Lamborghini Miura P400SVEnlarge Photo
Once upon a time there was a very wealthy Italian industrialist who loved sports cars. Like most wealthy Italian industrialists do, he bought himself a Ferrari. In fact, he owned several Ferraris, but given Enzo Ferrari’s predilection toward racing, his cars were a tad more hardcore than our wealthy Italian cared for.
What he really wanted was a car with the handling, speed and beauty of a Ferrari, but the comfort of a grand tourer.
Being the sort of guy who had no trouble going after what he wanted, our guy got Enzo to take a meeting, during which he outlined his desire for a GT car to suit wishes. Fortunately, Il Commendatore blew our protagonist off and left him to his own devices. No stranger to building automobiles—his company made tractors so he knew what it took to build a vehicle—Ferruccio Lamborghini went out and assembled an all-star team of the finest automotive engineers of his time.
The cars they built went on to exceed the technical specifications of Ferrari’s street cars in every respect—establishing a tone and tenor for his sports car company that lives on to this day.
Lamborghini automobiles have always been, and still remain some of the most exotic, highest performing cars offered for street use. Here’s our list of the five best Lamborghini sports cars of all time.
1964 - 1966 350 GT
The first Lamborghini sports car debuted at the Geneva Motor Show and sold 120 copies. Its V-12 engine ultimately produced 320 horsepower, propelling the car to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds and on to 100 mph in 16.3 seconds. With a body designed by Franco Scaglione, the rear-drive car featured all-disc brakes, double wishbone suspension, a five-speed manual transmission and an aluminum body on a tubular steel frame.
1966 - 1972 Miura
The first mid-engine sports car ever built for the street, Lamborghini’s Miura set the tone for nearly every exotic sports car that followed it. Ironically, Ferruccio Lamborghini was initially against producing the Miura, as he felt it was too similar dynamically to the Ferrari cars he despised. Drawn by Marcello Gandini for Bertone and powered by a 3.9-liter V-12 engine, the car ultimately had 385 horsepower at its disposal and a curb weight of 2,860 pounds by the time it went out of production with 765 examples built. Outstanding for its beauty and performance, the Miura was also the first of Lamborghini’s cars to have a name associated with fighting bulls, the 172-mph Miura was named for Don Eduardo Miura, a legendary breeder of fierce Spanish fighting bulls.
1968 -1978 Espada
Named for the dagger bullfighters use, the Espada became the best selling of Lamborghini’s early cars. Marcello Gandini, the designer that went on to set the overall design language for Lamborghini’s cars and produced some of the most iconic models in the company’s history, also drew Espada. (But we’re getting ahead of ourselves,) The Espada also used the factory’s 3.9-liter V-12, although in this application, it was mounted in front of the driver rather than behind as in the Miura. Between 1968 and 1978, 1,227 examples of the Espada were constructed.
1974 - 1989 Countach
The fact this car was illegal in the United States until 1982 didn’t stop American enthusiasts from fantasizing about it, as the Countach was one of the first exotic sports to hit 200 miles per hour. Another Gandini design, the Countach had 455 horsepower by the time it went out of production in 1988. It is estimated that of the approximately 1,950 examples constructed, only 700 of them were U.S. legal from the factory. By the way, the word Countach, rather than being associated with a fighting bull, is an Italian exclamation Piedmontese men direct at a gorgeous woman to show appreciation of her beauty.
2001 - 2010 Murcielago
Introduced in 2001 for the 2002 model year, the car was then Lamborghini's first new design in eleven years, as well as the first under the ownership of German automaker Volkswagen. Although a Spanish word for bat, Murcielago is also the name of a fighting bull that survived 28 sword strokes in an 1879 bullfight. The all-wheel-drive supercar flaunted 661 horsepower in its ultimate iteration before production ended on November 5, 2010, with a total run of 4,099 cars. That car would hit 60 mph in three seconds from a standing start and had an estimated top speed of 209 mph. A successor, powered by a new V-12 engine, is expected in 2011.