WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
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.