there was money to be made if one got it right, and he didn’t think others had. Lamborghini had the prescience of mind to snatch up some young and talented engineers like Giotto Bizzarrini, Franco Scaglione, and Gian Paolo Dallara (some, coincidentally or not, ex-Ferrari employees) to spearhead development of what he hoped would be his “perfect car”: a powerful GT that would reach 150 mph on the Autostrada. The result was the Lamborghini 350 GT.
While finding favor amongst a select group of enthusiasts, it would not set the world alight. No, that would be Lamborghini’s follow-up, the Miura. Wrapped in a Marcello Gandini-designed body and powered by a 350-horsepower V12, the radical Miura instantly made every other car look antique when it made its debut at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show. The successor to the Miura, the Countach of 1974 was a wide, and low, wedge that once again redefined what a supercar would be.
It is at this point that this book’s plot, as it were, increasingly weaves in the financial issues confronting the company during uncertain times, and the various, and often, colorful new owners. After Lamborghini’s departure in 1974, a series of caretakers either nourished or neglected the company until Lee Iacocca, and Chrysler swooped in, purchasing the company in May, 1987 for $33 million dollars.
Immediately confronted by having to replace the company’s iconic, but aging Countach, of which successor designs had been stalled for lack of investment, and focus. Another design by Gandini, the Diablo, would replace the Countach in 1990, and is seen by many to be the last of the “original” Lamborghini supercars. The company would be sold offagain before Audi would pick up the pieces in 1997. With German efficiency and stability, the company could achieve the goals set out by its founder, only this time with more reliability, better ergonomics, and better visibility. The Murcielago, Gallardo, Reventón, Aventador, and, most recently, the Huracán, would follow with promises of ultimate performance that finally delivered.
Codling has, to this reader, certainly done his research on his subject. Moreover, and to the book’s great benefit, the author doesn’t make it a history textbook full of facts and dates. Instead, he tells a story that for almost anyone is eminently readable. The book’s pictures are wonderful, with illustrations, and some period archive material.
Contemporary photography from James Mann, who has shot other Motorbooks titles, is crisp. A dearth of technical and engineering information for the more than casual enthusiast is there for the gleaming. Yes, some cars were left out of this tome – models like the Espada, Urraco, and LM002 are barely mentioned at all, but perhaps they aren’t within the author’s supercar focus, and other complaints are few.
I would have liked to have seen more period sales-brochure type material to round out the overall story, and many of the best two–page photography spreads are marred by the spine of the book. Overall, an enjoyable, and well-published book for any actual or aspiring Lamborghini owner or enthusiast.