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In the Universe of Superb Automobiles, The Lamborghini Miura is Truly Exceptional

Pause for a moment. Reflect on the years of your fascination with high-performance cars, whether it began in childhood with a Lamborghini Countach or a Ferrari 40 poster adorning your wall, or in your youth when you were introduced to the entertaining supercar reviews on Top Gear UK. Now, ponder for a moment: What is the origin of the term supercar?

Although the term has been in use since the inception of this website more than two decades ago, there used to be intense, passionate debates regarding which car, which classic, truly epitomized the concept. Some argue that the stunning Ferrari 250 GTO was the inaugural supercar, embodying the exoticism, power, and prestige associated with the term. Others claim that another beauty, the Jaguar E-Type, initiated the supercar era, being a vehicle exclusively available to the wealthy and elite (a key characteristic of supercars).

Nevertheless, for 99% of enthusiasts, the Lamborghini Miura marked the beginning—the true birth of the term. Introduced in 1966, the Miura shattered existing perceptions of performance and sports cars. Nothing like it had ever been seen before, and thanks to the dedication of three engineers who invested their personal time to design it, the automotive world was permanently altered.

A Groundbreaking Shift in Automotive Design

To grasp why the Miura, initially named the P400 Prototipi, revolutionized the sports car landscape, we need to examine the era it emerged in. During the 1950s and 1960s, the prevailing design for any Italian sports car was the berlinetta. This design featured a long hood housing a V12 engine, a compact yet luxurious cabin, and a sloping, aerodynamic rear end.

This design language could be observed in legendary sports cars like the Ferrari 250 GT series and the first Lamborghini, the 350GT. It was firmly established that building a berlinetta was the way to gain credibility. Big engine at the front, gearbox in the middle, power to the rear wheels. If one wanted to create a smaller, sporty vehicle like the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA, it would be categorized as a sports coupe, not a sports car.

Italian engineers have a profound passion for motorsports, and three engineers at Ferruccio Lamborghini’s company—namely Gian Paolo Dallara, Paolo Stanzani, and Bob Wallace—shared a love for racing. In fact, both Dallara and Wallace had prior involvement in motorsports before joining Automobili Lamborghini.

The significance of this passion in shaping the Miura’s design lies in the emergence of rear-engine placement in Formula One cars starting from 1960, leading to the adoption of the mid-engine layout. Recognizing this trend, the three engineers, after working on the 350 GT and 400 GT models for Lamborghini, collaborated after hours to imbue a road car with the same balance and dynamism.

The P400 Prototype

In reality, the three engineers had requested permission from Ferruccio Lamborghini to commence their design work during office hours, but were notably refused as Lamborghini preferred adhering to the traditional and in-demand berlinetta GT style. It is truly remarkable that the car was not only designed during evenings and weekends but that numerous technical hurdles were overcome due to the sheer engineering challenge.

While the Formula One cars of that era were powered by compact inline-fours and V8 engines, Lamborghini’s signature 3.9L V12 engine would disrupt the car’s balance if mounted longitudinally. The ingenious solution was to rotate the engine by 90 degrees, placing it transversely behind the cabin but ahead of the rear axle. This, in itself, posed a challenge as the engine’s width equaled that of the cabin, preventing the attachment of a transmission at the rear.

A 1971 P400SV, the third and final version of the Miura. Note the distinct lack of “eyelashes” on the headlights, and the slightly enlarged air intakes for the engine behind the passenger door. Image via Wikimedia Commons

The enduring legacy of the Miura is evident in modern supercars, yet its cultural impact is immeasurable. It was a pivotal moment. The success of the Miura led to the creation of the Lamborghini Countach, the iconic car that adorned teenagers’ bedroom walls in the 1970s and 1980s.

Even the existence of this very website can be traced back to the Miura. Without this car redefining the concept of a sports car in the 1960s and necessitating the coinage of a new term to define it, the ubiquitous use of the term supercar might not have materialized. However, the seismic waves generated by the Miura, owing to its breathtaking design and extraordinary speed, birthed the term “supercar,” giving rise to during the internet’s infancy.

To gauge the impact of the Miura on the world, one can borrow a term from the British science fiction series Doctor Who. When an event of cosmic significance occurs that remains unchangeable, regardless of attempts to alter it, it is termed “a fixed point in time.” For humanity and its motoring history, the Miura epitomizes just that: a fixed point in time. There existed a time before the Miura and a time after it, and nothing can alter that reality.

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