In the pantheon of automotive design, there exist but a few gods whose thrones will likely never be usurped (the Porsche 911, Ferrari GTO, Jaguar E-Type, Aston Martin DB5). The Lamborghini Miura surely occupies one of those glorious gilded chairs, and all others less lustrous in the wake of the Miura’s sheer beauty. Long, low and achingly gorgeous, the Miura bowed at the 1966 Geneva Auto Show to a tsunami of adoration from the automotive world. It marked the V12 beginnings of the Lamborghini supercar whose legacy lives to
this day in the monstrous Aventador.
What It’s All About
Legend has it that a handful of engineers from Lamborghini embarked on a skunkworks project in their spare time (as if working for Lamborghini wasn’t enough). The P400, as it was known (P for ‘posteriore’ and 400 for ‘4 litri’, signifying engine position and displacement). Engineers Gian Paolo Dallara, Paolo Stanzani, and Bob Wallace (which one of these is not like the others?) contributed their various skills to develop this mid-engined, racing-inspired sports car that would
go against the tide of Lamborghini’s grand touring car ambitions, realized by the likes of the 350GT and the 400GT. Legend has it that Lambo founder Ferrucio Lamborghini would have none of it. Lambo was not going to try to be another Ferrari, by God.
Eventually, the three men convinced the old man to get on board. Ferrucio rationalized that the P400 would be a design exercise for marketing purposes, but that mindset was enough to downshift and punch the gas on the P400 project. The chassis design had
been completed, but the body had yet to come to light. Lamborghini turned to none other than the House of Turin, and the P400 prototype gave rise to the Miura (so named after a breed of fighting bull) designed by Marcello Gandini. The Miura hit the press and the public like a bull in heat at the 1966 Geneva Auto Show, as nothing like it had ever been seen before, coupled with the fact that such a car had never been in Lamborghini’s wheelhouse. The car itself, at show, had no engine installed since the body had just been finished a few days before, so the compartment was filled with baffle and locked to keep out the nosy press and public. But the engine was ready and only needed to secure proper fitting and mating with the transmission.
The world had never before seen a 4-liter transversely mounted (where the crankshaft runs perpendicular to the length of the car) V12 engine mounted in front of the rear axle, and that’s exactly what was built for the new Miura. For such a car to perform like a race car for the street, both power and balance were key, and an engine mounted behind the driver and in front of the rear axle provided the best front-to-rear weight ratio. Such a huge engine was a tight fit within the confines of the Miura’s available space, but it worked, essentially taking the V12 from the
400GT and mounting it parallel to the axles in such a way as to avoid a much longer car. With a boisterous 350 horsepower, a 0-60 time of 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 172 mph, the Miura was the fastest production car in the world.
The first generation, known simply as the P400, cost a whopping $20,000 in 1966, its first year of production, and sold 474 copies between 1966 and 1969. The car was a bonafide success for Lamborghini, considering its high price and the fact that it was hyper-exclusive supercar only for the well-to-do. The P400S or Miura S came in 1970 with modifications such as chrome trim, power windows, air conditioning and a 20 horsepower boost made possible with bigger intake manifolds and camshafts. The end of the Miura age came with the P400SV/Miura SV. 15 horsepower was added for a total of 380 ponies. The signature headlight eyelash surrounds were removed, wider tires were added and the taillights were modified. Production of the famed Miura ended in 1972, followed by the far less fluid Countach, designed by the Miura’s very own Marcello Gandini, and went on to become Lamborghini’s biggest seller, eclipsing the Miura.
Its Place in History
The Miura is the true father of the modern supercar. Beautiful, ferocious and simultaneously impractical in its execution, supercars are meant to induce shock and awe, and the Miura
did just that. The iconic Italian two-seater set the automotive world on fire, and just about no other car since has looked as stunning and pure as the Miura. Even the house of Ferrari would be hard pressed to pit one of their iconic designs against the Miura’s visual appeal.
The stunning and righteously fast Miura put Lamborghini on the map in the world of exotic cars, and the moniker has been able to follow it with true V12 supercars ever since, but none as gorgeous as the original. It can be said that God once built a car to put men in awe. And that car was the Miura.