The Lamborghini Miura was the world’s first true supercar, redefined the brand forever after, and became a durable automotive icon.
Few cars are referred to in such hushed tones of reverence as the Lamborghini Miura. The sleek, midengined monster ushered in an entirely new class of automobile, the supercar. From the stunning good looks to the maniacal V12 under the hood, the Miura remains as compelling today as it was when it first debuted.*
The story of Lamborghini and the Miura date back to the mid-1960s when one Ferruccio Lamborghini, decided to take his already successful tractor business and start making cars. Lamborghini owed his inspiration to one Enzo Ferrari, who’d rebuffed Ferruccio’s request for a specialty road car with a little more refinement than the current crop of race-inspired Ferraris. The goal for Lamborghini was to build proper GT cars that could match performance with a more comfortable road experience.
The first Lamborghinis, the 350GT and 400GT, were just that, GT cars, and sold well in the first year of the company’s existence. But touring cars would not be the destiny of the Lamborghini name. The company’s next project, the Miura took things in a new and exciting direction.
The Miura started as a skunk works project, a collaboration between three young engineers Gian Paolo Dallara, Bob Wallace, and Paolo Stanzani, all under the age of thirty and all with backgrounds in racing. Naturally, they wanted to build a proper race car and brought their idea for a midengined performance model to Mr. Lamborghini. Ferruccio signed off, hoping the car would at least be a decent marketing exercise.
The biggest design challenge for the team was getting the 3.9L V12 to fit in the Miura. The engine was too long for the planned midengined position. The solution was to set it at 90°, transversely mounting it and using a gearbox design inspired by the Mini Cooper (which also had a transversely mounted engine). The plan for a central driver’s seat was nixed but would eventually be seen in the McLaren F1, decades later.
With just a rolling chassis and a transversely mounted V12, the Miura made its initial debut at the 1965 Geneva Motor Show. Despite not having a body, the car, even just as an idea, caused considerable buzz. This was due in part to the fact that, while the midengined layout was a mainstay of professional racing, it had yet to be implemented in a road-going car.
The Miura, alongside the Jaguar E-Type, is often referred to as the most beautiful car ever built. Its drop-dead good looks came curtesy of Italian design house Bertone and another young hot shot, designer Marcello Gardini.
The 1966 Geneva Motor Show saw the full-bodied debut of the Lamborghini Miura. Full production began the following year, with 108 cars built in 1967.
The Lamborghini Miura engineering team had been inspired by the midengine Ford GT40 and deftly translated the spirit of that race car to the road. The look of the car, for all the distinctiveness of Gardini’s design, likewise retains echoes of the GT40. The swooping lines and ultra-low profile, the rake of the rear deck and pronounced wheel arches, the blend of muscularity and sleek angularity, all perfectly complimented the raucous V12 roar of the Miura. The most memorable of exterior detail is the eyelashes that adorn the headlights.
The Miura began a Lamborghini tradition of naming models after bulls. In this case, Miura was a Spanish name for a breed of fighting bull. The Miura was also the first Lamborghini to carry the iconic fighting bull badge. Even the Miura badging itself references a bull, complete with horns and a tail.
Under the hood, the P400 Miura began life in 1967 with a 3.9L V12 making 350 horsepower, four Weber carburetors, and a five-speed manual gearbox. By late 1968, the S version of the Miura made updates to the interior of the car, tuned the V12’s output to 370 horsepower, and added new Pirelli tires.
The SV version followed in 1971 with more updates that included significant revisions to the rear end that included new taillights, a new fender, and a beautiful mesh grille. Sadly, the SV also revised the headlights, dropping those distinctive eyelashes. Chassis rigidity was also improved, making the SV a little less unruly at higher speeds. Speaking of speed, the SV also upped the engine output to 385 horsepower. This netted the Miura a 0-60 time of 5.75 seconds. Top speed also improved to 180 mph.
The Lamborghini Miura ended production in 1973, succeeded by another Gardini design, the Lamborghini Countach. Not only is the Miura credited with being the first real supercar and the most beautiful car ever made, it’s also significant for what it specifically contributed to Lamborghini itself. The young men behind the Miura, with there desire for a road-going race car, forever altered the path of the Lamborghini company. Without the Miura there wouldn’t have been a Countach or a Diablo or a Huracan. The Miura’s beauty, its V12 roar, its knife’s edge driving all defined what a Lamborghini was and is to this day.