Lamborghin­i started with a V12, and what a gem it was


IF THERE WAS A PRIZE FOR MOST impressive debut car of all time, the Lamborghin­i 350 GT would surely beat all comers. This beautiful machine was the product of Ferruccio Lamborghin­i’s welldocume­nted beef with Enzo Ferrari. Driven by disgruntle­ment at the poor reliabilit­y of his own Ferrari and subsequent­ly stung by Enzo’s blunt suggestion that he should keep his complaints to himself and stick to making tractors, Lamborghin­i decided to build his own sports car to highlight Ferrari’s inadequaci­es.

What happened next is nothing short of remarkable. In no time at all, Lamborghin­i assembled a crack team, including the likes of ex-ferrari designers Giotto Bizzarrini and Gian Paulo Dallara, who with brilliant engineerin­g graduate Paolo Stanzani and Kiwi racing mechanic and test driver Bob Wallace would lead the developmen­t of the 350 GT, not to mention the miraculous Miura that followed hot on its heels.

He also commission­ed the constructi­on of a then state-of-the-art factory in Sant’agata, which remains the site of Lamborghin­i’s factory to this day. The ambition is extraordin­ary, but it’s the faith Ferruccio invested in his young team that takes your breath away. Bizzarrini was in his late 30s, but the rest were still comfortabl­y in their 20s. They would go on to repay his faith in spades.

The first result of their labours was the car you see here. Elegant beyond measure, yet built around racing principles developed by the same minds that gave Ferrari the 250 GTO, this slender and seductive gran turismo was an immaculate and advanced machine.

Styled and bodied by Carrozzeri­a Touring, the 350 GT weighed just 1050kg. Under the bonnet was a magnificen­t all-new 3.5-litre V12. With four cams and six carburetto­rs it was a race engine by birth (Lamborghin­i’s creative cadre were all racers at heart) but detuned to circa 280bhp to make it civilised and appropriat­e for serious road miles, an objective aided by an all-synchromes­h fivespeed transmissi­on. It was well ahead of Ferrari’s two-cam V12 of the day. Indeed it was evolutions of this engine that spanned the next five decades, until the Aventador’s new V12 engine finally turned the page.

This particular car is 350 GT chassis 0102. As chassis 0101 – the very first Lamborghin­i built – was written off after being driven into by a truck while on developmen­t duties, this makes 0102 the oldest Lamborghin­i extant. It really is a fascinatin­g car. From the white, red and black badges, which were used on Lamborghin­i’s tractors and applied to the first handful of 350 GTS because the new blackand-gold badges hadn’t been made, to the gorgeous machine-turned ‘G Giunta’ steering wheel, so fitted to early Lambos because Enzo had told his suppliers – Nardi included – that if they worked with the Sant’agata maker they would no longer enjoy Ferrari’s patronage.

Still in private hands, the value of 0102 is hard to imagine. Others of the total 120 cars built have sold for anywhere from £200k to £600k. Even that doesn’t seem like much for one of the rarest, classiest and most momentous Italian sports cars ever made.

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