Q: Hello Greg. I read in one of your columns that Italian tractor manufacturer Ferruccio Lamborghini was unhappy with his Ferrari, and when he complained about what he didn’t like, Enzo (Ferrari) told him to concentrate on tractors and leave the sports car building to him (Ferrari). Can you tell us more of what’s happened to the famous Italian sports car, and how Lamborghini’s are looked on today versus Ferrari? Thanks much, Bill K., Illinois.
A: Bill, I’d be happy to. Let’s start with “the future,” as when I attended this year’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen, there was a line of 17 Lamborghini race cars sitting in the pit ready to compete. If this doesn’t tell you how well Lamborghini is doing these days, nothing will.
As for the history, it is true what happened between Mr. Lamborghini and Mr. Ferrari. After reading an article in a USAir magazine, I dug up more information and found that Lamborghini hired away Ferrari’s top engine man, Giotto Bizzarrini, to help build his first car in 1963. Not surprisingly, the car featured a “Bizzarrini” V-12 engine for power.
Although no one expected big sales, Lamborghini moved forward as there was sufficient interest. By 1966, Lamborghini debuted what many felt was one of the finest built sports cars ever with his all-new Miura, which did start the sales rolling. The Miura was a mid-engine, rear drive sports car and was on the receiving end of numerous awards and citations by the motoring press.
Along the way, and not surprisingly, there were difficulties for Lamborghini as more and more demands were thrown on his company. Still, everything was going okay until that dreaded year of 1973, when the oil embargo brought not only Lamborghini to its knees, but just about every other car manufacturer that didn’t build small economy cars.
By 1978, Lamborghini was forced into bankruptcy after the ownership changed hands three times since 1973. Thanks to Chrysler Corporation, itself a near bankrupt company years earlier, they took control of Lamborghini in 1987 and then quickly sold the badge to a Malaysian and Indonesian company in 1994.
Finally in 1998, Volkswagen stepped up to the plate and bought Lamborghini. Volkswagen then brought in the Audi people to control the further advancement, and under this group of German craftsman, the Lamborghini today is a successful, albeit very expensive, sports car that sells V-12 and V-10 powered sports cars called Aventador and Haracan, respectively.
After seeing this class race at aforementioned Watkins Glen as part of the touring IMSA/TUDOR United Sports Car Championship dubbed “Super Trofeo North American Series,” I can attest to its moniker as “The World’s Fastest One-Make Series.”
Hope this all helps and for all Lamborghini fans out there, you’re in good hands with Volkswagen/Audi.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto writer. He welcomes reader questions on collector cars, old-time racing and auto nostalgia at 116 Main St., Towanda, Pa. 18848 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org).