Happy Birthday! The Lamborghini Miura is 50 Today
by Simon Kidston
On 10th March 1966 here in Geneva the doors opened for the 36th Salon de l'Automobile, one of the most important and influential shows in the motoring calendar. The smart crowds flocked in to admire the latest creations from manufacturers as varied as Rolls-Royce (the $27,000 Silver Shadow coupé), Vauxhall (the extreme VXR prototype - but forget ordering one), BMC (the humble Austin 1800), Ferrari (the sybaritic 365 California) and Alfa Romeo (the Duetto making its debut, although still nameless).
Outshining them all, though, was Italian upstart Lamborghini. Barely three years old, the company's only real production model thus far had consisted of the quirky but capable 350/400GT series of 'gentlemen's express' touring cars. When the covers were pulled off in Geneva to reveal what awaited underneath, Lamborghini's standing and public image were changed forever. "This is the future" Enzo Ferrari is said to have told his engineers.
What's with our fascination? History has given us some great cars and this is just one of them, but from a personal perspective it all started with The Italian Job, the 1969 film whose opening scenes were set, coincidentally, along the same Alpine pass I was driven to boarding school every term - sadly in something rather less exotic, but fortunately less dramatically than the Miura which loses its fight with a bulldozer in the movie. To anyone with an affinity for the Swinging Sixties, even if you're too young to remember them, and timeless Italian style, the Miura is so symbolic, so redolent of the Dolce Vita's final flowering and everything that made the Jet Set so evocative and unattainable, that its spell only grows as that era becomes more distant.
Like most dreams, the reality doesn't always live up to the expectation, which doesn't matter as much if you spend more time at a desk imagining your next drive than you do behind the wheel. That's probably why you'll find off-duty professional test drivers in a hatchback, not a supercar, at the weekend. Over the past 20 years and 30,000km of Miura ownership I can list epic drives around the world, combined with breaking down in Switzerland (clutch and electrics), Spain (electrics), France (electrics), Italy (engine), England (electrics) and Kuwait (half shaft). That said, California was trouble free and the past ten years have been more reliable than the first. It takes patience, but it's worth it.
How does it compare to its rivals? The most obvious, the Ferrari 275 GTB, is arguably equally beautiful, albeit more conservative, more comfortable and more practical - if only because your luggage won't be cooked when you arrive at your hotel. The Ferrari would make a better grand tourer, but can't match the 'wow' factor or ground-hugging, howling driving excitement of the Miura. Maserati? The Ghibli is a supremely accomplished GT, but the same applies as with the Ferrari: it's almost too grown up and easy.
Jaguar's E-type, entering middle age by the time the Miura appeared (with the consequent spread which affects humans too) seems just too pedestrian, as does the early Porsche 911, although the later Carrera RS would be a match for the contemporary Miura SV, as would Ferrari's 'Daytona' for outright pace. Of course the De Tomaso Mangusta, Iso Grifo, Jensen Interceptor and other outsiders all gave the Miura some competition, but none have the Miura's sex appeal. It's become an icon.
You'll see we've devoted this entire newsletter to celebrating one of our favourite cars, and hope you'll forgive us. Today we relaunch the Miura Register, which we hope will be the definitive resource on the model until our Miura book is finally published (yes Sir Michael, I know you've been waiting since 2007...). You'll also find details of the 50th Anniversary Miura Tour which we're hosting this October in Spain, with the help of our organising friends at 2Fast4u and the Miura family who are opening their ranch for us. So book your Miura in for a check-up/service/rebuild, keep your diary free and remind yourself why we strive to own these cars in the first place. Polishing may be therapeutic, but 7,000rpm on a winding hilltop road at sunset is priceless.
Images courtesy of Dario Campolunghi / Lorenzo Bighi.