1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SVCoachwork by Bertone
"Back in 1966, the supercar didn't really exist- until the Miura. Before it there were more simply high performance Gran Turismo and sports cars... Then came the Miura. Not only was the 'upstart' Lamborghini company offering a new car so soon after its baptism... but it was offering something so radical, so outrageous and doing it so seriously. Low, swoopy, cunning with a mid-mounted, transversely slung V12 under the rear window. Nothing like it had been seen before. It was the first supercar; a car on a different plane from those that had preceded it. The Miura might be described as the most significant production GT of that decade. From then on all had to follow." Lamborghini Miura by Pete Coltrin and Jean-Francois Marchet, 1982.
Swansong of the Miura dynasty, the SV was launched at the 1971 Geneva Salon. Shown alongside (and at the time overshadowed by) the prototype Countach, the SV barely registered with the general motoring world and barely 150 were built before production ended early in 1973, but today the Miura SV is widely considered the most desirable Lamborghini ever made and one of the defining sports cars of the 20th century.
From its debut as a bare chassis in 1965 until the production version drove dramatically into Casino Square during the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix, in its early days the Miura attracted more than its fair share of comment and column inches among enthusiasts and in the motoring press. Its status as the world’s first 'supercar' (the term hadn’t yet been coined) was assured when French journalist Jose Rosinski achieved 288km/h (178mph) at the Miura's wheel during a magazine road test, although whether the front wheels were actually touching the ground at this speed has been a source of discussion ever since...
It's probably fair to say that whilst the Miura is the car that gave Lamborghini its name, the early cars were rushed into production to satisfy unexpected demand from the great and the good around the world: Ferruccio Lamborghini had anticipated making 10-15 cars a year so compromises had to be made, and chassis flex, high speed aerodynamic lift and occasionally disappointing build quality were inconveniences which wealthy owners had to put up with if they wanted to sample levels of performance on the road which had hereto been reserved exclusively for racing drivers in the higher formulae.
Addressing some of the Miura's shortcomings, the 'S' (for Spinto, or tuned) model appeared late in 1968 at the Turin Show and boasted new, low profile Pirelli tyres, more horsepower (a claimed 370bhp compared to the original's 350bhp), electric windows, optional leather upholstery (primitive air conditioning was also available on the late cars) plus redesigned interior switchgear, passenger grab handle and glove box lid. Externally the 'S' was recognizable by its chrome window and windscreen surrounds and rear badging. The last examples of the Miura 'S' also featured vented disc brakes in place of previously solid items.
The final evolution of the Miura, the SV was intended as an available-to-order special version 'for selected customers', as the factory press release put it, but having seen the distinctive SV styling, even more aggressive and beautiful, such was the preference for this new Miura that the 'S' bowed out graciously in its favour. The SV represented a far greater departure from the 'S' than its predecessor had from the original Miura P400. The rear wings were flared to accommodate 9" wheels shod with the latest low profile (60 section) Pirellis. New tail lights incorporated reversing lights, whilst at the front the nose was reshaped to give greater downforce and the bumper was better integrated into the grille aperture. The headlights lost their eyelashes to give a smoother, more modern look. Not much changed inside the cockpit, although leather trim became standard, whilst the engine was now claimed to deliver 385bhp thanks to larger inlet ports, modified cam timing and bigger carburettor venturis and jets. Perhaps most importantly, the chassis was now stiffer, with reinforcement front and rear, and roadholding was further improved with revised rear suspension. Apart from giving the SV a more purposeful appearance, these changes made it a quicker and more effective car all round.
Miura production ended in 1973, coinciding with Ferruccio Lamborghini relinquishing control of his company and the arrival of a new generation of Lamborghini, the Countach. The preceding seven years, though, remain as those which established the company as an automotive icon. According to factory records (courtesy of historian Stefano Pasini), Miura production may be split as follows:
|Miura P400-||275 cars|
|Miura S-||338 cars|
|Miura SV-||150 cars|
Of these 150 SVs (some say 148), four had been rebuilt from P400 or S chassis (either as SV prototypes or after accident damage); five more cars (some say four) were converted to 'SVJ' (Jota lookalike) specification, leaving around 140 cars built as production SVs. Of this number, the first 52 had shared sump lubrication, using the same oil for engine and gearbox. The last 96 cars had split sump lubrication (an American owner tells us that this offers no short term benefit whilst the oil takes longer to warm after start-up...). Of the total, 21 SVs were built to US specification with emissions and safety equipment, including unsightly side market lights. To conclude, barely 120 European specification, genuine production Miura SVs were made. Compare this to 350 Ferrari 275GTB/4s and some 100 GT40s and you get an idea of the SV's rarity.
Chassis '4894' is an example of an early production, European specification Miura SV. It is one of just seven SVs listed in factory records as having been supplied new in Nero Cangiante (metallic black), a particularly attractive hue which in the writer's opinion is the most beautiful colour ever used on a Miura. Depending on the light, it changes from black, through grey to an almost sable like tint, appropriate for a car named after a bull and a welcome change from the usual red and yellow seen frequently on earlier Miuras. The interior of chassis '4894', which is still original, is in black leather with beige central panels in cloth for the seats and head rests. An indication of the care lavished upon this car by its current doctor owner is given by the replica seats he has commissioned and fitted in order not to wear the originals, together with elastic cloth covers for the headrests...
The factory delivery note kindly provided by an Italian Miura historian shows that '4894' was signed off on 24th June 1971 and cost the buyer, dealer 'Mark 3' in Pescara on Italy's Adriatic coast, Lire.7,470,000 including options. This was the only Miura ever supplied to Mark 3, although it appears from our research that they did not sell the car new: the first buyer acquired it from a dealership in Rome according to the abovementioned historian, whose uncle coincidentally owned the car in the mid-1970s. The original owner, 32 year old Giuseppe Bellingheri, lived in Messina, Sicily, where the car was registered on 13th October 1971. It appears that around 1976 our friend's uncle agreed to buy the car, but after using it for a brief period during which a flame out blistered the engine bay paintwork, he decided to opt for something tamer (a black Countach). Instead, Bellingheri, who also had a home in Milan, re-registered the car there with its current 'MI' licence plate. It passed briefly through the hands of one Luigi Zanetti, also of Milan, before entering the current ownership ten years ago. Since then it has covered a further 1,500km, with regular maintenance ensuring that its condition reflects the mileage: just 26,400km from new.
When inspected by the writer, after the lovely colour scheme one of the first aspects which becomes apparent is the attraction of an unrestored, low mileage Miura SV. The doors open and shut properly, with good panel fit, and the interior feels much more period than those which have been retrimmed, which inevitably have a more modern, less authentic aspect. The steering wheel, for instance, is the correct thickness, without excess padding, the dashboard still features the original stitching, which is virtually impossible to recreate, and the beige cloth trim is also hardly ever retained on cars which have been retrimmed. The only real signs of wear inside the cabin are two small holes in the glove box where a radio was once mounted, otherwise it looks just as it would have back in 1971. They charcoal carpets and cream headlining are both excellent and untouched.
The exterior is superb, with very good quality paint (probably dating from the 1990s, such is the quality of the finish) and good fit all round. The Pirelli tyres are still of the correct size and in good order although probably hard. Chromework is good, and all glass and light lenses are well preserved. The rear script, as was normally requested on black Miuras, is chromed rather than painted black. The sills and wheels, finished in contrasting gold, set off the metallic black paintwork to perfection.
The front compartment, revealing the fans, spare wheel and fuel tank underneath, is well presented. A battery cut off has been added and the rubber straps retaining the spare wheel (now available) are absent, but otherwise everything is as it should be. The battery cover is in place and the fans are correct. The underbonnet finish is smart, with the complex framework seemingly in good order.
The rear engine bay is tidy but would benefit from detailing and refinishing the underbonnet surface, where the paint has aged and is slightly flaking in places, probably from heat. The rear slats are all correctly numbered and the air filters and twin distributor cover retain their correct factory decals. The rear springs and suspension are in good, original order and the car sits well.
Riding as a passenger during a brief test drive, the car started first time with no accelerator (the owner is very meticulous and cautious) and ran smoothly, with no sign of hesitation. Oil pressure was good and brakes, steering and gearchange all appeared smooth and efficient. In summary, the car drove as one would expect of a 26,400km Miura which has been regularly and properly maintained in the country where it was built (and usually by the same proud men who built it). It is worth noting that Miuras which have spent their entire life in their home country, let alone SVs, are rare indeed nowadays.
Accompanying this well preserved, handsomely liveried Miura SV are the factory build sheets, original Italian Libretto (log book) and sundry invoices for maintenance. We have no hesitation in recommending this SV to any collector who has been waiting for the 'right' Miura and appreciates the difference between the best and the rest.