Raging Bulls - Issue N.3 Miura Special #RagingBulls
In 1965, while production of the Lamborghini 350 GT was underway, three of Automobili Lamborghini’s top three engineers, chief designer Gian Paolo Dallara, chief technical officer Paolo Stanzani and chief test driver Bob Wallace had the idea of making a ‘race car for the public roads’.
What they envisioned was a road car with racing pedigree, that could both win on the track as well as be driven on the road by enthusiasts.
Knowing that the company’s founder, Ferruccio Lamborghini, had a strong aversion to racing, Lamborghini’s top three put their own free time into developing their prototype. The three men worked on its design at night, hoping to convince Lamborghini that such a vehicle would neither be too expensive nor distract from the company’s main focus. When finally brought aboard, Lamborghini gave his engineers a free hand in the belief the car was a potentially valuable marketing tool, if nothing more.
The ‘TP400‘, as it was called, featured a number of characteristics that were quite unusual at the time.
Dallara and Wallace decided to use a mid-engine layout, a solution that was only starting to appear on racing cars of the era, such as the Ford GT40 and the Ferrari 250 LM.
But there was a problem: The only engine Lamborghini had was the 4.0-litre V12 built by Giotto Bizzarrini two years earlier for the first 350 GT. A generously sized V12. Dallara remembers: “We wanted to mount the engine behind, but with our 5-speed ZF gearbox, the car would have come out too long. We solved the problem by mounting the engine and the gearbox in a transverse position”. Even the frame was revolutionary. “We did not want a tube frame, but one made of sheet metal. But it could not be printed because it was too expensive. So we made it in folded sheet metal”.
What made it even more unusual was the fact that both the transmission and the differential were effectively merged with the engine, mostly due to a lack of space in the chassis’s design.
The TP400, which was nothing more than a rolling chassis, was displayed at that year’s Turin Motor Show, where it was met with huge success, as proved by various showgoers who placed orders for the car without even knowing what it would’ve looked like or it if was even going to be produced.
The TP400’s success convinced Lamborghini to build a proper prototype to display at the following year’s Geneva Motor Show.
Nuccio Bertone, who was present at the TP400’s unveiling, was so fascinated by the prototype that he declared to Lamborghini: “I am the one who can make the shoe to your foot”.
The latter, even in the face of the considerable enthusiasm aroused in potential customers, was persuaded to approve the project despite his skepticism: “It will be good publicity”, he told his technicians, “but we will not sell more than 50”.
The choice of Bertone as a coachbuilder was also determined by the fact that the Grugliasco company had no cooperation with Ferrari and Maserati, the main competitors of Lamborghini, but above all the closing down at the end of 1966 of the Touring bodywork, which had designed the previous 350 and 400 GT.
Bertone gave the Lamborghini project to his best designer, Marcello Gandini, who was only 28 years old at the time.
Gandini takes little time to draw the shapes of the future Lamborghini supercar.
“I started at the end of November ‘65 and in a few days the style came by itself. That modern chassis inspired me. The first solution I designed was already perfect. The style of the car derives from the culture of the Italian racing sports car, which won at the Mille Miglia and Le Mans, treated in a modern way. And that is why the design of that car was immediately liked by everyone: because it was in the imagination of people used to sports cars”.
Dallara remembers the moment when Gandini and Bertone came to Sant’Agata to show the style of the future supercar.
“The drawing of the body was light blue, on a black background. It was beautiful. Lamborghini and I looked at each other and said: do not touch anything anymore. It’s perfect like this!”
“I went back to work to complete the 1:1 style model - adds Gandini - and I remember we finished it at ten o’clock on the evening of December 24th. Just in time to go celebrate Christmas at home. The car was ready for the ‘66 Geneva Motor Show. I painted the body of the color that appealed to me: orange. I loved strong colors, in fact the first range of colors the car was sold with were three impactful colors: orange, yellow and light green”.
Gandini, however, reveals that it was difficult to refine the details of the car. “To save costs, we had to use a lot of existing components on the market.
For example, the retractable headlights and the taillights were none other than those of the Fiat 850 Spider, while the front lights came from the 500. And the locks were the same as the Simca 1000. I had to work hard to incorporate them and hide them in parts of the body”.
This is how the famous “eyelashes” that surrounded the headlights were born.
“The real problem to make the car’s shapes harmonious - explains Gandini - is that Dallara, to make a fast car, had kept the roadways very narrow. The car was just 1.76 meters wide. At first it was a problem to make it look gritty and I had to keep the body wider than the roadways to trick the eye and make it aggressive “.
While Gandini perfected his style, Dallara began to encounter the first problems from a mechanical point of view.
“The biggest problem came from the transmission: to transmit the movement to the gearbox we had put the clutch on the gearbox’s primary, with the clutch of one of our tractors. Noise problems arose because the gears were large and whistled. Therefore we introduced a neutral gear to reduce the diameter of the others. We solved the problem of the whistling of the gears, but the engine became counter-rotating, and this created further problems because the thrusters were no longer suitable. In short, it was a moment of full experimentation. So much so that we came to sell the first car when the prototype had done very few miles of testing: less than 30 thousand km”.
Ferruccio Lamborghini, who was born under the sign of the bull, wanted to baptize the car completed with the name Miura in honor of the breeder of fighting bulls Don Eduardo Miura Fernandez. Bulls from the Miura lineage have a reputation for being large, fierce, and cunning. It is said to be especially dangerous for a matador to turn his back on a Miura. Miura bulls have been referred to as individualists, each bull seemingly possessing a strong personal character.
The Miura was the first of a long tradition of cars built by Lamborghini and baptized with names inspired by bullfighting. In addition, the code of the frame lost the T despite the mechanics had not undergone significant changes.
Presented at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show, the Miura P400 was an unprecedented success. The car left all visitors breathless, suddenly making all the supercars of the time look old and outdated and starting a new era in the sports car industry.
“With the Miura - says Gandini - I experimented with my formula of success: at the salons, for me the only reaction that counts, to understand if a car hit the mark or not, is only one: a surprised “Ohhhh!”. If people are left open-mouthed, it means that I have succeded, otherwise not. And with the Miura it was a constant exclamation. I remember very well Dallara’s reaction, who thanked me, visibly moved”.
One of the Miura’s most distinctive features was the fact that, when looked at from the front and with the doors open, it looked like a bull’s head
The earliest model of the Miura was known as the P400, which stood for “Posteriore 4 litri”. The engine was mounted transversely and produced 350 hp (345 bhp). An unconfirmed claim holds the first 125 Miuras were built of 0.9 mm steel and are therefore lighter than later cars.
The production samples differed significantly from the Geneva prototype, which had been set up very quickly.
The spoke wheels, for example, were replaced with new magnesium alloys from Campagnolo.
The gearbox’s direction of rotation was reversed because it generated vibrations.
The triple-disc clutch at the gearbox input was replaced by a single-disc clutch mounted at the end of the drive shaft.
Instead of the plexiglas engine cover, a fixed plastic shutter was applied to improve the heat dissipation of the engine. This parallel strip pattern was used in many stylistic elements such as the radiator outlets and the unusual “eyelashes” that surrounded the electric lifting front lights.
The steel body, just 110 cm tall, was unchanged, with the front and rear hoods in aluminum.
The car only had a small luggage rack behind the engine because the entire front area was occupied by the fuel tank, the radiator and the spare wheel.
The door windows had no frame but kept the solid rear crosspiece, in which the engine’s air intake (which was also adorned with parallel strips) was integrated.
Several controls were mounted on the ceiling, behind the interior rearview mirror.
Exactly 275 P400s were produced between 1966 and 1969 – a success for Lamborghini despite its then-steep price of US$20,000 (equivalent to $154,441 in 2018).
The Miura P400S, also known as the Miura S, made its introduction at the Turin Motor Show in November 1968, where the original chassis had been introduced three years earlier.
Power was increased to 370 hp (365 bhp) thanks to substantial modifications to the engine intake manifolds, which were now 2mm larger, and different camshaft profiles.
The cockpit had received improvements to the tapestries and electric windows had been installed. Externally it was recognizable only for the frames of the windshield and the headlights, which were now chromed. Other revisions were limited to creature comforts, such as a locking glovebox lid, a reversed position of the cigarette lighter and windshield wiper switch, and single release handles for front and rear body sections. Other interior improvements included the addition of power windows and optional air conditioning, available for US$800.
During production, the Miura P400S underwent suspension modifications and received self-ventilating disc brakes. This was the most commercially successful version, with 338 cars built.
The last version of the Miura, the SV (acronym of SuperVeloce), debuted in March 1971. It featured different cam timing and altered 4X3-barrel Weber carburetors. These increased the engine’s power to 385 hp (380 bhp) at 7,850 rpm and the torque reached a maximum fugure of 400 N⋅m (295 lb⋅ft) at 5,750 rpm.
The last 96 SV engines had a split sump. The gearbox now had its lubrication system separate from the engine, which allowed the use of the appropriate types of oil for the gearbox and the engine. This also alleviated concerns that metal shavings from the gearbox could travel into the engine with disastrous and expensive results and made the application of an optional limited-slip differential far easier. The back of the body was enlarged to allow the installation of new, 230 mm (9 inch) wide tires and new taillights and the headlights lost the “eyelashes”.
A total of 150 SVs were produced.
The last Miura built, a black SV delivered to Luigi Innocenti (son of the inventor of the Lambretta scooter) and destined to his son Gianfranco, who was 20 years old at the time, left the assembly line on January 15, 1973. This Miura benefited from an enhanced V12 on request and other special features such as the chrome-plated tank filler and the chrome frames, changes that the wealthiest customers demanded and that the company was responsible for.
There was a misprint in the SV owners manual indicating bigger intake valves in English size (but correct size in metric). The intake and exhaust valves in all 4.0-litre Lamborghini V12 remained the same throughout all models. This intake size misprint carried forward into Espada 400GT and Countach LP 400/LP 400S owners manuals as well.
Dallara remembers: “The Miura did not have power steering, simply because it was not widespread in those days. The problem was that it did not even have the power brake, simply because there was not enough space to mount it. We also believed, mistakenly, that we could do without it. And the brakes were not even ventilated “. The Miura was a splendid supercar, but it was not exempt from many small problems.
With today’s experience and precision as an engineer, Dallara easily finds the many flaws of the Miura. “It overheated excessively. The radiators were small and the fans were undersized. At the time, to go from Modena to the Adriatic Sea, in summer, you had to cross Bologna because there was no highway. And on hot days and in traffic it was common to stop at the side of the road to cool down the engine. The Miura was really fast, but when you drove it to the limit, it was oversteering and therefore unstable. The main problem was that it had a lot of weight on the rear end but the tires were too tight, because they were the same as the front and rear sections. So it was difficult to manage the power. It is funny today to think that the choice of tires was made simply by ingenuity. We did not mount tires of greater section behind simply because we did not have the space to install two different spare wheels in the car!”
But here Gandini partially disagrees. “Gian Paolo does not remember that we put the same wheels because there were no other wheels. Even if we wanted, we could not have put more section behind it. At the time, the biggest tire on the market was a Pirelli 205/70-15 “. The same that they had all the other sports cars. And we used them. Front and back. At the beginning of the ‘70s the lowered Pirelli with larger section arrived”.
It was the era in which the SV was born.
Another flaw of the Miura was the fact that the aerodynamic shape of the front generated lift as the speed increased and as a result of the emptying of the tank (resulting in lightening), which made it unstable and unwieldy. To fix the problem (which, however, was never completely fixed), the air evacuation from the radiator was improved (to reduce pressure under the car) and in some cases a spoiler was applied. Also, the insufficient torsional rigidity that made the car less precise was attributed to the low thickness (0.8 mm) of the frame’s sheet metal.
The absence of the brake servo required special pads and made the pedal hard and difficult to operate. To allow the installation of the spare wheel under the bonnet, the rear wheels’ section was too narrow, although this problem was corrected on the S version.
The transverse arrangement of the engine caused that, due to the centrifugal force, the engine and gearbox oil would move sideways while leaving a part of the mechanical withput lubrication.
Finally, much more worryingly, the carburetors were prone to stagnation and gasoline leakage which, in contact with the hot parts of the engine, in several cases generated dangerous fires.
In 1970, Lamborghini development driver Bob Wallace was commissioned to develop a competition version of the Miura. Wallace took a Miura S as a base and created a test mule that would conform to the FIA’s Appendix J racing regulations.
The car was appropriately named the Miura Jota (the pronunciation of the letter ‘J’ in Spanish). Wallace made extensive modifications to the standard Miura chassis, on which Koni racing suspensions and self-ventilating disc brakes were mounted. Four Weber 46 IDL carburetors were installed on the engine and the compression ratio increased from 10.4: 1 to 11.5: 1, which bumped the power up to 440 hp at 8500 rpm. Other modifications to the engine included altered cams, electronic ignition, dry-sump lubrication and a less restrictive exhaust system.
A good part of the bodywork was remodeled with Avional panels, the grilles on the radiator vents removed and the glass windows replaced with Plexiglas elements, all to reduce the weight of the car up to 890 kg, 150 less than the Miura S. A front spoiler was added and the headlights were replaced with fixed, faired-in units. Wallace substituted two smaller, sill-mounted fuel tanks for the single larger original unit. The suspension was reworked and widened (9” in the front, 12” in the rear), and lightweight wheels were fitted.
The Jota was impressive, however, due to Lamborghini’s known dislike for racing, the car became a laboratory on which to develop solutions for future road models. Many details of the Jota were in fact transferred to the next Miura SV launched in 1971.
This single example was eventually sold to a private buyer after extensive testing. In April 1971, the car crashed on the yet-unopened ring road around the city of Brescia, and burned to the ground.
It was once widely believed that the Jota had the chassis number of #5084 (a number well out of sequence for the date in question), but it has been clarified by Miura expert Joe Sackey in his book The Lamborghini Miura Bible that this is not the case, and that #5084 is in fact a factory modified SV to SVJ spec.
An accurate recreation of the Jota was later undertaken by Chris Lawrence of Wymondham Engineering for Lamborghini owner Piet Pulford from the United Kingdom on chassis #3033, with help from none other than Bob Wallace himself, who was able to perfectly replicate the original Jota’s V12 engine. The building process of this Jota replica lasted around 15 years.
The Jota never entered production, but that didn’t stop customers from wanting something that could get close to it.
Subsequently, Lamborghini modified some SV with specifications similar to the Jota. These cars were identified with the abbreviation “SV/J”.
There are six examples of the Miura SV/J known to be built by the factory while the Miura was still in production, one was built new (chassis #5090) and five were converted from existing SVs (chassis #4934, #4860, #4892, #4990 & #5084).
One of these cars, chassis #4934, was built for the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The Shah stored this car under armed guard with another SV in Royal Palace in Tehran. After he fled the country during the Iranian Revolution, his cars were seized by the Iranian government. The SV/J was sold into Dubai in 1995.
In 1997 this car was sold in a Brooks auction to Nicolas Cage, at US$490,000, becoming the model’s highest ever price at auction. Cage sold the car in 2002. Higher prices have been reached several times since then, including by SV/J #4892 selling for over $1.900.000
Of the seven known original cars #4892 is a recent addition to the list of known genuine SVJ’s with factory documentation now having come to light.
An eighth SV/J was built at the Lamborghini factory between 1983 and 1987 from an unused Miura S chassis. This was made for Jean Claude Mimran, one of the Mimran brothers, the then owner of Lamborghini. Most experts do not recognize this as an “official” SV/J due to it being converted (albeit done by the factory) long after the Miura went out of production.
Other Miuras were modified by external workshops from Switzerland, USA and Japan, sometimes with the collaboration of employees and former Lamborghini employees. According to the will of Ferruccio Lamborghini, no Miura ever officially participated in speed competitions. The few appearances on the race fields were due to private pilots, the most famous of whom were Gerhard Mitter and Marcello Gallo.
A racing version of the SV/J, known as the SV/R, was built in 1974, requested by a German customer. Two years later, the car was sold to Japanese collector Hiromitsu Ito, who restored it in 2018 with help from Lamborghini Polo Storico, a division of Lamborghini whose main duty is to restore the company’s older models.
After Ferruccio refused to produce the 350 GTS, Stanzani and Dallara did not give up the idea of a convertible Lamborghini, so in the spare time (and with the collaboration of Marcello Gandini) they tried again with the Miura. At the 1968 Brussels Motor Show on the Bertone stand an open-top version of the P400 was exhibited (chassis No. 3498, engine No. 1642).
It had a targa configuration, without the roof from the A-pillars to the C-pillars (being a prototype, it was not even prepared for an eventual assembly). Other differences from the original model were the absence of the bonnet cover, which left the carburetors and the heads exposed, and a slightly different design of the tail.
Despite the considerable success at the Belgian show and the numerous requests received, once again Lamborghini, for whom the cabriolets did not correspond to the idea of the comfortable and silent grand tourers that he wanted to produce, he declined the offer to put it into production and he even refused Nuccio Bertone’s request to produce a small series in his Torinese plants.
The prototype was instead sold to the American company ILZRO (International Lead Zinc Research Organization) which, thanks to the collaboration of the Ford designer John Foster, transformed it into a promotional show-car, a showcase for its products and technologies.
The car was repainted dark-green, the magnolia-colored leather interior was replaced with others in brown suede and the bodywork was adorned with chrome, galvanizing and various elements, resulting 600 kg heavier than before. The name was also changed to ZN75 (from the chemical symbols of the metals used in the conversion).
Once the Roadster fulfilled its task, it underwent several changes of ownership, with ever increasing quotations, until it was bought in 2007 by New York collector Adam Gordon who had Bobileff Motorcars in San Diego, California return the car to its original Bertone Roadster form.
The restored car was first shown in August 2008 at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where he was second overall and in 2010 he won the prize for the best restoration at the Villa d’Este Concorso d’Eleganza.
A second Miura Roadster, the SV/J Roadster (or Targa Special) was set up for promotional purposes by a Swiss coachbuilder and presented at the Lamborghini stand at the 1981 Geneva Motor Show (eight years after the end of regular production).
A Miura S (frame #4808, engine #30583) was used as a basis, and got its roof removed (though, unlike the original Roadster, this could be put back on). The transformation included numerous specifications similar to the SV/J models and adopted a conspicuous rear wing integrated with the tail and a pearled white paint finish. It was immediately distinguishable from other Miuras thanks to the thin vertical air inlets installed in front of the rear wheels.
Subsequently, bought by Swiss Lamborghini collector Jean Wicki, the SV/J Roadster has been deprived of the spoiler and painted it metallic silver, bringing it closer in style to the SV/J.
Lamborghini specialist Autodrome, in France, purchased the car from Wicki and restored its bodywork and upholstery in partnership with Carrosserie Lecoq from Paris. Painted traditional Miura lime green, the car was eventually sold to a Parisian collector. The car, however, as decribed by Miura expert Joe Sackey, has stiffness issues and does not drive that well.
Other than private modifications, there are only two “open-top” Miuras, officially presented in International Motor shows: the Bertone Miura Roadster, exhibited on Bertone’s own stand at Bruxelles in 1968, and this non-factory example, shown on the Lamborghini stand at the Geneva Motor Show in 1981
The Miura was replaced by the Countach LP 400 in 1974, after 8 years of production and 763 units sold.
A modern interpretation of the Miura, known as the Miura Concept, was previewed at an invitation ceremony at the Museum of Television and Radio in Los Angeles on January 5, 2006, and it was officially presented at the Detroit Motor Show two weeks later.
Built on the Murciélago’s platform, this is a perfectly finished but static model, as it has no engine.
The Miura Concept’s line is inspired by that of the original Miura and deliberately follows its shape, although, compared to the original, it is about 16 cm longer, 11 higher and 23 wider. Profoundly different are the trims, the equipment and finishes, reinterpreted in a more contemporary way and with the help of the most advanced technologies. The headlights, the rims and the unmistakable rear shutters, even though they are made with cutting edge devices, are influenced by the original design. There are also very modern elements such as the LED lights on the rear-view mirrors and the air diffusers next to the grille.
This concept is the first project to be designed by Walter de Silva, chief designer replaced Luc Donckerwolke. Asked about the commercial future of the Miura Concept, Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann stated that “The Miura was a celebration of our history, but Lamborghini is about the future. Retro design is not what we are here for. So we won’t do the Miura”.
Currently, the car is on permanent display at the Lamborghini Museum of Sant’Agata Bolognese.
In 2016, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Lamborghini Miura – a forerunner of all V12 Lamborghini super sports cars – Lamborghini has unveiled the Aventador Miura Homage. The special edition car has been created by the company’s Ad Personam customization division.
Although the company had been founded for just three years, the birth of the Miura accredited the Lamborghini as the main Italian competitor of the then already well-established Ferrari.
With it’s mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive configuration, the Miura completely revolutionized the concept of ‘supercar’ and inspired all of today’s automakers.
For its contents, technical and style in equal measure, the Miura is considered a cornerstone of the evolution of the European sports cars. A few months after the presentation, in May 1966, the Miura was chosen as the Pace Car at the annual Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix.
In 2004 the American magazine Sport Cars International, drawing up the Top Sports Cars classification of all time, has placed the Miura three times in fourth place in the different absolute classifications, the ‘60s and ‘70s.
In 2013, a Miura SV triumphed in its category at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The Miura, yesterday like today, has always been very much sought after by VIPs of all ages. Among his wealthy owners: Claudio Villa, Little Tony, Bobby Solo, Gino Paoli, Frank Sinatra, Elton John, Dean Martin, Hussein of Jordan, the Shah of Persia Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Rod Stewart, Nicolas Cage, Jay Kay, Russell Crowe and Jay Leno, who owns more than one.
Against the asking price at the launch (7,700,000 lire, about €76,000 at the 2012 value), in 2014 the Miura’s market quotations range from the €300,000 required for the P400 up to €500,000 needed for an SV. However, at the international auctions four different SVs between 2010 and 2013 were awarded at prices between €800,000 and €1,300,000.
Marcello Gandini is an Italian designer, best known for designing famous and iconic cars such as the Lamborghini Miura and Countach, the Lancia Stratos and the Alfa Romeo Montreal.
Gandini was born on the 26th August, 1938, in Turin, Italy, the son of an orchestra conductor.
In 1963, he approached Nuccio Bertone, head of the Gruppo Bertone company for work. However Giorgetto Giugiaro, then Bertone’s chief designer, opposed him being hired. When Giugiaro left Bertone two years later, Gandini was hired, and worked for the company for fourteen years.
Gandini left Bertone in 1980, pursuing freelance automotive, industrial, and interior design.
Creator of Stile Bertone in Caprie, Gandini served as general manager of the styling house, designing show cars as well as managing the construction of prototype automobiles. Gandini has always kept a working method such as to make only “a few” creations at the highest levels.
In the ‘80s, however, the creative “furor” drastically dropped and the creative scene in general took on a lighter, abstract and almost myopic and disinterested taste: truce or resignation motion derived also from the “years of lead”. The values attributed to the style are diluted “from the top” of marketing and the “sacred monsters” of the style are no longer considered as before.
Furthermore, the idea of future mechatronics is imposed, while the human contribution does not want to hear much: it is the computer that must impose itself.
Below, a gallery of some of Gandini’s most iconic cars:
In a 2009 interview with Robert Cumberford, editor at Automobile Magazine, Gandini indicated “his design interests are focused on vehicle architecture, construction, assembly, and mechanisms – not appearance.”
Gandini was one of twenty-five designers nominated for Car Designer of the Century, and is also one of the very few car designers who managed to turn a concept car into an actual production car.
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