Were he still alive, today would be Ferruccio Lamborghini’s 100th birthday. Born on a grape farm in Northern Italy, he would go from making machines that tilled the earth to those that would shake it, creating some of the most beautiful and striking cars to grace the road. Anyone who fell in love with the automobile because they had a Countach poster on their wall owes him a debt of gratitude.
And yet, most people don’t know Signore Lamborghini all that well. In many cases, he’s painted as a hot-headed industrialist who started making supercars out of a desire to spite Ferrari. The legend fits with the modern image of Lamborghini – the Aventador SV looks just like the kind of car that would be born out of an argument between two type-A Italian gentleman. Really though, Lamborghini the man was a lot more nuanced than the cars that would bear his name.
He was a thinker, not just a fighter
While Ferruccio was quick to deride the day-to-day intractability of the Ferraris he bought, the decision to found a car company was as much about business acumen as it was a slap in the face to ol’ Enzo. The 350GT and the 400GT that followed it were proper Gran Turismos, filling a gap in the market between the heavy Maserati coupes and the delicate Ferraris. Lamborghini didn’t suffer fools gladly, but he wasn’t about to throw money away in a fit of pique.
His only race was the Mille Miglia
From the very first, Lamborghini has been more about road-going cars than racing. This aversion to the circuit is the mirror image of Ferrari’s early days, but comes from real racing experience. Ferruccio the engineer built his own specially prepared 750cc Fiat Topolino and entered it in the 1948 running of Italy’s most famous road race. “I finished my Mille Miglia in an inn,” he would later say, “Which I entered by driving through a wall.” That was enough for Ferruccio.
He loved boats as much as cars
Ferruccio’s favorite craft was probably his 1968 Riva Aquarama, a vessel so svelte it was as if Sophia Loren had been rendeded in woo. Powered by twin 350hp 4.0L Lamborghini V12s, it was perhaps twice the conveyance any wheeled Lamborghini would ever be, and unutterably beautiful. Happily, it still exists, having been restored several years ago.
He ran the company for just eleven years
Lamborghini’s decisiveness made the Miura possible, and thus a whole lineage of mid-engined V12 monsters. However, by 1972, he sold the controlling interest in his company to a Swiss investor for $600,000. Two years later he was out of the company entirely, back working with industrial equipment and eventually settling down on an estate near Tuscany.
He returned to the soil
If you can’t quite swing the payments on a Huracan, know that buying a Lamborghini in a bottle isn’t all that expensive. The wines from the Lamborghini winery are mostly reds, full-bodied, yet accessible. Given the wings and gills of the car company’s products, you’d expect a sort of thermonuclear grappa, but wines like the Lamborghini Campoleone are far more even on the palate.
And this, perhaps, is the best way to remember Ferruccio on his birthday. To drive a finely crafted V12-engined grand tourer down from the mountains, step aboard a beautiful wooden vessel at the jetty, motor across a glassy lake to a terrace where a vintage red sits decanted and waiting. A contemplative glass of wine at sunset, gazing at all you’ve set your name upon. A’salute cent’anni, Ferruccio Lamborghini, your works made life not just louder, but much sweeter.