x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Rearview mirror: The Miura SV

It is simply not adequate to describe a Lamborghini Miura as beautiful. This work of automotive artistry cannot and should not share a frame of reference with a device whose sole purpose is to provide a convenient method of grilling bread.

The Miura SV was the epitome of style and performance. Courtesy of Lamborghini
The Miura SV was the epitome of style and performance. Courtesy of Lamborghini

'Beautiful" is one of the most hackneyed adjectives in language. Overuse is career suicide for a superlative as it soon loses its dramatic effect. With every lazy reference its impact is diminished, forever destined to slide down the semantic scale towards that most wretched word 'nice'. In the world of advertising, rather than beauty being the rare, jaw-dropping exception it has become the rudiment and the rule. No sane individual would dream of describing a toaster or a micorwave as "beautiful" and yet, desperate to excite and enthral, advertising executives will glibly do so. And such is the cruel fate of description that everything sharing that term is equally devalued.

Given this unfortunate trend, it is simply not adequate to describe a Lamborghini Miura as beautiful. This work of automotive artistry cannot and should not share a frame of reference with a device whose sole purpose is to provide a convenient method of grilling bread.

The Miura was introduced to an unsuspecting, unbelieving motoring public in 1966. Hundreds of cars have lines smooth and sleek enough to raise an admiring eyebrow but, every now and then, a model is made that looks so enchanting that it almost defies description. Such cars transgress definitions of a mere "machine". To see a Miura is to be bewitched by beauty and to fall utterly and instantly in love. So ethereal are its looks that it is said that its appearance has been known to produce passion in accountants and make Olympic rowers go weak at the knees.

Most vehicles, however pleasing aesthetically, are a product of their times. Their enduring appeal is in many ways defined by their period charm and features. But while fashion is marked by fads and fortune, style is timeless. The Miura remains one of the most elegant automotive designs ever. Its curvaceous lines manage to be both smooth and striking, while the bonnet grilles and evocative, scooped lights imbue it with personality and presence. In the swinging sixties, style was substance and to drive a Miura was to be its very embodiment. From Mayfair to Milan, amongst the Minis were a few magnificent Miuras.

But the Miura was far more than just a stylish design. It was also a technological marvel. This was a car designed for the road but inspired by the racetrack. While cars like the Ford GT40 and Ferrari 250 had pioneered the mid-engine configuration in motorsport, the Miura was the first to bring it to the wider public. To develop a road car with true racetrack pedigree represented a considerable risk for the Italian company. While enthusiasts marvelled at futuristic race cars, foot to the floor on the technological frontier, it was a gamble that they would be willing to pay for the privilege of driving one themselves. After all, while they may dream of racing through a chicane, in reality they would be more likely to be observing rights of way in a cul-de-sac. But imagination is a potent and fortune favours the brave, and the Miura soon forged Lamborghini's reputation as a legendary marque.

Of course, those wealthy enough to afford a Miura wanted performance to match its pedigree. This was assured by a rasping V12 engine that produced over 380hp. While in the modern era, where even an anonymous saloon is punchy and powerful, in the 1960s most cars could still be seen pootling at pedestrian speed. Reaching 100mph was still something of an urban myth for many sports cars. Indeed, many given that title would still baulk at the prospect of overtaking a milk float. Cars like the Miura and the Jaguar E-Type changed all that. These cars were quick by the standards of any era. The Muira promised a gulp-inducing 273kph and acceleration from 0-to-100kph in a shade over seven seconds. It was a model that was destined to break the mould. Sports car manufacturers simply had to rise to the challenge or be placed firmly in the shade.

In the Miura, Lamborghini had created a car that would elevate the marque into public consciousness. Ferrari no longer had a monopoly on desirable Italian sports cars. In fact, in speed and styling, the Miura made a Ferrari seem tame and conventional in comparison. The Miura was named after a famously ferocious prized fighting bull, and Lamborghini emblazoned this untamed beast on its badge. It was a statement of intent, seeking to outmuscle and outpower its prancing pony stablemate. An owner of a Miura was not a motorist but a matador.

In sheer, unbridled ambition, Lamborghini had created itself a niche. Ferrari was no longer the benchmark. If you really wanted to turn heads the Miura was the only car to do it in. Not a company to rest on its laurels, Lamborghini replaced the much loved Miura with the outlandish, outrageous Countach. Once again Lamborghini had picked up the rule book, taken a cursory glance, tore it into tiny pieces and created something awe-inspiringly original.