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The 50th birthday of the Lamborghini Miura

By raccars Published

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The Lamborghini Miura reaches its half century, but is it the most beautiful car ever made?

Any list of the most beautiful cars ever made features a few predictable entries: the Jaguar E-Type; the Citroen DS; and the Lamborghini Miura. For many people the Lamborghini takes the top spot, but it's notable not only for its stunning looks but its influence upon sports car production in the Sixties and Seventies.

Only 764 Miuras were ever built in a production run lasting from 1966-1973, but it is considered the instigator of what became the standard sports car format, a rear wheel drive, mid engined, two seater high performance vehicle. In its day the Miura was the fastest production car in the world.

The genesis of the Lamborghini Miura

Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini was created in May 1963 by an Italian tractor manufacturer after a dispute with Enzo Ferrari. The company's first production car was the 350GT, a stunning but rather sedate coupe.

In order to compete with - and irritate - its main rival, Ferrari, Lamborghini developed the innovative 400 TP chassis, which brought race car construction techniques to a road car by putting the engine behind the cockpit. It showed off the idea at 1965's Turin Auto Show. Lotus and other manufacturers soon followed suit but Lamborghini was the pioneer and buyers were clamouring for this exciting new supercar before it was even built.

Even so, Ferruccio Lamborghini only expected to be able to sell some 50 units of the 400 TP, until Bertone came along and clothed the impressive mechanicals in a sleek, elegant bodyshell, both menacing and understated, which was introduced to the public at the Geneva Motor Show of 1966.

The Miura caused a sensation and made Lamborghini's name. Orders flooded in and the company began to be seen as a serious sports car manufacturer. Everyone wanted a Miura, which was famously seen in all its orange glory in the opening of 'The Italian Job', meandering handsomely through the Alps before shockingly dying a violent, fiery death at the hands of the Mafia and being thrown off a cliff by a bulldozer.

Style and substance

Not only was the Miura breathtakingly beautiful, it had the performance to match. Nestled behind the cockpit was a quad cam 3.9 litre V12, providing 350bhp to the Miura's 1,200kg kerb weight. That was enough to send the car sprinting to 60mph within about six seconds flat and keep it going all the way to 170mph, figures that even Ferrari couldn't match.

On the other hand it was uncomfortable, with a heavy clutch and barely able to cope with all that power output - the brakes struggled and, disconcertingly, once you got past 150mph the nose began to tilt upwards.

In 1968 an updated and improved Miura S made an appearance at the Turin Auto Show, answering some of the criticisms levelled at the original Miura. Power output went up to 370bhp and the Miura S's cockpit was a far more comfortable place to be, with leather seats, air conditioning and electric windows. There were also some minor cosmetic additions to the outside in the form of chrome detailing. Today, these S versions command a higher price than early 400 TP models.

The advent of the Countach

In 1971 Lambo launched what it dubbed the 'definitive' version of the Miura, the SV. This was the Miura without any of its associated problems, and more powerful than ever. However at this time Lamborghini was also developing the Countach, and its release rather overshadowed the Miura, ultimately leading to its discontinuation in 1973.

Ten years ago Lamborghini came up with a new Miura concept, to celebrate the original car's 40th birthday, but nothing ever came of it in production terms. Will we ever see a new Miura - and if we did, could it ever live up to the original?

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