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Manufacturing magnate Ferruccio Lamborghini who founded Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini S.p.A. in 1963. Courtesy Lamborghini
Manufacturing magnate Ferruccio Lamborghini who founded Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini S.p.A. in 1963. Courtesy Lamborghini

Lamborghini: From tractors to supercars

Ferruccio Elio Arturo Lamborghini went from farms to creating the factory of some of the most memorable cars ever.

Ferruccio Elio Arturo Lamborghini was born in 1916 to working-class grape farmers in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. He grew up around farming machinery and became, over the years, highly skilled as a mechanic. He chose this as his profession rather than farming, and studied at the Fratelli Taddia technical institute not far from Bologna. In time, he founded his own tractor manufacturing business and managed to amass enormous personal wealth - which, in turn, allowed him to indulge his passion for sports cars.

He bought a Ferrari 250GT in 1958 - the first of many - and was continually vexed by mechanical problems, specifically with the cars' clutches. After one too many visits to Ferrari's factory, Lamborghini had had enough and, as mentioned in the main piece, he demanded to see Enzo Ferrari himself. The rest has entered into motoring legend.

In 1963, at the age of 47, Lamborghini set up his car company, taking on Ferrari by building what he saw as a more complete, more refined and capable GT car: the 350GT. He poached some of Ferrari's best engineers to better the designs of V12 engines, and his personal involvement and readiness to roll up his sleeves and help out on the factory floor made everyone in his employment fiercely loyal.

Those engineers were young, and saw the potential for creating a lightweight, technically advanced sports car with a mid-mounted V12 engine. Nobody was building road cars like this at the time and, much to their surprise, Lamborghini sanctioned their sideline project. When Bertone studios suggested they alone could clothe this incredible chassis with a suitable body, Marcelo Gandini's Miura masterpiece was born and the world changed overnight. This was just three years after the formation of his company.

The Miura put Lamborghini on the map and the shocking Countach kept it there throughout the 1970s and 80s. Lamborghini himself, disillusioned by the Italian labour laws and the worldwide energy crisis that dealt a hammer blow to sales of his cars, sold his stake in the tractor business in 1972 and, two years later, left the car business for good, too.

Automobili Lamborghini, under the financial stability of Audi, which has owned it since 1998, still does what its founder set out to do. It builds utterly brilliant cars that make genuine alternatives to those built by its nearby neighbour. It revels in shaking the establishment, getting people talking and giving the fortunate few that get to drive its cars the times of their lives. A hundred years of innovation in half the time - that's how the current management is describing Lamborghini - and there's no arguing with that.


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