A History of Lamborghini, One of the World’s Most Prestigious Cars
Born in Italy on April 28, 1916, Ferruccio Lamborghini is the man behind the pioneering car brand that continues to dominate the luxury car market today.
The son of Antonio and Evelina Lamborghini, Ferruccio Lamborghini grew up in a family of grape farmers in the Province of Ferrara, Northern Italy. As an adolescent, he was more interested in agricultural machinery than following his parents into the winemaking industry.
Pursuing his fascination for mechanics rather than following his parents into farming, Lamborghini enrolled at Fratelli Taddia, a technical institute. Called up to the Italian Air Force in 1940, Lamborghini served as a mechanic on the island of Rhodes, where he was eventually appointed supervisor of the Italian garrison’s vehicle maintenance unit.
In 1945, at the end of World War II, Rhodes fell to the British. Lamborghini was taken prisoner, and it was another year before he could return home to Italy. He married, but his wife died in childbirth in 1947, survived by their son, Tonino. He later had a daughter, Patrizia, with his third wife.
Lamborghini settled in Pieve di Cento, Bologna. He opened a garage, making tractors and modifying a Fiat Topolino in his spare time. His exceptional mechanical abilities enabled him to transform the humble city car into a high-powered, 750-cc open-top two-seater. In 1948, Lamborghini entered the car in the Mille Miglia, his participation ending abruptly when he collided with a restaurant in Turin.
By the end of the 1940s, Ferruccio Lamborghini had built a solid reputation with his Carioca tractor line. Since gasoline was prohibitively expensive in Italy at the time, Lamborghini adapted Morris engines using a custom-designed fuel atomizer, enabling his line of tractors to be started on gasoline, then transition to cheaper diesel fuel. The Carioca tractors proved an instant hit.
As Lamborghini Trattori became increasingly profitable, its founder enjoyed a vast increase in wealth, enabling him to buy faster, more expensive cars than the Fiats he tinkered with previously. By the 1950s, he had enough cars to drive a different vehicle each day of the week. Lamborghini added a Jaguar E-Type coupe, Mercedes-Benz 300SL, and two Maserati 3500 GTs to his collection of Lancias and Alfa Romeos.
Lamborghini had a great deal of respect for Adolfo Orsi, the then-owner of Maserati. Nevertheless, he did not think much of his cars, commenting that they felt heavy and did not go very vast.
After purchasing several Ferraris, Lamborghini acknowledged they were good cars, but were too rough and noisy to be proper road cars, criticizing their clutches and interiors. After successfully modifying his own Ferrari 250 GT to outperform stock models, Lamborghini decided to venture into the car making industry. He pledged to create the ultimate car: a high-performance grand tourer that did not compromise on ride quality, interior appointments, and tractability.
An astute businessman, Lamborghini recognized the considerable potential for profit if he could repurpose components used in his tractors to make high-performance, luxury cars. He established Automobili Lamborghini in 1963.
Based in Sant’Agata Bolognese, the company released its first models in the 1960s. Lamborghini’s offerings were lauded for their refinement, comfort, and power. In 1966, the Lamborghini brand gained international acclaim for its Miura sports coupe range featuring rear-wheel drive and a rear mid-engine, setting a new standard for high-performance cars. The fledgling carmaker’s new offering catapulted the company to the pinnacle of sports car manufacturing.
In 1968, Lamborghini tried his hand at boat design, commissioning construction of the Riva Aquafaba Lamborghini, a motorboat fitted with two Lamborghini engines. He owned the boat for more than 20 years, selling it to a close friend in 1988.
In 1971, Lamborghini Trattori suffered a considerable setback when a South African importer cancelled all its orders. With approximately half of its tractors exported to overseas buyers, the company ran into further difficulties as a result of the successful coup d’état in Bolivia, with the new military government also cancelling a large shipment.
Ferruccio Lamborghini sold his interest in Lamborghini Trattori in 1972. Following the 1973 oil crisis, he also severed his ties with Automobili Lamborghini, selling his remaining 49% share in the company. Lamborghini retired to a large estate in Umbria, Italy, returning to winemaking like his parents before him. He died February 20, 1993, aged 76.
Despite having changed hands several times, Lamborghini is still headquartered in Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy. The company remains at the forefront of supercar design, and is today owned by the Audi division of the Volkswagen Group.
Synonymous with speed and style, Lamborghini has produced numerous groundbreaking high-performance models, including the Murcielago, Reventón, Sesto Elemento, Diablo, Espada, Gallardo, Countach, and 350 GT. The most expensive Lamborghini sold to date is the Veneno Roadster, valued at an astronomical $8.3 million.