By Stuart Grant with Mike Schmucker behind the lens
An Arancio Orange 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400 powers over a viaduct and up an Italian mountain pass. The driver, cigarette in hand, sports sideburns and snazzy sunglasses; it’s clear he’s the king of the road. As the backing music fades away, the Miura enters a tunnel and we experience the symphony of the 12-cylinder in all its glory… but then, with a loud bang and a great ball of flames, it all comes to a shocking and abrupt end. A bulldozer pushes the now-mangled Miura off the cliff. The mafia boss, casually crushing the stylish sunglasses under his foot, proceeds to dramatically hurl a wreath over the edge into the churning water below, while his underlings look on solemnly. Any car nut worth his (or her) salt knows that this describes the opening scene of the 1969 blockbuster The Italian Job. Though the example in the movie met a watery end, the Lamborghini Miura has endured as an icon in the motoring world.
Lamborghini’s Miura, arguably the most beautiful car in the world, needs no real introduction but in order to reinforce just how influential it was in the development of the supercar genre, we have to take a brief look into this.
Ferruccio Lamborghini, an Italian tractor maker and manufacturing giant, founded Lamborghini in 1963 with the somewhat spiteful intent of delivering more refined gran tourers than those on offer from Ferrari. Supposedly Lamborghini had criticised a Ferrari and offered some improvement suggestions, only to be told by Enzo himself to stick to making tractors as he knew nothing about cars. True or not, Lamborghini set about building high-end touring cars, and kept to the age-old GT tradition of a front-engined 12-cylinder layout with models such as the 350GT. Three years in, this engine position thought process changed dramatically and Lambo revolutionised the game with the arrival of the first mid-engined production car. Sure, racing cars like the Matra Djet, Porsche 550 Spyder, Ford GT40 and De Tomaso Vallelunga had made use of a similar layout, but these weren’t considered production items. Added to this, the new Lambo P400 (‘P’ for ‘Posteriore’referring to the engine sitting ‘post’ the cockpit and ‘400’ referring to the capacity in litres) changed it up by mounting the motor transversely rather than longitudinally.