Lamborghini Miura SV

Mid-engined Lamborghini ripped up the sports car rulebook

The 1965 Turin Motor Show marked the start of a supercar revolution. Tucked away on the stand of fledgling Lamborghini Automobili S.p.A was an exhibit that tore up the sports car rulebook.

In an age when performance cars had their engines at the front, Lamborghini unveiled a tightly formed chassis that had a mighty V12 mounted centrally with the fuel tank at the front, ahead of the two-seat cabin. Even though it was shown as a bare monocoque with no body, this prototype, christened the P400, attracted lots of attention.

Yet the showstopper nearly didn’t see the light of day. Ferruccio Lamborghini wanted his cars to be powerful yet sedate grand tourers, so engineers worked on the radical P400 after hours in the hope of convincing the man in charge that this car deserved a chance.

But the bare chassis attracted so much acclaim at the show that Lamborghini didn’t hesitate to give it the green light. He turned to coachbuilder Bertone to design a body and the prototype was finished days before 1966’s Geneva Motor Show. While the chassis raised eyebrows in Turin, the fully clothed P400 caused jaws to drop in Switzerland.

The beautiful lines made a star of 25-year-old designer Marcello Gandini and had customers beating a path to Lamborghini’s door. The following year, the production car arrived: it was called Miura after a fearsome fighting bull, had a 3.9-litre 345bhp V12 and was an instant hit.

But this advanced car wasn’t perfect. Although the mighty V12 was mounted transversely, space inside was tight. Early cars suffered from stifling cockpit temperatures, while nose lift at high speed was an alarming handling characteristic. With a full fuel load it wasn’t too bad, but as the thirsty V12 drained the front-mounted petrol tank the weight distribution changed and the car became a handful.

A small chin spoiler partly solved this issue, while legend has it that from car number 125 in the production run onwards, the gauge of the chassis metal was increased to improve chassis rigidity. From car 200 on, a front cross member was added, while the beautiful curved windscreen became a stressed member of the chassis.

This constant on-the-hoof development wasn’t unusual, but in 1968 a revised model arrived: the Miura S. It had chrome rings around the headlamps and prominent S badges, but crucially delivered an extra 20bhp. Wider tyres and revised suspension gave it better handling, too.

Then in 1971, the SV became the fastest and most revered Miura of all. Lamborghini ditched the ‘eyelashes’ around the headlamps of earlier models, while under the skin there was a limited-slip differential and dry sump lubrication, plus the V12 engine was tuned to 380bhp.

The stunning example in our pictures is one of just seven original right-hand-drive SVs. It’s cared for by Terry Hoyle – founder of Hoyle-Fox Classics. In an illustrious 40-year career, Terry has worked on and driven some of the most exotic race and road cars in the world, but he assures us he would have a Miura in his dream garage – quite a compliment.

Clambering into the cosy cockpit with him, we find it difficult not to be amazed by this car. The view out of the curved screen is the stuff of dreams, and when glancing back through the letterbox glass at the rear, you’re greeted by a bank of carburettors.

The soundtrack under acceleration is mechanical yet joyous and even by modern standards the SV feels quick; in its day, this car could top 172mph.

Only 150 SVs were ever produced, so today they command eye-watering prices approaching the £1million mark.But the Miura is arguably the father of the modern-day supercar and one of the most beautiful cars ever built. So, like Terry, if we had the money, we’d buy one...

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