Great sports cars are enveloped by legend, and so it is with the Lamborghini Miura, the world’s first mid-engine supercar, a sensuous wonder whose daring design embarrassed even Ferrari.
Ferruccio Lamborghini’s plunge into the auto business is itself the material of myth. Born to farmers, he was a self-made industrialist (tractors, heating systems), and a lover of fast cars. It’s said that when Enzo Ferrari refused to personally attend to his complaint about a sick Ferrari, the ego-charged Ferruccio vowed to create his own exotic. That first Lamborghini, built from 1964 to ’68, was a front-engine V-12 coupe, a comfortable swift gran turismo that suited Ferruccio’s middle-age style.
When his talented engineers, led by 24-year-old Giampaolo Dallara, got Lamborghini to OK something racier, the result stole the show at the 1965 Turin exhibition. It was just a bare chassis, but was so spectacular in its racing-derived layout and so breathtaking in its use of a transverse-mounted V-12 engine, that tradition says a beaming Ferruccio collected deposits from buyers who didn’t know the machine had no body and no name.
Enter Marcello Gandini, 25, a brilliant Bertone stylist who fashioned a lean, low two-seater -- a young-man’s exotic -- that blew the lid off the ’66 Geneva show. It was designated P400: P for posteriore, or aft-mounted engine, and 400 in reference to the V-12’s displacement. Lamborghini, however, looked to his Taurus birth sign and to the ferocious fighting bulls of Don Eduardo Miura and christened the thing Miura (MYUR-ah).
This was no GT in the original Lamborghini mold, but a cramped, fatiguing, poor-shifting, hothouse of a 350-hp supercar. Yet its enthralling acceleration, race-worthy cornering, howling top speed, and of course its styling, overwhelmed everything. Many flaws, including the most serious -- nose lift at high speed -- diminished as the Lamborghini Miura evolved through the 370-hp P400S of 1969 to the 385-hp SV of 1971. That last was the best. It wisely retained the look of the original and, like every Lamborghini Miura, was legend made real.