Here's a facinating account of Lamborghini's history:
As the legend goes, Lamborghini, a World War II air force mechanic who subsequently amassed a fortune building tractors and other industrial equipment, got into the automobile business as a result of being rudely dismissed by Enzo Ferrari when he dared to complain about the malfunctioning clutch in his Ferrari 250 GT.
Lamborghini vowed to build a better sports car.
He established Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini S.p.A. in 1963, and quickly built a state-of-the-art factory in Sant'Agata, near Bologna – not that far from Ferrari's headquarters in Maranello.
A prototype of the first Lamborghini car, the 350 GTV, made its debut later that year at the Turin Motor Show. Following Ferrari practice, the car's designation referenced the size of its engine – a 3.5 L V12, designed by ex-Ferrari engineer Giotto Bizzarrini (who subsequently built cars under his own name).
That engine one-upped Ferrari's not only in size, but in number of camshafts – four instead of two.
The bodywork for the GTV, which looked nothing like a Ferrari, was designed by Franco Scaglione, of Alfa Romeo BAT fame, and Lamborghini's first chief engineer was Gianpaolo Dallara, another name that would become legendary in his own right.
BEGINNING OF A LEGEND
The 350 GT on display is one of the first production models, unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in 1964, with aluminum bodywork quite different from the prototype's but equally distinctive. A 2+2 model followed, as did a bigger-engined 400 GT in 1966.
The GT line was the forerunner of a series of front-engined, V12 cars, including the two-seat Islero and four-seat Espada, both of which made their debuts in 1968. A next-generation successor to the Islero, the Jarama 400 GT, which was designed to meet new U.S. safety regulations, debuted in 1970.
All three models are at Toronto. The Islero S is one of just 100 made, the rare Jarama S is one of just three with an automatic transmission, and the Espada III is one of the last of the front-engine Lamborghini cars built in 1978.
Long before that car was built, Lamborghini joined the mid-engine revolution that redefined race car design in the 1960s, adapting it specifically for road use.
At the Turin show in 1965, the upstart Sant'Agata firm shocked the automotive world for a second time, revealing a bare chassis with its V12 engine transversely mounted – behind the passenger compartment.
That chassis appeared fully bodied at the next Geneva show, with the name Miura, and in so doing set a new standard for sports car design. Indeed, Lamborghini revealed a concept car with the same name and almost identical form at the 2006 Detroit auto show and it still looked absolutely contemporary.
A second-generation Miura S variant of the Gandini-designed original, which continued in production until 1973, is part of the Toronto show's display.
ARRIVAL OF THE ICON
At the 1973 Geneva show, the first LP400 Countach prototype was revealed. And the first production model made its debut at Geneva a year later – still powered by a derivative of the 4.0 L V12.
Compared to subsequent variants, that original Countach was positively tame in appearance, but by the standards of the day, it could have come from another planet. Beyond its shape, its scissor-like door openings (now a Lambo trademark) were spaceship futuristic.
The Countach evolved through four more variants, sprouting wings, growing fender flares and bigger air scoops, and gaining another litre of engine displacement along the way, until its demise in 1988.
The Lamborghini Theatre features not one but two significant Countach models – a first-generation LP400 and an end-of-the run 25th Anniversary Special Edition.
THE ONLY V8S
While the Countach was the star of the show, Lamborghini offered another, less unaffordable, mid-engine line in parallel to the Miura-Countach progression, beginning in 1972. In fact, the Urraco was first shown two years earlier, but it took that long to get it into production.
Originally powered by a 2.5 L V8, which ultimately grew to 3.5 litres, it was intended to compete with the Porsche 911 and Ferrari Dino.
Two Urracos are part of the exhibit – a mid-run P300 and a very rare and special Silhouette variant – the first official open-top Lamborghini, of which just 53 were made. Urraco production continued until 1979.
Over that period, however, Lamborghini's automotive fortunes took a dramatic turn for the worse – the result of world economic pressures, serious quality issues and spill-over problems from the tractor business.
Ferrucio Lamborghini ultimately divested himself of his interests in both businesses and became a wine maker. In 1978, the company went into bankruptcy, although it continued to operate.
From 1981 to 1988, a successor to the mid-engined, V8 powered Silhouette, called the Jalpa, was introduced. It was widely considered to be one of the most desirable Lamborghinis ever.
In the same time frame, the company deviated from its established path by building a Countach-engined off-roader – the LM002, derived from an unsuccessful military vehicle design exercise.
THE CHRYSLER ERA
In 1987, Lamborghini was purchased by an unlikely buyer: Chrysler.
One of its first actions was to kill the low-volume Jalpa, whose cumulative sales barely topped 400. A Jalpa is in the Theatre. The LM002, which is also represented there, lasted until 1992.
Apart from building a Lambo-badged sedan concept called the Portofino, which became the inspiration for the design of the American company's forthcoming LH cars, Chrysler focused on completing development of the Countach's successor, the Diablo.
In contrast to the end-of-series Countach, the Diablo that made its debut in 1990 in Monte Carlo, was free of protuberances. In fact, it was downright slick.
Like the Miura and Countach, it was designed by Marcello Gandini, with some editing by Chrysler to tone down its aggressiveness. With its slippery shape and a V12 engine enlarged to 5.7 L, it was capable of 340 km/h.
Ten more Diablo variants ensued, culminating in a 6.0 L Special Edition model in its final year of production, 2001.
A lighter, racing-oriented SE 30 model was built in 1994 to celebrate Lamborghini's 30th anniversary. Only four of those cars made it to Canada, and one of the four is in the Lamborghini Theatre.
AUDI TO THE RESCUE
During the Diablo's lifespan, Lamborghini's ownership changed twice more. In 1994, an Indonesian investment group took control from Chrysler, and in 1998 it become the property of Audi, which it remains today.
Under Audi's control, the Diablo's successor, the Murçielago, arrived in 2001 and it is still in production, in its seventh iteration (not counting the Murçielago-derived Reventon).
It is represented in the display by one of 20 Gianni Versace Special Edition models, designed and built to celebrate Fashion Week in Milan. It is the only one in Canada
But the Murçielago is not the newest Lamborghini. In 2003, a new "junior" model, called Gallardo arrived, powered by a mid-mounted, 5.0 L V10 engine.
Perhaps the sleekest Lambo ever, it is now in its fifth iteration, one of which is a Spyder.
The pièce de résistance in the Lamborghini Theatre is the Gallardo Concept S – one of only two ever made. The other is in the Lamborghini museum.
The S is Superleggera and super it is. With a 530-hp engine, all-wheel drive, an electronic paddle-shift gearbox, and ample use of carbon-fibre to save weight, it can accelerate from 0-to-100 km/h in just 3.8 seconds.