Gian Paolo Dallara, Paolo Stanzani and Bob Wallace were at odds against their boss. These three young engineers wanted to create a Lamborghini racing car to take rival Ferrari at its own game. However, Lamborghini founder Ferruccio Lamborghini was not on board.
Instead, he said he would prefer a road racing car. That was good enough for the engineers, each less than 25 years old. They began work on the prototype, which was called the P400.
In 1966, their work culminated in the Lamborghini Miura, named after the famous Spanish breed of fighting bull. Not only was the car a game changer for the Italian firm, it made history. Until this time, no one had ever heard of a “supercar”. Miura probably defined the term for decades to come.
Why? For starters, it was a big departure from previous front-engined Lamborghini cars. This time, the engineers have put the engine in the middle of the car. Initial plans called for it to be a 3-seater with a central driver’s seat and a longitudinal engine. Reality prevailed and it became a two-seater with a transverse engine. A center seat wouldn’t come until the McLaren F1 of the 1990s. Still, the inherent benefits of a mid-engine package were clear, and with a 3.9-liter V-12, the Miura had the power.
Lamborghini Miura (chassis number 3586) used during the filming of The Italian Job
Lamborghini Miura SV
1972 Lamborghini Miura SV for sale at Joe Macari, London
Specifically, this bull boasted 345 hp. Lamborghini settled on the name “Miura” but kept the P400 as the variant name of the standard car. In the following years, the team would build a P400S with 365 horsepower thanks to a different camshaft profile. Then in 1971, the Miura SV arrived with a whopping 385 hp and more performance parts. The early cars used 70 series tires because that was all that was available. The low-profile 60-series tires had arrived by the time the SV hit the market, and they made a huge difference in handling.
Miura took out the horns of the bull. It was not a grand tour as Mr. Lamborghini had long pursued Mr. Enzo Ferrari.
The car had a beautiful design by Marcello Gandini of Bertone styling house. Its face featured round headlights with available “eyelashes” that became a distinctive element of the car. Low and wide, with a receding cabin, It had an oyster carriage fore and aft. Lamborghini offered the car in a series of bright colors that helped it stand out even more.
The Miura debuted at the 1965 Turin Motor Show and was an instant hit with enthusiasts, who put down deposits before the engineering and design was completed. It originally sold for $20,000 in the US, which is more than $160,000 in today’s dollars. Lamborghini built 763 Miuras from 1966 to 1973, 275 were P400s, 338 were P400S models and 150 were P400SVs. The Miura P400 Jota, P400 SV/J, Roadster and SV/J Spider models were also built, either as one-offs, as show cars, or as conversions from existing models. They are the rarest of these rare cars. Today, all Miuras are seven-figure collectible cars that look as good now as they did new.
With the Miura’s success well documented by the end of its production run in 1973, work was underway to continue the Italian marque’s new taste for supercars. The Countach followed the Miura in 1974.
We can’t just look at the Miura’s paper specs and claim its importance. The Miura did more than start a trend of mid-mounted engines for supercars. Without the Miura, the Countach likely wouldn’t have been the extreme and sharp supercar it turned out to be. Forget today’s Diablo, Murciélago and Aventador.
Either way, Lamborghini’s engineers did the one thing Mr. Lamborghini wanted to do all along: give Ferrari something to think about. Ferrari 365 GT4 Berlinetta Boxer? We can thank Lamborghini for that, too.
— Sean Szymkowski contributed to this report.