“We don’t have contests at Road & Track, but if we did there’s no doubt that the Lamborghini would rate as the Grand Touring car we’d most like to have” – US magazine Road & Track tests the Lamborghini 400 GT in October 1966
A highly successful businessman with separate fortunes made from tractors and industrial heating, Ferruccio Lamborghini created a stir when he launched the first car bearing his name at the 1964 Geneva Motor Show.
The Carrozzeria Touring-designed 350 GT was a svelte two-seater granturismo with a mechanical specification far in advance of equivalent luxury Ferraris: effective sound-proofing, independent suspension front and rear, a powerful four-cam V12 by Giotto Bizzarrini, a five-speed gearbox and all-round disc brakes.
The car was superseded by the outwardly similar, but less sporting, 400 GT 2+2 two years later. As the bigger 2+2 was slowly introduced, buyers of the two-seater were offered the option of the new car’s larger, now 3,929cc V12.
This car, referred to today as a 400 GT ‘Interim’, is the rarest and most desirable version of the 350 GT and 400 GT dynasty.
The Lamborghini 400 GT ‘Interim’
Ferruccio’s first motor car was created by Italians Giotto Bizzarrini (engine), Giampaolo Dallara and Paolo Stanzani (chassis) with New Zealand road tester and development engineer Bob Wallace.
When installed in the prototype road car, Bizzarrini’s powerful 3,497cc, six-carb, racing-spec V12 had to be detuned to 320bhp – still 91.5bhp per litre. Lamborghini commissioned Carrozzeria Touring of Milan to style and manufacture the new production car’s bodywork after Franco Scaglione’s one-off 350 GTV prototype failed to meet Ferruccio’s expectations.
The 350 GT’s rectangular-section steel chassis was built at Sant’Agata in a new, state-of-the-art car factory. Its all-independent suspension was advanced for the day, braking was by Girling discs on every corner and the gearbox was a five-speed from ZF. Salisbury supplied the final drive.
After such a stunning debut at Geneva, only 13 cars were delivered in 1964, and in total only 131 350 GTs were built before a bored-out, 3,929cc 400 GT 2+2 (247 examples) was announced in March 1966.
In production, the 350 GT turned out a likely 275-290bhp – the bigger engine boasted 320bhp. The new car was larger in almost every dimension and now had two small seats in the rear. Mechanically it was very similar, although a new in-house five-speed gearbox was gradually introduced to replace the unit originally sourced from ZF in Germany. Either was fitted to both cars, and the four-headlamp set-up of the 400 GT 2+2 occasionally made it to the two-seaters – as you can see here.
For a time, GTs and GT 2+2s were built alongside each other, with 23 buyers choosing two-seater bodywork but with the more powerful 4.0-litre motor, a car nowadays known as a 400 GT 'Interim’.
This Motor Car
This car, chassis '0574', was delivered in January 1967 to official Lamborghini agent Garage du Quai, in Geneva.
Correspondence from Piero Mancardi, CEO of Touring Superleggera, in June 2014 confirmed that ‘0574’ was “listed as among the last 350 GT built, but got the 4L engine and 400 GT body”. The original colour is stated as Grigio St Vincent with Tabacco (‘tobacco’) interior. The Touring body number was confirmed as '18958', the engine number '0527'.
Interestingly, but perhaps typical of the truly bespoke nature of Lamborghini’s business in the early days, the car sported the four-headlamp treatment of the 400 GT 2+2, though without the usual chrome surround. Further information came to light when the car was offered at auction in July 2014, the saleroom reporting that, “The Lamborghini factory has confirmed to us that this 400 GT 'Interim' is one of three examples delivered new with: 350 GT block, 4L capacity, 400 type front, 350 type back, Lamborghini gearbox”.
For the first decade of its life, the old Swiss Carte Grise recording a roadworthiness test in April 1976 suggests ‘0574’ – registered ‘ZH 242720’ – remained in Switzerland. In 1980 it was owned by Fritz Blaser, of Hirzel, near Zurich and in 1994 it joined the world-class collection of Lucas Laureys in Belgium via German collector/dealer Hahn Pomp.
During Laureys' ownership the decision was taken to restore ‘0574’ to ‘as delivered in 1967’. At the same time, the team of Belgian craftsmen carried out a complete mechanical overhaul. The car was stripped back to bare metal and sprayed in its original shade of elegant Grigio St Vincent. This was matched with an all-new and correct Tabacco interior.
After this work was completed, the car was kept in air-conditioned comfort, regularly checked over, and exercised on longer journeys by Laureys who enjoyed trips to Spa-Francorchamps, as well as taking part in other events.
In 2014, an undoubtedly hard decision was made to consign ‘0574’ to auction, from where our client purchased it following inspection by Valentino Balboni. Since then, the car has wanted for little. UK-registered, it is totally ‘on the button’, has a fresh MOT certificate and will be fully serviced prior to delivery.
Ferruccio Lamborghini wanted to “make a GT car without faults. Not a technical bomb. Very normal, very conventional, but a perfect car” – and clearly a better car than the expensive Ferraris he’d found so disappointing. Every contemporary review agrees that Ferruccio and his team of young engineers passed the test with flying honours; the 350 GT was a faster and more rounded car in every respect than the equivalent touring Ferrari.
This rare Lamborghini 400 GT 'Interim', one of just 23, the ultimate in 350 GT performance, represents the pinnacle of the model.