Every journey needs an origin, and for Lamborghini that starting point was the 350 GT coupe. Conceived by Ferruccio Lamborghini as a grand-tourer capable of going head-to-head with rival Ferrari, the success of the 350 GT paved the way for better known Lamborghini automobiles, such as the Miura and Countach.
Ironically, a dispute between Ferruccio Lamborghini and Enzo Ferrari was ultimately responsible for the creation of the 350 GT. Lamborghini, whose company built tractors, had a problem with the clutch in his Ferrari and complained to Enzo himself that better parts should have been used.
Ferrari shrugged off Lamborghini, saying that a simple tractor manufacturer could not know what was best for a complex sports car. The rest, as they say, is history, and automaker Lamborghini debuted its 350 GT at the 1964 Geneva Auto Show.
This week at Jay Leno’s Garage, Lamborghini Club of America president Andrew Romanowski stops by with a 1965 (or 1966) 350 GT, one of just 135 built before the 400 GT was introduced in 1966.
Power comes from a 3.5-liter, four-cam V-12 rated at an impressive 350 horsepower and blessed with a stratospheric (for the day, at least) 7,000 rpm redline. Designed by Giotto Bizzarrini, the engine was so successful that Lamborghini continued to use the basic design through the Diablo.
Leno even gets a chance to spend some time behind the wheel of this 350 GT, owned by Malcolm Barksdale and restored to an astonishing level of detail. We’d argue that it probably looks even better today than when it left Lamborghini’s factory in Sant’Agata, Italy, though we’re not sure we buy into “modernizing” its color.
We can’t imagine a contemporary grand touring car lacking amenities like an upscale audio system, automatic climate control and a full complement of safety features, such as airbags and varying levels of electronic stability control. Still, for the mid-1960s, the 350 GT was ahead of its time with four-wheel disc brakes and a lightweight aluminum body.
Its styling may be an acquired taste, but this much is clear: the engine alone makes us want to park a 350 GT in our own garage.