The Rule Breaker

21st January 2020

Founded in 1963 by a tractor manufacturer, Lamborghini has, over the years, been criticised and revered in equal measure. Now, a new book celebrates its turbulent but triumphant history.

Words by Erin Baker

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Antonio Ghini, ebullient author of the glossy new tome titled simply Lamborghini: Where, Why, Who, When, What, says he decided he “would not make a book of cars, but a romance… where the reader could experience, first-hand, the magnificent and less-known history of Lamborghini”. 

And what a romance has ensued in the intervening decades since Ferruccio Lamborghini, successful tractor manufacturer, decided to stop complaining about the fragile clutch of his Ferrari 250 GT and instead build his own “perfect” supercar. 

It’s important to remember that Lamborghini has only been making cars since 1963. With the possible exception of McLaren, no other car brand has managed to create true venerability in such a short space of time. Yes, the brash upstart from Sant’Agata Bolognese remains, in the eyes of many, a gauche arriviste with box-of-frogs styling, but one cannot argue with the continuity of its success, nor with the equally venerable owners and drivers who have revered and adored the various outrageous models that have graced our roads since the 1960s.

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Ghini’s book is simultaneously a history and a beginner’s guide, a celebration and a study of the Raging Bull marque, full of bold photography and elegant fonts. It serves both as crib notes for those new to the cars and as a timely reminder for deep-rooted fans of some of the moments that have contributed to the glorious DNA of Lambo. 

For pub bores, there’s a fantastic Who’s Who of models to memorise and recall at opportune moments. Who remembers, for instance, that Lamborghini’s first car, the 350 GTV, had 362 horsepower – about 100 more than its nearest competitor? What a statement of intent that was, and one that successive boards of management have thankfully preserved with ever-increasing power, innovative engineering and disruptive design.

Lamborghini is, inherently, a rule breaker.

Unbelievably, against the background of oil crises, the Arab-Israeli war, industrial action, various international coups and a spell in receivership, all of which pushed Lamborghini to the brink of destruction many times during the Sixties and Seventies, the company produced the Miura, the Countach and the Diablo, three jaw-dropping supercars that remain important studies of Italian automotive culture and design more than 40 years on. Prices for the first are now exorbitant and for the last two merely eye-watering. 

Today, the company thrives. This autumn it unveiled one of the true stars of the Frankfurt motor show – the Sián, its first hybrid production car, with 808 brake horsepower and, crucially, still a V12 engine under the bonnet. As Stefano Domenicali, Lamborghini’s genial boss, said: “Lamborghini is, inherently, a rule breaker.” 

It is not, and has never been, afraid to look beyond the rules set by the competition. Recently it established a Female Advisory Board (FAB), to tell it what women from the worlds of finance, music, fashion and art think about luxury. It has recognised the rise of the female high-networth individual, and responded positively, well ahead of the pack. That attitude, ultimately, will be what saves this stunning brand for yet another generation.

This article was taken from the Winter 2019/2020 edition of the Goodwood Magazine.

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