Ferruccio Lamborghini was a bold man. Not because of the legacy his early cars have left, but because of where they came from: born out of an argument between a disgruntled tractor manufacturer, fed up with the clutch in his Ferrari 250GT, and Enzo himself.
Founded in 1948, Lamborghini Trattori set up manufacturing tractors using only discarded war materials – mostly trucks and military vehicles – and Ferruccio’s engineering brain. Lamborghini developed an innovative fuel atomiser, which he later patented, that enabled the Morris engines used in its tractors to start on petrol before then running on diesel.
Lamborghini’s tractors proved popular and were soon built in numbers of 200 a week – up from the original one per week with which he began the company. As you’d expect given the increased production, war surplus was soon running out and so Italian-made engines took the place of Morris powerplants.
The L33 launched in 1951 and was the first tractor produced entirely by Lamborghini. It was powered by the 3.5-litre six-cylinder Morris engine with fuel atomiser and was followed in 1952 by the DL30 – DL40 series, using their own Italian-made diesel engines. Not one to rest on his laurels, Ferruccio continued to expand the Lamborghini range, culminating in its first crawler – now powered by a new Lamborghini-made diesel engine – in 1955 and a new manufacturing facility in 1956.
Things were going well for Ferruccio, so he did what successful Italians do: he bought the latest Ferrari. He wasn’t happy with the heaviness of the clutch, or Enzo’s response to his complaint, and so he thought he’d do something about it. In 1963, Lamborghini Automobili was founded with the premise of building comfortable, ultra-high performance vehicles that, felt Ferruccio, would be more suited to road use than a certain other manufacturer’s offerings.
The new company’s first production car was the 350GT, which was an evolution of its 350GTV prototype. It was launched in 1964 with a visceral, 270bhp all-alloy 3.5-litre V12 with a top speed of 158mph. It was enough to give Ferrari a shock, and the larger-engined 400GT followed two years later to build on those foundations. However, the unveiling of the Miura is just about as beautiful a statement of intent as it is possible to make. Not only did it look incredible and receive universal praise, but at launch in 1966, with over 350bhp depending on state of trim, it was also the fastest production car money could buy.
Success of Lamborghini Automobili did not signal the end of the Trattori business. Far from it – the two have always enjoyed concurrent success and a shared fascination with innovation. For example, Lamborghini was also the first tractor manufacturer in Italy to fit all-synchromesh gears as standard and was an early adopter of modular water-cooled engines, electronic fuel injection and its Electronic Power Shift transmission. The company has continued to evolve, introducing a range of mini tractors and expanding its crawler range. Even this decade it is still winning awards for its design and innovation.
Do you have an old Lamborghini sitting in a shed at home? Perhaps you have both road- and field-going examples. We’d love to hear your Lamborghini stories in the comments below. Or, if you are interested tractor content, why not read The Little Grey Fergie and find out more about the Ferguson TE20.