From inventing the supercar to failing to sell motorcycles.
Ferruccio Lamborghini was born in April 1916 and developed a reputation for mechanical ingenuity while stationed as a vehicle maintenance supervisor for the Italian Royal Air Force. Stuck on an island in the middle of World War II meant the supply chain for parts wasn't reliable, so he had to get creative to keep things running.
When he returned to Italy, he created a business making tractors from surplus military machines, then expanded into manufacturing all kinds of things, including heating and air-conditioning systems. Ferruccio Lamborghini became wealthy and spent some of his money on sports cars, specifically a Ferrari 250GT regularly serviced by Ferrari at its Maranello headquarters.
This article was originally published in January 2022 but was updated with the latest information available in December 2023.
When Lamborghini's own mechanic pointed out that a replacement clutch in the car was the same as used in Lamborghini tractors but with a massive markup from Ferrari, he was incensed and confronted Enzo Ferrari. Enzo belittled Ferruccio Lamborghini as a tractor maker who didn't know anything about sports cars.
Lamborghini responded to Enzo Ferrari's arrogance by building his own sports car, the Lamborghini 350 GTV. It was a two-seater coupe powered from the front by a V12 engine. Automobili Lamborghini was established as a company in 1963 in Sant'Agata Bolognese, Italy, and quickly changed the automotive world.
Enzo Ferrari gave in to the mid-engine layout in race cars, but he liked his production cars as traditional grand tourers.
Lamborghini's top engineers thought the way forward was mid-engine, so Gian Paolo Dallara, Paolo Stanzani, and Bob Wallace built a prototype on their own time. Ferruccio wasn't wholly convinced of its long-term viability but recognized that a ferocious mid-engined car could be a great marketing tool. He gave the engineers free rein to develop the idea, then contracted the Italian design studio Bertone to design the bodywork.
Between them, they invented the Lamborghini Miura and created the first supercar with a rear mid-engine two-seat layout. Just 764 were built between 1966 and 1973, but it became a global sensation. Amazingly, the engineers took a massive design idea from the equally culturally important Mini by designing the engine and transmission as a single unit to share lubrication from the oil.
At the time of writing, Lamborghini produced 27 separately named models, including the all-new Revuelto.
If you ignore the single and special production cars based on existing models, that number drops to 17 over 59 years. The one with the most sub-models is the landmark Lamborghini Diablo, with 18 different variations despite only around 900 being built.
The lowest-selling model was Lamborghini's second, the 400 GT. The best-selling model by far is the Lamborghini Urus. In 2022, Lamborghini built the 20,000th unit, and the counter is still ticking. The Huracan also reached the magical 20,000 figure in 2022, and the final model year consignment was sold out by May 2023. The final production figure has not been confirmed, but it should be around 21,000.
To put that in perspective, during the Gallardo's entire 10-year production run, Lamborghini only made 14,022 units.
Not bad for a company that started out with farm equipment.
It's well known that most Lamborghini models are named after an aspect of bullfighting history, but that's not the only reason the bull was settled on as a logo. Ferruccio Lamborghini's star sign was Taurus, and he was passionate about bulls and bullfighting. Also, the bull represented power, speed, and prestige to Lamborghini. It was also a great response to Ferrari's prancing horse.
The original logo for the automaker was a black-and-white bull on a red background with the shield outlined in black. The more familiar black-and-gold color scheme didn't appear until 1972, but in 1974, a monochrome version was made, and it wasn't until 1998 that black and gold returned and the badge we know today was created.
The Lamborghini Countach was launched in 1974, and its radical design and performance changed the supercar game again. However, it wasn't built from the factory to meet the United States or Canadian safety and emissions regulations. That didn't stop Americans, though, and quite a few made their way across the ocean as gray market imports, modified to meet legislation.
Lamborghini was well aware the US was a big market for the brand and the car but didn't build one to meet standards until the US-specification Countach LP5000 QV in 1985. Like other sports cars of the era, the US model had larger energy-absorbing bumpers fitted.
Inevitably, most owners pulled them off straight away.
A new Lamborghini will never be cheap, but the Veneno Coupe weighed in at $4 million and the Veneno Roadster at $4.5 million. Five coupes and nine roadsters were built, and if you want one now, expect to pay at least double the original cost when one comes up for auction again.
Not only did the Veneno arrive in 2013 as the most expensive production car on the planet, but its 6.5-liter V12 pushed it to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 221 mph. The specs don't stop wowing there, though.
In corners, the Veneno will pull 1.41 G, and it'll come to a stop from 60 mph in just 98 feet. That's the length of the world's largest bus or two feet short of the height of a 10-story building.
Most high-end manufacturers will teach you how to drive fast in one of their vehicles on a track. However, Lamborghini will put you on a track topped with ice and snow.
In 2020, the event that Lamborghini describes as a "fun and instructional program" took place in Aspen, Colorado, and people attending had the chance to thrash Lamborghini Huracan EVO and Urus models around in the snow. In 2022, Lambo hosted a trip from Sant'Agata Bolognese to the foot of the Matterhorn.
We're not sure if this benefitted any of them in the real world, but we'd bet our bottom dollar that the experience was seriously fun. Teaching Urus owners that their SUVs are more than just pavement pounders is something we can get behind, too.
According to Lamborghini's founder, taking the brand racing would drain too many resources, including cash.
As a result, he decided there would be no factory team or factory support for racing teams. His engineers disagreed, particularly those that came from Ferrari, where selling road cars supported the racing. Under Ferruccio's reign, a few highly modified prototypes were built, but none went racing. Lamborghini built Formula 1 engines from 1989 to the early 1990s for the Larrousse, Lotus, Ligier, Minardi, and Modena teams. The Modena team was commonly believed to be Lamborghini's factory project, but the automaker was just a supplier.
These days, Lamborghini has visibility in racing through its motorsport department, Lamborghini Squadra Corse. The department organizes the Lamborghini Super Trofeo and Lamborghini GT3 one-make series. Lamborghini is happy to build customer race cars such as the Huracan GT3 EVO to go tear up the track with.
Lambo is also committed to endurance racing and will compete at Le Mans in 2024.
The 1980s were an excellent time for Lamborghini financially, and the head of the company at the time, Patrick Mimran, decided the brand should branch out. Lamborghini still builds incredible boat engines, but the project to develop and sell a motorcycle didn't go well.
The Design 90 motorcycle was outsourced to Boxer Bikes and used a Kawasaki engine. Fifty orders for the bike were placed, but only six were built, including concepts. The project was iced when GM took over Lamborghini and was ultimately forgotten.
The last time we saw a Design 90 in the wild, it went up for auction but didn't meet its reserve price. Still, Lamborghini remains a beautiful marque, and the vehicles it has found success with are better than ever.
Lamborghini has stated that its future models will all be electrified, but it will cling to combustion for as long as possible. We were surprised when the Revuelto was unveiled with a high-revving 6.5-liter naturally aspirated V12 engine. It's helped along by three electric motors and a sizeable battery, but that monster of an engine is the centerpiece of the car. By itself, it produces 814 horsepower at 9,250 rpm.
The Huracan replacement is reportedly downsizing, but it will likely still have a fierce V8 producing more power than the beloved V10 ever could.
Lamborghini is one of the leading manufacturers making us excited about the electric revolution. It has proved that an electric motor need not negatively impact a car's character.
Shortly after unveiling the Revuelto, Lamborghini showcased the Lanzador concept, which previews the first all-electric Lamborghini.
The Italian brand is on the right path, as the Lanzador is an Urus-like SUV with 2+2 seating and a dual-motor setup producing 1,340 hp. It also has a fighter jet-style interior, and because EVs allow more freedom to play around with power distribution and regenerative braking, Lamborghini is working on some gnarly driving modes.
It's expected to go into production in 2028, but Lamborghini remains committed to internal combustion for as long as governments worldwide remain undecided on synthetic fuel.