Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A, commonly known as Lamborghini, is one of the biggest manufacturers of luxury sports cars and SUVs in the world. Based in Sant'Agata Bolognese, the company is owned by the Volkswagen Group through its subsidiary Audi. With every new model it releases, Lamborghini sets a new standard for supercars worldwide. Thank the automotive gods for the feud between Ferruccio Lamborghini and Enzo Ferrari. Imagine how boring the automotive world would have been without Lamborghini vehicles gracing our lives. And how big of a tragedy it would have been for Ferruccio Lamborghini to manufacture just tractors throughout his life. From the Aventador to the Diablo, Lamborghini has treated us to many legendary cars over the years. But many automotive lovers consider the 1963 Lamborghini 350 GT to be not just one of the greatest Lamborghini cars, but one of the greatest cars ever made.
What were the iconic 350 GT's standout features? Let's have a detailed look at the iconic yesteryear car. Here's what made the 1963 Lamborghini 350 GT so special.
An Iconic Grand Tourer
The 1963 Lamborghini 350 GT was an iconic grand tourer that redefined a generation of cars that followed. If you're unaware, grand tourers are a type of sports car that is designed for high speed and long-distance driving, due to the nature of its performance and luxury attributes. The term draws inspiration from a near-calque from the Italian language phrase 'Gran Turismo' which became popular in the English language from the 1950s, evolving from fast touring cars and streamlined closed sports cars during the 1930s. It was the first-ever production vehicle produced by Lamborghini. The 350 GT was based on the earlier Lamborghini 350 GTV. The initial testing of the Lamborghini prototype engine was followed by the departure of Giotto Bizzarrini in May 1963. Following Bizzarrini's departure, Lamborghini tasked engineer Gian Paolo Dallara with developing a production version of Bizzarrini's 350 GTV grand tourer. Engineer Paolo Stanzani and test driver Bob Wallace assisted Dallara in this project. The team soon realized that the 350 GTV was not properly designed for mass production. This was followed by redesigning the prototype completely.
Redesigning The Prototype
Redesigning the GTV prototype was anything but an easy task. It required plenty of brainstorming and major surgery. The elaborate and costly racing-style dry-sump oiling system was replaced with a conventional wet sump system. The compression ratio was reduced from 11.0:1 or above to 9.4:1. The necessity to reduce costs meant cutting back on the exotic materials specified for the crankshaft. A single, taller-than-before Lamborghini-made oil filter was introduced. Cam profiles were softened for smoother performance. The updated prototype's body was redesigned by Carrozzeria Touring. The redesigning meant that the original profile was retained while certain details of the design were cleaned up to give it a more cohesive appearance.
A Cherished Classic Car
The hard work put in by Lamborghini and his team led to a very successful and exclusive production span of over 2 years. The production span saw over 120 Lamborghini 350 GT models trot the roads in the years that followed. The 1963 Lamborghini 350 GT finally made its debut at the March 1964 Geneva Motor Show. At the heart of all the action was a 3.5-liter V12 engine. Like most 20th century vehicles, the 350 GT was characterized by a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout aka the FR layout. In layman's terms, this classic Lamborghini's engine was located at the front of the vehicle and driven wheels were located at the rear via a drive shaft. The all-aluminum alloy V12 engine was mated to a five-speed ZF manual transmission. The powerful engine and suspension pair worked in tandem with Salisbury limited-slip differential, four-wheel independent suspension, and vacuum servo-assisted Girling disc brakes, to deliver an impressive performance. All its parts went through thorough checks before being passed fit. The Quality Control Standards for Lamborghini vehicles have always been high, and it was no different for the 350 GT. Each 3.5-liter (3,464 cc) engine of the 1963 Lamborghini 350 GT underwent tests for 24 hours on a Schenk Walge dynamometer, initially under electric power for about 12 hours, and then with gasoline at increasing speeds. The installation of each engine was preceded by a detailed analysis of at least 300 miles of mixed-test running by Wallace. The result? Impressive performance numbers for a grand tourer back in the 1960s. The 1963 Lamborghini 350 GT could accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just over 6.8 seconds, and from 0 to 100 miles per hour in just over 16 seconds. At its best, the Lamborghini 350 GT was capable of hitting a top speed of 158 miles per hour. Despite all its top features, what made the 1963 Lamborghini 350 GT truly special was the legacy it left behind. With stakes at an all-time high, the 350 GT did not disappoint its makers. Its success ensured the Lamborghini's survival, establishing it as a fierce competitor with rival manufacturer Ferrari - a rivalry for ages - one that automotive lovers will continue to cherish for years to come.