This is a gorgeous car that changed the automaking world. It’s a 1970 Lamborghini Miura S, and I saw it last week at the Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts.

The museum’s current exhibit, which ends early next month, is called “Bellissima: The Italian Automotive Renaissance 1945 to 1975.”

“Belissima” translates into English as “gorgeous,” and the cars in this show fit that bill.

Before the release of this car, Ferraris and Maseratis had dominated the Italian performance car business. The two firms were founded by car racing enthusiasts who moved into manufacturing and then, after a long interruption during World War II, returned to making stylish, powerful cars.

Fierrucio Lamborghini, by contrast, was what used to be called a motorhead. He was raised on a farm and spent the war working with vehicles for the Italian Army. Later, held by the British as a prisoner of war, he became adept at improvising fixes for damaged jeeps and tanks when replacement parts were scarce.

After the war and as European economies revived, he saw a need for new tractors and found ways to manufacture them using now-remaindered materiel. This made him a wealthy man, and it is not surprising that he also developed an interest in expensive automobiles.

There is a story, possibly apocryphal, that Lamborghini spotted a flaw in one of his personal cars, a Ferrari, and that he went to visit the company’s head, Enzo Ferrari, to discuss the matter. Enzo, regarded always as a difficult fellow, refused to see Ferrucio, who took the car to his own factory where he replaced the part to good effect.

From there, he moved into design, starting in 1965 with a low-slung chassis that later became the base for the car above. He brought in designers Nuccio Bertone and Marcello Gandini, and the result was the Miura series.

According to notes from the museum:

Overnight, the P400 made everything in the Ferrari road-going car lineup obsolete.
It would be years before Ferrari built a full-sized mid-engine sports car for the road.
Compared to a bulky Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona, the slender Miura resembled a
stiletto on cast magnesium wheels. The four-liter, 350-bhp, six-carburetor V-12 was
transversely mounted, directly behind the seats, as the youthful engineering trio had proposed.

Other Lamborghini models followed, but the Miura was always the founder’s favorite and was the premier European sports car of its era. Even today, its lines look timeless.

Here’s a picture of Ferrucio Lamborghini with an early product and a later one. As an American, I find the range astonishing.  Can you imagine a John Deere roadster or formula car?


— Also in the exhibit are three Alfa Romeo BAT cars from the 1950s. Like many American cars from the same period, they have fins on the back. But where the American fins seemed like missiles bolted onto the backs of cars, the Italian fins are sleek and seem to conform more cleanly to the cars’ bodies. Different countries, different aesthetics.




— A biographical movie, “Lamborghini – The Legend,” is said to be in the works. Filming started this summer.

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