Florence’s streets are filled with secrets and curiosities: some of them are known to those into history and local legends, others are so obscure...
In the beginning was the tractor. Surprisingly enough, farm machinery is the forefather of an icon of automotive Made in Italy that has also become a symbol of elegance and strength worldwide: Lamborghini. The history of one of the most celebrated Italian supercars, which has recently turned 50, begins in the 1960s in the Emilia Romagna region, not too far from the birthplace of two other big automotive names: Ferrari and Maserati.
Ferruccio Lamborghini was born in 1916 to a family of winemakers. Always more interested in the mechanics of tractors than in farming itself, he pursued technical studies in school and served as a mechanic in the Italian Royal Air Force for a few years.
Lamborghini was particularly attracted by high-performance racing cars. He used his abilities to modify his old Fiat, until the proceeds from his business – a tractor and agricultural equipment manufacturing company, founded after World War II – allowed him to purchase faster and more expensive cars such as Mercedes, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and, finally, Ferrari.
Despite his deep respect and admiration for Maserati and Ferrari’s work, Ferruccio Lamborghini considered the former too heavy and not fast enough, and the latter too noisy and with poor quality interiors.
Legend has it that he went to Maranello to discuss the features of the perfect gran turismo with Enzo Ferrari, and to ask him for advice to actually start building one. But he was turned down.
A few years later, at the 1963 Turin Auto Show, Ferruccio Lamborghini unveiled his brand new, high-performance and stylish 350 GTV, equipped with mechanical components from his tractors to increase power and ride quality while keeping the costs low. The prototype was a success.
Its logo was the beautiful Miura bull. Lamborghini had been introduced to a renowned breeder of Spanish fighting bulls, and was so impressed by them that he adopted a raging bull as the emblem of his auto company. After the Miura bulls, other breeds inspired the names and the looks of his creations: Urraco, Jalpa, Gallardo, and more.
Italian and international celebrities were among Lamborghini’s custumers, from Grace Kelly to Liz Taylor, and Arnold Schwarzenegger to Frank Sinatra, who apparently said “If you want to be somebody you buy a Ferrari, if you are somebody you buy a Lamborghini.”
The 1970s oil crisis caused financial troubles for Lamborghini’s business. He retired and returned to where he had started, farming his land and producing his own wine in the Umbrian hills. He died in 1993 at the age of 76, and soon after the company became property of the German manufacturer Audi. Yet his legacy remains thanks to his son Tonino and daughter Patrizia.
Last year, the limited edition Lamborghini Veneno was launched to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a brand that is part of Italy’s history. It also reminds us of a golden age for the Italian automotive industry, which wasn’t so long ago and may be still within our reach.