LAMBORGHINI MIURA P400 SV – 1971’
The Miura was the first supercar produced by the Italian Bull and was, arguably, the first supercar the world had ever seen. When it was launched it was met with surprise and wonder by onlookers, resembling no other car in the history of motoring. Its iconic lines are due, in part, to the placement of the engine, which was mounted transversely behind the passenger cabin. Its V12, 3929cc engine with Weber twin-choke carburettors, was capable of 385 brake horsepower, driven by five speed manual transmission and the car featured independent front and rear suspensions.
Perhaps the most incredible thing about the Lamborghini Miura – and there are a lot of incredible things about the Miura – is that it was never supposed to happen. The car, named after Spain’s fiercest and most feared breed of fighting bull, started as the after-hours project of Ferruccio Lamborghini’s young technical director and his deputy, Giampaolo Dallara and Giampaolo Stanzini.
Lamborghini had already transitioned from a successful tractor maker to sports car maker, renowned for his brilliant mechanical mind and his obsession with excellence. This was a man who once told Enzo Ferrari that his 250 GTO— yes that one—wasn’t good enough. Enzo told him to pound sand and stick to tractors. Instead, Lamborghini built the 350 GTV, a front-engine, rear-wheel drive two-seater that quickly rose to prominence in Italy, to the displeasure of Enzo Ferrari.
The GTV’s success got Dallara and Stanzini to dreaming, taking inspiration from racing icons like the Ford GT and the Ferrari 250 Le Mans to imagine their own mid-engine machine. Trouble was, The Boss was interested in perfecting GT cars, not in racing misadventures. They didn’t dare advanced beyond drawings and plans. Finally, one night in early 1965, they worked up the courage to show their boss their brainchild. To their surprise, Ferruccio was impressed, and gave their pipe dream the green light.
The resulting prototype chassis was called the P400 and featured a transversely mounted 4-liter V12 engine. The engine, gearbox, and differential were all built as one unit, using the same lubrication for all three major parts. This design was ludicrously complex but was the only way to make the packaging work and maintain a low profile.
The P400 was unveiled as a bare chassis at the 1963 Turin Motor Show. The next step was bodywork. Ferruccio commissioned legendary coachbuilder Nuccio Bertone and his young mastermind, twenty-five-year-old Marcello Gandini, to make the P400 look beautiful. Gandini worked feverishly throughout the 1965/1966 winter to get the lines just right. Timing was tight; the first Miura was finished and loaded onto a hauler destined for Geneva just one day before the show.
The car was, almost overnight, the must-have item in any well-to-do’s garage. Originally slated as a limited-run car, the sheer number of orders flooding into Sant’ Agata compelled Lamborghini to build 108 Miuras in the first year alone. In total, just 474 original Miuras were built (some say the total was 475). The Miura S, unveiled in 1968, featured more power, (370hp up from 350) upgraded brakes, and a slightly higher top speed of 280kph (174mph). A total of only 140 were sold between its unveiling 1968 and 1971.
The final production Miura, known as the Miura SV, was introduced in 1971. The SV’s most notable change was that the engine and gearbox were now separate. Suspension changes fixed notorious oversteering problems, and power increased to 385hp @ 7850rpm. It debuted alongside the Countach concept, which would become the Miura’s successor just a year later.
Though the Miura was not Lamborghini’s first car, it was the first in what would become the Lamborghini mold—big, loud engines mounted behind the driver powering breathtakingly-styled coupes. Ferruccio may have said it best: “The Miura was like a magnificent mistress to me. Uncomfortable, very expensive, but unforgettable.”