Lamborghini Through The Years
Founded in 1963 by Ferruccio Lamborghini, the company sought to build better vehicles. Ferruccio began his rise as an entrepreneur and manufacturer after World War II. Taking a cue from post war shortages, Ferruccio filled a gap in farm equipment availability by converting war machines into tractors. This move made him successful and opened the door to other ventures in manufacturing. Such a profound and respectable reputation allowed him to gather investment funds to begin the Lamborghini company.
Moving to the small village of Sant'Agata, Lamborghini built a state-of-the-art automotive factory. Helping him realize his dream of making fine cars was automotive engineer Giotto Bizzarrini, a major design force behind Ferrari. By the mid-1960s, Lamborghini was producing vehicles noted for its power, performance, and comfort. First to arrive was the 350GT, debuting at the Turin Motor Show. The 350GT moniker derived from the size of the engine, a 3.5-liter four-cam V-12. After that premiered the 400GT, which stayed in production until 1968. The 1966 Miura sport coupe became quite renowned and established the mid-engine design as the standard layout for high-performance cars of the time. Produced until 1973, the Miura became a true standard and established Lamborghini as one of the world's finest high-performance vehicle makers.
In the 1970s, a string of events altered the course of the company's future. The tractor business, which had been the foundation for Lamborghini's success, started to suffer. A worldwide economic collapse hurt many luxury product makers including the Italian sports car giant. The 1973 oil crisis put the last nail in the coffin for the Italian automaker. Controlling interest in Automobili Lamborghini was sold to a Swiss industrialist after the tractor business took a massive hit, and the remainder of shares were sold after the impact of the economic and oil crises was fully felt.
Problems continued for the company after the change of ownership. A poorly conceived business plan that revolved around the military truck-style Cheetah resulted in millions being invested in the development of this new vehicle, but ultimately sales were disappointing. By the end of the decade, the automaker had declared bankruptcy.
Lamborghini in America
After restructuring post-bankruptcy, the company revived itself by returning to what it did best, crafting high-performance sports cars with intimidating appearances and power to match. New in the 1980s, the Countach became one of Lamborghini's name vehicles. The Countach was actually introduced in 1974 but was held back due to the economic climate.
Another change of leadership occurred in 1987 when Chrysler bought controlling interest in the exotic carmaker. The American automaker held the brand until 1994, when Lamborghini was acquired by three Far Eastern companies lead by Megatech, the largest of the trio and primary shareholder. Things were fine until the end of the decade. Once again, global financial difficulties hurting luxury brand sales combined with a lack of product line diversity put Lamborghini into dire financial strains. Volkswagen, owners of such recognizable luxury marques as Audi and Bentley, came to the rescue in 1998.
The most recognizable and brand-defining rides are the Countach of the 1980s and the Diablo of the 1990s with its fierce styling and looks and performance to match. The lineage continued into the new millennium under the direction of a German and Italian design and production coop. The Murcielago, a 200 mph successor to the Diablo/Countach line, and the Gallardo, point to a bright future for the name that means performance, style, comfort, and luxury.
In recent years, the car manufacturer presented such creations as the Espada, an unusual design for the maker since it has four seats, and V-8 sports cars, which vary from the company's classic use of the mighty V-12. But make no mistake, the mid-engine, high-performance machine that set the standard back in the 1960s will always be the company's calling card and claim to fame.