How Lamborghini became one of the most sought-after supercar brands in the world
Italian super sports carmaker Lamborghini celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. This is the story of how a modern-day legend was made.
In partnership with Lamborghini.
Sixty years ago, a legend was born. It begins with the remarkable story of one Ferruccio Lamborghini, and his rather humble beginnings, as the eldest son in a family of farmers in northern Italy.
Growing up with a keener interest in farming machinery than the farming lifestyle, Ferruccio took a shine to mechanics instead.
He started out working in mechanical workshops in Bologna and after serving as a mechanic in the military during World War II, Ferruccio returned to Italy and opened his own workshop repairing motor vehicles and building small utility vehicles.
By the age of 32, he had founded Lamborghini Trattori, which quickly grew into a key manufacturer of tractors and agricultural equipment in the wake of Italy’s post-WWII economic boom.
Ferruccio was a man of varied passions and soon found himself a serial entrepreneur with several businesses under his belt, including an oil burner factory and air conditioning manufacturer.
But it was in 1963 that a global icon for the ages was minted.
Ferruccio was determined to build a new luxury super sports car that could rival the best in the world; a game-changing ambition he promptly achieved with the launch of Automobili Lamborghini in the now-legendary town of Sant'Agata Bolognese.
Lamborghini’s first-ever production car quite literally took the world by storm when it debuted at the 1964 Geneva Motor Show; a beautiful grand tourer recorded in history books as the 350 GT. The two-door coupe was fitted with a 3.5-litre V12 engine, and ceased production in 1966 to make way for a new model, which would go on to seal Lamborghini’s legacy.
A STORIED PAST
In the six decades since, the Lamborghini badge has come to stand as a symbol of power, prestige and performance; a Raging Bull unrelenting in its tenacious drive to keep forging forward.
But a piece of trivia lesser known in this intriguing origin story, perhaps, is the fact that Ferruccio had chosen the bull as the emblem for Lamborghini as he was born under the zodiac sign of Taurus, in reference to Cor Tauri, the brightest star in the Taurus constellation.
Legend has it, however, that Ferruccio had also been inspired by his great fascination with bullfighting, which would inextricably link the Lamborghini lineage with the sport for the rest of history.
Hot on the heels of the 350 GT, Lamborghini unveiled the Miura in 1966, a ground-breaking rear mid-engined two-seater encased in a fascinating body style that prompted the journalists who tested it to coin a new word: Supercar.
The Miura was indeed destined to become a legend. During that era, automobile designers discovered the not-so-secret equation to creating the perfect sports car: Low height matched with sinuous, aerodynamic forms. And thus the Miura became the lowest mass-produced car ever at just 105.5cm – a record then, and a styling feature that lives on in Lamborghini’s DNA today.
According to some reports, the Miura had been named such following an encounter Ferruccio had several years earlier when he visited the ranch of a renowned breeder of Spanish fighting bulls, Don Eduardo Miura, in Seville. Word has it that Ferruccio was so enamoured by this Miura line of fighting bulls known for their immense size and ferocity that he decided to adopt the raging bull as the company logo.
Always one to push boundaries in pursuit of the unconventional, Lamborghini unveiled the Countach in 1974 with scissor doors to boot!
These vertically opening doors would eventually become a hallmark of the most iconic V12 super sports cars ever produced by Lamborghini, from the Diablo, the Countach’s successor, through to the Murcielago, Reventon, Veneno, Centenario and the current Aventador line.
In a break from tradition, however, Lamborghini had departed from christening the Countach in association with bullfighting as in the past. Instead, the word Countach has origins in the Piedmontese language found in northwestern Italy, referring to a form of exclamation of astonishment – because that’s exactly how people reacted when they saw the Countach.
In 1986, Lamborghini created the Lamborghini LM-002. For starters, it was unlike anything that had ever been seen on the roads at the time.
It was utterly cutting-edge in form and performance, with all the genetic codes of Lamborgini’s super sports cars – but an off-road vehicle touted as an early super SUV that would pave the way for off-road vehicles as we know them today.
The LM-002 was originally developed as a high-performance off-road vehicle for military use; an all-wheel drive equipped with a 5167 cc engine delivering 450 hp at 6800 rpm, housed in an aluminium and fibre glass frame.
A total of 300 units were produced between 1986 and 1992, and the LM-002 takes its place in history as the forefather of the Urus, Lamborghini’s ultra successful luxury SUV.
Next came the Diablo VT in 1990, the automaker’s first four-wheel drive super sports car and first production Lamborghini that could hit a top speed of over 320km/h.
Now Ferruccio had already sold the company to Chrysler by this time, but the spirit of visionary thinking, forging new paths and new ways of self-expression had been built into the DNA of the brand, and Lamborghini kept going from strength to strength.
The Lamborghini Murcielago arrived in 2001, as a successor to the Diablo and primed to take the company into the 21st century.
The Murcielago was a significant milestone in Lamborghini’s history, as the brand’s first new model under the new ownership of parent company Audi, owned by the Volkswagen Group, and it also marked the return to its roots of naming its models after Spanish fighting bulls.
The eponymous Murcielago was a leading sire in Don Eduardo Miura’s stable, having gained great fame for surviving an 1879 fight in Cordoba, and his ferocious spirit lives on today in the Lamborghini Murcielago supercars produced up until 2010, when it was retired to make way for a new flagship model, the Aventador.
POWERING A NEW GENERATION
Taking its name from yet another Spanish fighting bull of note, the Aventador heralded a new, modern era for the brand upon its debut in 2011.
Considered the purest essence of all Aventador models produced to date, its current iteration – the Aventador LP 780-4 Ultimae – is touted as the most powerful Aventador ever made, with the highest-performing standard-production naturally-aspirated V12 engine in Lamborghini history.
With only 350 units to be produced, the Aventador LP 780-4 Ultimae is the final and greatest expression of a family of super sports cars that has left its mark on the last decade – almost designed to be an instant classic, as the supercar maker gears up towards an electrified future.
To this end, Lamborghini introduced the Sian FKP 37, the first hybrid production vehicle produced by the brand featuring the world’s first application of a supercapacitor for hybridisation in 2020.
The name Sian originates from a Bolognese word that means ‘flash of lightning’, and the suffix FKP 37 refers to the initials and birth year of the late Volkswagen Group chairman Ferdinand Karl Piech.
This was swiftly followed by the launch of the futuristic, limited edition Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4 a year later, named after the original Countach that was first introduced 50 years earlier, and based on the hybridised V12 powertrain of the Sian FKP 37.
For the pinnacle of performance in a road car with a racing spirit, however, look to the Lamborghini Huracan STO, a track-focused variant of the Huracan series first launched in 2014.
Huracan may mean ‘hurricane’ in Spanish but it was really named after yet another prominent Spanish fighting bull known for its courage that also fought in the late 1800s.
Lamborghini’s Huracan was engineered as a successor to its earlier V10 offering, the Gallardo, and stands today as an eight-year success story with more than 20,000 units sold across 12 road and three track variants.
Now taking the honour of Lamborghini’s best-selling model in the shortest time is the Urus, officially the world’s first super SUV (with roots tracing back to the LM-002) unveiled in 2017.
Powered by a 4.0 L twin-turbocharged V8, the first Urus hit the market in 2018 and proved an instant hit. Already, more than 20,000 of these luxury SUVs have been sold around the world.
The Urus has since spawned two variants offering even higher power and performance: The Urus S and the Urus Performante, both boasting a power of 666hp.
In August last year, the latter set a new record in the production SUV category on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Road in Colorado, crossing the finish line at 4,302 meters in 10:32.064, and beating the previous 2018 record of 10:49.902.
AN ELECTRIFIED FUTURE
In May 2021, Lamborghini announced its strategic roadmap for electrification, “Direzione Cor Tauri”, as a three-phase plan to electrify its entire range by the end of the decade – while maintaining peak product performance as an absolute priority for the brand.
Representing the largest investment in Lamborghini’s history, 1.5 billion euros (S$2.1 billion) will be deployed over four years, underscored by a holistic approach to its environmental sustainability strategy.
According to Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann, this 360-degree approach will encompass the production lines to the offices, with notable milestones to date including its 160,000 sqm Sant’Agata Bolognese production site attaining carbon-neutral certification in 2015. And this has been maintained even with the production site doubling in size in recent years.
Additionally, initiatives oriented towards environmental protection, sustainability in the supply chain, and corporate social responsibility are also integral parts of this strategy.
Phase 1 marked a celebration of the combustion engine from 2021 to 2022, and the company is currently in Phase 2, defined by the all-important first step of hybridisation.
Its first hybrid series production car will be launched in 2023 – a new plug-in hybrid V12 intended as a successor to the Aventador – with the rest of the Lamborghini range to be fully electric by the end of 2024. The company’s internal target for this phase is to reduce product carbon emissions by 50 per cent by the beginning of 2025.
Finally, Phase 3 will see the launch of the first fully-electric Lamborghini by the second half of the decade, as well as realise the vision of introducing a fourth fully-electric model within this period – while continuing its legacy in delivering remarkable performance at the top of its segment.
60 YEARS AND BEYOND
Decade after decade, Lamborghini has shaped an entire super sports car segment with its daring and verve.
The company has enjoyed steady sales growth marked by a seven-fold increase in turnover over the last 15 years and with innovation at the heart of everything past, present and future, Lamborghini continues to venture beyond the expected, setting new standards and breaking records in the process.
In 2022, the carmaker recorded its best sales figures in history, delivering 9,233 cars worldwide, which represented a 10 per cent increase over the previous year.
And this was positive across all macro-regions in almost all key markets, with Asia leading global growth with a 14 per cent expansion, followed by America registering 10 per cent and finally, EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) with 7 per cent compared with 2021.
The number of Lamborghini dealers also increased from 173 to 180 within the span of one year, with an overall presence in 53 countries.
This year’s 60th anniversary celebrations are set to be extra sweet, given its order book buoyed by an 18-month wait-list currently.
There will be global celebrations throughout the year, with the largest gathering taking place in in Sant'Agata Bolognese, the home of Lamborghini, in May – all thanks to the visionary thinking of one man.
For Lamborghini, the future began in 1963. And the Raging Bull rages on in 2023 – and beyond.