“The lingering impressions of the Miura are of the immense satisfaction derived from driving it fast and of the shattering noise… but with enough refinement and comfort for everyday driving on the road. It is the fastest road-going car we have ever tested… a mean maximum speed of 172mph…” – Autocar puts a P400 S through its paces in Italy, August 1970
The outrageous Lamborghini supercar, perhaps the very first of the genre, needs little introduction. Frequently voted ‘sexiest car of all time’, the Miura P400 launched in 1966 left its rivals for dead in terms of styling, handling and overall performance.
Fifty years on, it’s considered a motoring landmark. The Miura was also the original ‘flower power’, Latin exotic beloved of sheiks, pop stars, photographers and industrial tycoons, a perfect ‘of the moment’ car that turned the motoring world on its head.
The Lamborghini Miura P400 and P400 S
Two brilliant young and enthusiastic Italian engineers, Giampaolo Dallara and Paolo Stanzani, together with tough New Zealander test and development driver Bob Wallace, were the triumvirate that created the P400 Miura.
It started life as an ‘after hours’ project, partly inspired by the Ford GT40, and a bare chassis was shown at the November 1965 Turin Show. For reasons of packaging and to offer optimal weight distribution and a low centre of gravity, Lamborghini’s four-cam V12 was mounted transversely, atop the five-speed gearbox with which it shared a sump. The bare-metal chassis with gleaming high-tech engine shouted “speed!”, and the world held its breath while Ferruccio Lamborghini considered the viability of the project, a mid-engined GT with very high performance to be sold alongside his Grand Touring 400 GT.
Ferruccio soon saw the sales potential of the car and within four months a hastily built prototype P400 Miura, with extraordinary styling by Marcello Gandini for Bertone, made its debut at the 1966 Geneva Salon. It was the sensation of the show and orders flooded in to Sant’Agata.
The Miura was an immediate hit, but early cars were very much ‘works in progress’. From 1966 to 1968 Lamborghini delivered a total of 275 P400s, with the bulk of P400 production in 1968, but the factory found that constant improvements and revisions needed to be made to both productionise the car as well as make it more user-friendly. The ventilation was poor, and very early cars flexed, so the gauge of steel used for the chassis had to be uprated.
At the November 1968 Turin Show Lamborghini offered a revised and improved version, the 'S', for spinto, or tuned. The P400 S addressed the original Miura's shortcomings, principally those of handling, build quality and cockpit comfort. It had new Pirelli tyres and later in production the P400 S received ventilated brakes. Its engine was further modified, with extensive work on the cylinder heads: the factory quoted an additional 20bhp, to 370bhp.
To make life in the cockpit more comfortable – particularly for the burgeoning US market – electric windows replaced wind-ups, the carpets and (optional) leather interior were upgraded, some switchgear was redesigned and there was a passenger grab handle and glovebox lid. Some of the later cars had simple air-conditioning. Most Miuras were still delivered with leatherette (‘Skay’) upholstery. A P400 S can be recognised by its chrome window surrounds and ‘S’ badge on the boot.
From November 1968 to early 1971, production of the P400 S ran to 338 examples.
This Motor Car
Lamborghini Miura P400 S chassis 3949 was delivered new on 30 May 1969 via the company’s British agents in Alie St, East London, to Peter Hunter Associates of London W3. Accompanying the car today is the original pro-forma invoice from Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini SpA to Lamborghini Concessionaires (RA Woolsgrove), Alie St, London E1 for 6,943,000 lire.
It lists the specification of the right-hand drive car: Colore esterno, Arancio. Colore interno, Nero in pelle (exterior colour orange, interior colour black leather). Black leather would have been an expensive option at a time, when so many cars came with leatherette as standard.
The car was initially registered with a temporary ‘Q’ number, then subsequently assigned ‘ELL 277J’ – a mark it bears to this day. In correspondence with Graham Jones, who looked after the car throughout Peter Hunter’s ownership, the present owner established that Mr Hunter already had a Miura P400, but when the new ‘S’ came out took his car back to the concessionaires and exchanged it for this P400 S, “which he kept for eight years and adored”. The order form details a price of £6,075 15s 0d for the P400 S, less a trade-in allowance of £4,500 0s 0d for his 1968 P400.
In the history file that accompanies the car, a letter from Mr Hunter on 1 December 1977 confirms, "that Lamborghini Miura S reg'd 'ELL 277J' was owned by me from new, and is now the property of BC Promotions and has been paid for in full, 11,700 miles being total mileage covered." BC Promotions was a trader which kept the car for a very brief period of just a week or two – repainting it Giallo Fly in the process! – before selling it to the present UK owner on 8 December 1977 for £8,750, an invoice also with the car today.
The car was bought to satisfy a fascination with the model sparked by a LJK Setright feature in the December 1967 edition of Car magazine. He gave an account of driving one of the first Miuras from Sant’ Agata to the UK prior to customer delivery, in which he declared it unequalled. A decade later, an unexpected inheritance allowed the young enthusiastic to realise his dream and consummate the affair, by buying ELL 277J. The very magazine that inspired that dream is still preserved with the car.
From early 1978 to the 1990s, this P400 S – still yellow – was used as a ‘high days and holidays’ car, exercised carefully, but with vigour, by the present collector owner. A skilled amateur racing driver, in his tenure the car was a regular sight at Goodwood track days organised by the likes of Modena Engineering, and a frequent attendee at modern and historic race meetings.
As the years passed, the car was temporarily laid up in a family member’s garage and later in long-term storage with Lamborghini specialist Mike Pullen. Time and business commitments delayed any planned work on the car, but in 2011 ‘3949’ was transported to Aubrey Finburgh’s premises in Kings Langley, just outside London.
The owner first met legendary craftsman Finburgh, best-known for applying his sublime metalworking and engineering skills to Maserati 250Fs, C- and D-type Jaguars etc, when fitting a lightweight front-end to his road-race E-type, and felt the restoration of the Miura merited that level of skill and expertise. Heads were put together and the decision made to carry out a full restoration, but retain the wonderfully original leather interior and other features of the two-owner car.
Stripping the Miura down, Finburgh despatched the engine and gearbox to acknowledged UK Lamborghini expert Colin Clarke. Clarke rebuilt it, ‘splitting’ the sump, as seen on the final run of Miura SVs and almost standard practice today. Meanwhile Finburgh's team took the opportunity to build in the front and rear chassis strengthening that Lamborghini introduced later in the Miura’s lifespan, painstakingly checking all components and alignments before reassembly. A full Lifeline fire system was plumbed in during this process. The body was stripped, restored and corrected as necessary then repainted in original-spec Arancio Miura.
The original Pelle Nera interior reinstalled, and after comprehensive road-testing a totally fresh, yet still wonderfully original ‘3949’ returned to public events in some style at a Goodwood motor circuit ‘Supercar Sunday’ in Spring 2015, over three years after work started on its restoration. Despite “biblical rain”, as the owner recounts, the car was displayed in prime position on the main straight.
The Goodwood connection did not end there. Later that year, 3949 featured prominently as 'the original supercar’ in a national TV documentary Goodwood: Supercars. It was also chosen to be part of Lamborghini’s 'Raging Bulls’ display at the ‘Earl’s Court Motor Show’ at the 2016 Goodwood Revival.
Only three months earlier, both car and owner had revelled in the Lamborghini factory’s Miura 50th Anniversary Tour, where the car ran faultlessly with 19 other examples of Ferruccio’s most famous model. When not touring, the car is displayed in a private collection of modern and classic supercars, totally ‘on the button’ and ready for action.
This very fine example of a rare, RHD, UK-specification Miura P400 S was last offered for public sale in December 1977. It has never been seen in a dealer showroom, nor has it been on the auction circuit. The continuous history of ownership of this Miura from May 1969 to today – just two private keepers – is, therefore, something quite special and almost unique. Rare period documentation, such as the original invoices, and an extensive collection of memorabilia, add colour and veracity to the legend.
The owner believes that the odometer’s display of 20,994 miles to be the total mileage covered by the Miura from new.
Restored by a team of skilled and passionate craftsmen for a knowledgeable enthusiast, ‘3949’ presents itself not only as an immaculately and sympathetically rebuilt Lamborghini supercar, but also a pure driver’s machine. Ferruccio Lamborghini, and engineers Dallara, Stanzani and Wallace, would be proud.