Saturday, July 2, 2011

Lamborghini Miura

Growing up in the 1980s and 90s, my inner gearhead was conceived by the exotic automobiles that defined a decade of conspicuous consumption. For me, one marque was the raddest of rad; coolest of cool; the Crocket beside Tubbs. Lamborghini.

At the time, I thought the Lamborghini Countach was arguably the pinnacle of exotic Italian motoring. The fact that the car was ludicrously expensive, unreliable, offered impossible visibility and just screamed "douchebag" was all overshadowed by sharp lines, scissor doors, slotted windows and an angry V12 growl. As far as I was concerned, Lamborghini and Countach were synonymous – I never knew of another raging bull.

But as I grew older, my tastes changed. My horizons were broadened. As my tape deck ejected White Snake for Led Zeppelin so went my taste in automobiles. I wanted to explore the heritage of cars like the Countach. Like Watson and Crick I started to uncover the building blocks of the [then] modern day Italian exotic. Enter, the Miura.

My first glimpse of the Lamborghini Miura was a lot like hearing the Beatles for the first time. I knew I was witnessing something special, something iconic, something new to me yet familiar at the same time; an amaranthine quality that I couldn't put my finger on.

The Miura's lines are beautifully simple yet astoundingly revolutionary in context. To think, a Lamborghini Miura P400 prototype first graced the stage of the Geneva Motor Show in 1966. Transcending all that was visionary of the time, witnessing the Miura's debut must have been akin to watching man first walk on the moon. Possibly so visionary, that if not for the fortitude of a few young engineers, the Miura may have never seen the light of day.


The Miura started life as a moonlight side project of Lamborghini engineers; Gian Paolo Dallara, Paolo Stanzani, and Bob Wallace. A side project because their vision of the future of Lamborghini was seen essentially as the exact opposite by the powers that be in Sant'Agata. At the time, Lamborghini thought the Miura would be too expensive and exotic, leading the company farther away from its anti-Ferrari, GT-centric business model. But to Dallara, Stanzani, and Wallace their creation was to be a car that could truly excel on both road and track, eventually earning a green light from management.

The Miura, originally referred to as the P400, was powered by a 350 horsepower, 3.9-liter V12 engine derived from the 400GT. Unlike the long-nosed gran turismo donor, the Miura featured a revolutionary, transverse mid-mounted engine layout. To make the tight squeeze, the P400's engine, transmission and differential were all essentially one unit (à la the Mini), sharing a single cast and oil supply. All told, the chassis and running gear were nothing short of jaw-dropping for the day.

With the heart of the Miura complete, a prototype rolling chassis debuted at the Turin Salon in 1965. The chassis received such an ecstatic response that orders were placed on the spot. This led Ferruccio Lamborghini to enlist the house of Bertone for the task of styling the P400. The design would be penned by a young designer named Marcello Gandini (if you don't know who he is, look up the name on Wikipedia).


Gandini would finish the Miura's design just in time for the 1966 Geneva Motor Show where the Lamborghini P400 prototype would make its indelible mark on automotive history. The overwhelming response from showgoers led the P400 to production the following year, in the process, earning the car its name – after a breed of Spanish fighting bulls, coinciding perfectly with Lamborghini's new logo – the Miura.

Like any other successful model, the Miura would evolve. The P400 made way for the P400S, P400SV and P400SV/J. What Ferruccio Lamborghini thought would be best suited as a low-production flagship eventually became the company's wheel horse.

I could easily delve deeper into the evolution of both the Miura and Lamborghini. However, the long and short of the story is without the Miura; the Countach, Diablo, Gallardo and Murciélago may have never existed. Bringing me full circle to where I began.


My early foray into automotive archeology led me to an exciting yet sobering conclusion. Had it not been for the Miura I may have never became the car guy I am today. What's more, had it not been for the Miura, many of my generation may have just as easily turned the pages of our buff books never feeling the petrol-fueled excitement that would mold our inner gearhead; diminishing if you will, our obsession with the cult of cars as we know it.My early foray into automotive archeology led me to an exciting yet sobering conclusion. Had it not been for the Miura I may have never became the car guy I am today. What's more, had it not been for the Miura, many of my generation may have just as easily turned the pages of our buff books never feeling the petrol-fueled excitement that would mold our inner gearhead; diminishing if you will, our obsession with the cult of cars as we know it.


tags: lamborghini miura

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