“I had forgotten just how much fun it was to drive a really good, quick sports car. Even after having owned a couple of Ferraris… I would say that the Lamborghini is the most desirable sports/GT car I have driven” – Veteran American journalist Henry N Manney III writing in Car magazine, July 1965, on his first impressions of the 350 GT
Italian industrialist Ferruccio Lamborghini stood the world on its head when he showed the Carrozzeria Touring-bodied 350 GT at the March 1964 Geneva Motor Show.
Compared with the equivalent grand touring Ferrari, it had five gears not four, was quieter, easier to drive and generally faster. Its four-cam production V12 pre-dated Ferrari’s by three years and at the time this, and the 350 GT’s race-bred suspension, made it by far the more advanced design.
The fastest and first of two, outwardly similar cars, the 350 GT was the opening chapter in the history of Lamborghini.
The Lamborghini 350 GT
The sensation of the Geneva Show was created by ex-Ferrari designer Giotto Bizzarrini with brilliant young Italian engineer Gian Paolo Dallara, assisted by Paolo Stanzani and tough New Zealand racing mechanic and test driver Bob Wallace.
It was a technical tour de force: Bizzarrini’s four-cam, six-carb, 3,497cc V12 was detuned for road use to a still solid 320bhp – a remarkable 91.5bhp per litre. Dallara, another refugee from the Ferrari racing department, penned the 350 GT’s rectangular-section steel chassis and all-independent suspension. Braking was by Girling discs all-round, while the gearbox was a five-speed from ZF.
Lamborghini commissioned Touring of Milan to style the 350 GT and build the bodies using its famous Superleggera principle of a lightweight tubular steel framework supporting the alloy panels. The cars were assembled in an all-new car plant at Sant’Agata Bolognese, with the aid of state-of-the-art machine tools engineers at Ferrari could only dream of.
The first car – chassis 0101 – had a one-piece bumper and was an innovative ‘2+1’ design with a single central rear seat. Of the 13 cars built that year, records suggest that no more than six were 2+1s, the rest simple two-seater GTs with a luggage shelf. Single-piece bumpers and the red and white badges of the show car were similarly rare. The car company’s black badges weren’t yet ready, so red and white tractor badges were borrowed.
Road-testers loved the 350 GT: Henry Manney again, writing for Road & Track this time, reported that it was “steady as a rock at 135mph, when most cars would be gambolling like a spring lamb. My Lancia will never feel the same again.”
In total, only 131 350 GTs were built before a larger, less sporting 400 GT 2+2 with a 3,929cc engine was announced in March 1966. Production of the latter ran to 247 examples.
The new 2+2 had steel bodywork. All bar 24 four-litre 350 GTs were alloy cars, making them the most dynamic of them all.
This Motor Car
According to handwritten early factory records, chassis 0106 was only the sixth in the sequence of cars that started with ‘0101’, the Geneva Show car. The paperwork confirms that this car’s body number was 17005, its engine 0108 and it was finished in evocative Azzurro Marmolada with a blue leather interior.
This very early car was a 2+1, as Posto (seating) is marked as ‘3’ on the factory records: one of only six of the first 13 350 GTs noted as such, the others labelled con panchina, or ‘with bench’. The car’s colour name references the Marmolada glacier in Trentino, Italy. Chassis 0106 was the only 350 GT finished as such in 1964. It also had the single-piece bumper and red/white badges – rare and desirable features present on the car today.
It was finished on 5 August 1964 and delivered to Lamborghini’s Swiss agent in Geneva on 25 September. Its first private owner was Geneva resident R-M Thure who registered it GE 118029 on 18 March 1965. Research suggests that, prior to that date, the car – most likely still on Italian plates – could have been employed as a factory demonstrator and road test vehicle.
Mr Thure’s ownership of the car did not last long – he sold it to Aldo Brignolo, also of Geneva, in whose care it bore the mark GE 35834. On 12 June 1969 it passed to another Swiss resident, Herr Kräuchli of Lyss in the canton of Bern, where it was registered BE 6588.
At some point in this period,‘0106’ was repainted mid metallic blue, a shade that matched the still original interior.
On 23 September 1972, it passed into the hands of fellow Bernese Robert Kopp of Sutz, who would own it for the next 34 years. A guarantee from the supplying dealer Auto Center Nidau issued on that date confirms an odometer reading of 45,028km.
Kopp, owner of a transport company, used Auto Center Nidau to rebuild the engine in October 1973, by which time another document in the history file shows it had covered 47,739km and was registered BE 61834. Bills dated March 1985 and June 2005, together with a government Bundesamt für Strassen (Swiss Authority for Road Infrastructure) show it still in Kopp’s name, the latter paperwork clearly stating bleu (blue).
In summer 2006,‘0106’ was marketed by a Swiss classic car dealer with its original engine (0108) and an odometer reading of 58,835km. Our client, a serious aficionado of Italian cars with a Zagato-bodied Alfa Romeo and Lancia to his name, bought the car that September.
His first task was to entrust ‘0106’ to a workshop in the Como region of Northern Italy, who carried out an intensive mechanical overhaul and resprayed it in the correct shade Azzurro Marmolada seen on the car today. At the same time, our client was in correspondence with the American owner of 350 GT chassis 0102, generously offering his car as a reference point for the restoration of what most consider the oldest production Lamborghini in existence. A craftsman travelled from the West Coast of America to photograph, measure and take a template of chassis 0106’s rare single-piece front bumper.
Chassis 0106 is, therefore, the oldest car surviving with all three characteristics of the first 350 GTs present and untouched since 1964: a single-piece bumper, three seats and red/white badges. It also has a less-dished,‘flat’ steering wheel, unique to the early cars.
In 2014, at 70,850km, our client commissioned further work to the drivetrain (engine/gearbox/differential) and in 2017 it won its class at the prestigious Concours d’Elégance Suisse at Coppet, near Nyon.
In fine mechanical condition thanks to a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guardian, little-seen outside Italy and Switzerland and still bearing its original 2+1 blue leather interior, ‘0106’ is an opportunity to own a highly authentic and distinctive 350 GT from the early days of the Sant’Agata company with – remarkably – so many of its original features intact. A sure-fire entry to top concours or driving tours, it is above all an elegant and important milestone in supercar history.