How a Feud Created the Worlds First Lamborghini
When we think of Lamborghinis today, we think of the flashy supercars designed for the wealthy and music videos, but seven decades ago that wasn’t the case. Seven decades ago, Lamborghini wasn’t synonymous with cars but with its less flashy cousin, the tractor. So how did Lamborghini become known for supercars and not tractors? Lets find out.
It All Starts With a War
Ferruccio Lamborghini was born in 1916 in Renazzo to a couple of grape farmers, and he lived there until the second World War. As he grew up he found himself spending less and less time at the farm and more with machinery: he had a dream of having his own workshop one day.
In 1935 his dream came true, and he began to run his own workshop: but soon the drums of war started to beat across Europe.
In 1940 he was drafted into the Italian Royal Air Force and sent to the island of Rhodes: there he used the skills that he had honed over time to fix up and recycle old wartime machinery as the head of a vehicle maintenance unit.
He continued to do that until 1943, when the Germans occupied the island and evicted their former allies.
Ferruccio could have gotten back home in Italy, but he spotted an opportunity to work on his dream and stayed as a civilian: he started his own workshop and worked on German vehicles. In 1945 the Allies did their thing and booted the Germans off of the island, and imprisoned everybody that was in the German encampment.
But Ferruccio wasn’t in prison for long, and soon the Allies had him fixing their vehicles for them. This means that during the war Lamborghini gained experience working not only with Italian vehicles, but with German and Allied ones, too, which would become a blessing for him.
With the war over, Ferruccio was left unemployed and so he started another workshop with his friend and worked on cars, trucks and tractors. One day he got mail from his father saying that he urgently needed a tractor.
Ferruccio began to look around for things that he could use to make that tractor for his dad.
Ferruccio needed to find the materials to make the tractor — and what better material than the vehicles that he had worked with during the war and turned it into one of the best tractors that people had ever seen. Using English engines and axis parts for the body, Ferruccio created a tractor that was relatively cheap and well made.
It just so happened that the market was looking for tractors like that. With the Italian Peninsula devastated after the Second World War, the country was looking to increase its agricultural output. Ferruccio knew how to make just what farmers were looking for, and where to source parts.
With the help of his father (who helped him take out a loan with the farm as collateral), he set up a factory where he began to manufacture tractors out of old war vehicles. Essentially, Ferruccio was into upcycling before it was cool. With his market timing and skills colliding in a perfect combination his company, Lamborghini Trattori, became very successful.
The Argument that led to Lamborghini
With clients all across Europe and multiple factories full of tractors, Ferruccio was now a wealthy man. And with this considerable wealth, he bought all of the classic cars that you can think of. Jaguars, Maserati's, Mercedes and Italian sports cars, Ferraris.
While he liked going fast, he didn’t feel like any of the cars performed to the degree he would have liked. He especially didn’t like the Ferraris, because the clutch kept breaking and he kept having to pay to get it fixed. One day, when the clutch broke and he had his own mechanic fix it, he found out that it was the same clutch that he used in his tractors. That was fine, but what really set him off was that he would get the clutch for 10 Lire for his tractors, but paid Ferrari 1,000 Lira for the same exact clutch.
He was so incensed by this that he went down to Modena to have a chat with Enzo Ferrari. There he met with Enzo in his office, and confronted him about the clutch and the design of the car which he had been unsatisfied with. Ferrari, not one to take such insults, said:
“You are a tractor driver, you are a farmer. You shouldn’t complain about driving my cars, because they’re the best cars in the world.”
Now in a heated argument with Ferrari, who had poked his ego, Lamborghini proclaimed that he was going to make the best sports car in the world. He was going to show Ferrari what a real sports car was. And with that proclamation, he stormed off and began to work on his own car.
The First Lamborghini
Filled with spite and capital, Ferruccio began to work restlessly on a prototype. He made a factory and started the company Automobili Lamborghini. In 9 months, Ferruccio and his team created the first working Lamborghini prototype, the classic GT 350.
With this prototype, they went to the Turin motor show where they showed off the car. It garnered massive acclaim: it was the technical masterpiece of its era and sold incredibly well.
And that’s the story of the first Lamborghini Car. With money, hard work, and tons of spite, a mechanic out of a rural town created one of the largest supercar brands in the world.
Kurczewski, Nick. “Lamborghini Supercars Exist Because of a 10-Lira Tractor Clutch.” Car and Driver, Car and Driver, 13 Nov. 2020, www.caranddriver.com/features/a25169632/lamborghini-supercars-exist-because-of-a-tractor/.
Julia. (2012, November 28). Lamborghini Cars Were A Result Of A Tractor Company Owner Being Insulted by the Founder of Ferrari. Retrieved January 15, 2021, from https://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/03/lamborghini-cars-were-a-result-of-a-tractor-company-owners-frustration-with-ferrari/