Few cars draw as much unanimous praise as the Lamborghini Miura. It is, quite simply one of, if not the most beautiful production car ever produced. And it largely made Lamborghini what we all know it to be today.
Ferruccio Lamborghini didn’t start with cars. In fact, he didn’t even create Lamborghini Automobili until 1962. He started with a tractor company immediately following World War II, and it had made him a very wealthy man. He founded other businesses, which only amplified his wealth. By the time he was in his 60s, he wanted a luxurious high performance sports car, and he didn’t much care for Ferraris. So he decided to build his own. By this time, Ferrari was a national treasure. Building a car company that largely stepped into Ferrari’s wheelhouse seemed a little crazy. But that’s exactly why he did. In 1962, he built a modern factory just outside of Bologna. His experience in his other businesses provided him the experience to create a new vision of what a car-making facility should be. It was a marvel of the time.
Their first goal was to produce a car in time for the 1963 Torino Show - essentially 18 months after the company had been created. Knowing he had to get it right, Lamborghini hired the best and brightest, including hiring away Giotto Bizzarrini from Ferrari to deign his new V12. In Torino, they debuted their first car - the 350 GT. By 1964, they were in production. The 350 GT quickly evolved into the 400 GT. They were getting people’s attention. Nearly 300 400 GTs were sold. New coupe models were being developed at an alarming rate. The 3500 GTZ, The 350 Spyder, and the Monza 400. But many were just prototypes. Two of Lamborghini’s Chief Engineers, Giampaolo Dallara and Giampaolo Stanzani, had a vision for the company that was against Ferruccio Lamborghini’s GT- based product line-up. They wanted to build a car based on all the latest technology and thinking from race cars of the time.
They developed a secret project unbeknownst to Lamborghini, codenamed 400 TP, meaning 4.0 liter V12, transversely mounted behind the cockpit. The engineers feared that Lamborghini would protest the effort, because it was too similar to the work of Ferrari. The engine and transmission were made as a single casting. The chassis was a monocoque, with bent and welded sheet metal, then drilled to lighten it. One the chassis was complete, they shared it with Lamborghini. To the surprise of the engineers, he approved the effort. He had them complete the chassis, only with the intent of using it to showcase Lamborghini’s capabilities. The bare chassis was shown at the 1965 Torino show. Nuccio Bertone is claimed to have approached Lamborghini at the show, and said, “I’m the one who can make the shoe to fit your foot”. Lamborghini agreed to let Bertone’s team have a go at it.
Bertone assigned Marcello Gandini to the effort. The guiding design principles were that it appear aggressive, but while also maintaining a sense of class and elegance, much like Lamborghini’s GT cars. But most of all it should be truly original. Gandini late recounted that from that October until February - only 4 moths later, the team worked literally 7 days a week, day and night the whole time, but made the car in time for the 1966 Geneva Auto Show. Not surprisingly, the Miura stole the show.
Building off the excitement the car caused in Geneva, Lamborghini brought the Miura to the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, knowing the most enthusiastic car lovers would be there. He parked an Orange Miura in front of the Hotel de Paris on Saturday afternoon, and attracted so many spectators that the square in front of the Casino became totally blocked. The Miura was, quite simply, an immediate legend.
There is no clearly defined understanding of how the car got it’s name. Ferruccio never disclosed why he came up with the naming analogy to breeds of extraordinary and powerful bulls. Some believe he took pride in being born under the sign of Taurus, since he used a bull as a symbol for the logo of all his industrial activities. Naming one of his cars after a fighting bull wasn’t a big surprise from there. According to experts, Miuras are the strongest of all fighting bulls but, above all, they are considered most intelligent and fiercest, in the fighting sense of the word. Bullfighters often talk about the unmistakable gaze of the Miura bull being that of a true fighter, shrewd and powerful.
At the time of it’s pubic debut, the Miura was the fastest production vehicle on the road. They produced 275 P400s in the first 3 years between 1966 and 1969. Even at those small numbers, it was considered a success for Lamborghini. They were sold at a pretty steep price of US$20,000, which is equivalent to $145,374 today. Interstingly, there are many experts that believe the first 125 Miuras were built of thinner, 0.9mm steel and are therefore lighter than later cars. All cars had steel frames and doors with aluminum front and rear skinned body sections.
The P400S Miura, also known as the Miura S, was introduced at the Turin Motorshow in November 1968, where the original chassis had been introduced 3 years earlier. It was mostly refinements from the P400, including power windows, bright chrome trim around external windows and headlights, new overhead inline console with new rocker switches, 2 mm larger engine intake manifolds, different cam profiles, and notched trunk end panels to allow for more luggage space. The engine changes were reportedly good for an additional 20 hp.
The last and most famous iteration of the Miura, the Miura SV featured different cam timing and modified carburetors. These gave the engine an additional 15 hp, coming to a total of 380. The last 96 SV engines included a limited slip differential which required a split sump. The gearbox now had its own distinct lubrication system separate from the engine, unlike previous models. This allowed the use of the appropriate types of oil for the gearbox and the engine. This also alleviated concerns that metal shavings from the gearbox could travel into the engine with disastrous and expensive results.
The SV can be distinguished from the other earlier models by its lack of "eyelashes" around the headlamps, wider rear fenders to accommodate the new 9-inch-wide rear wheels and tires, and different taillights. Only 150 SVs were produced.
Ultimately the Miura was replaced by the equally sensational Countach in 1974. While the Countach may have been one of the most famous poster cars of all time, few would argue that the Miura is a more classic beauty.