Monday, December 18, 2006

The 350GT: The Original Lamborghini

The 350GT is an anomaly. To those unfamiliar with classic Italian cars, they would be hard pressed to identify it as a Lamborghini. For those under the age of 40, the prototypical Lambo is either the Countach or the Diablo-- both mid-engined supercars with scissor doors. For many, it is difficult to imagine a front-engined grand tourer as a Lamborghini.

The 350GT was the first Lambo. When tractor manufacturer Ferruccio Lamborghini decided to build a better Ferrari than Ferrari, he created the 350GT. It was very light-- aluminum panels were attached to the frame, which was made of small tubes. The 3 1/2 liter V12 delivered 270 horsepower and 239 pound feet of torque. This power was transmitted via a ZF 5 speed trasmission. It can reach 150 mph on empty stretches of the Autostrada.

Between 1964 and 1967, less than a gross of them were made. Even at $13,000, Lamborghini lost $1,000 on each vehicle.

In 1965 and 1966, the well heeled could opt for the 400GT package. This upped the ante by shoehorning a 4 liter engine (producing 320hp and 276 lb-ft of torque) in the nose. Only 23 400GTs were made, 20 with steel body panels, and three with aluminum. Obviously, the three aluminum paneled 400GTs were the fastest of the bunch.

What makes this one of my favorite Lambos is its utter un-Lambo-ness. It is somewhat akin to the other GTs of the era: the Maserati 5000GT, the Aston Martin DB4, and the Ferrari 330. But it is much more beautiful and exotic looking. From the bugeyed headlights to the large, bubble-like rear window, every detail discretely informs the audience that this is a work of art and not just another fast Italian sports car. This is in marked contrasts to the later Miuras, Countachs, and Diablos, which shriek for attention.


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