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Lamborghini 400 GT review: back to the 1960s in a £1m V12

As motoring first efforts go, the 400 GT is up there with the very best

Lamborghini’s origins are well documented – an Italian entrepreneur got upset with an Italian car maker, and decided to build an entire car company out of spite. This firm went on to make some of the most coveted objects of the 20th century.

There was even a 2022 film depicting Ferruccio Lamborghini’s initial struggles and success as a car maker – funnily enough coming out a year before the film Ferrari

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We all know Lamborghini’s back catalogue of halo cars over the decades, the most recent being last year’s Revuelto. However, it was the 350 GT that presented Lamborghini to the world, followed by the car we’re driving here, the 400 GT. Both provided a stunningly gorgeous foundation on which to build a car brand. 

After the handsome 350 GTV prototype was revealed at the 1963 Turin Motor Show, Lamborghini sought the help of Milan design house Carrozzeria Touring to restyle it so that an engine could actually fit beneath the svelte bodywork (instead of the 350GTV show car’s pile of bricks). They came up with the 1964 350 GT. 

What an engine it was too, a Bizzarrini-developed 3.9-litre V12 with 280bhp. Our car is the later 400 GT 2+2 four-seater, which gained the engine upgrades the 400 GT received in 1966 with power upped to 320bhp. 

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This 400 GT 2+2 in particular belongs to the Lamborghini museum at the firm’s factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese. It’s a pristine example inside and out, showcasing exactly how the car would have felt, driven and even smelled back in the sixties. 

When we first lay eyes on the 400 GT, it’s parked up next to a bright yellow Miura, which understandably draws the attention of everyone. The ‘Grigio St Vincent’ grey paint seems a perfect match for the 400 GT’s rather staid image. Its proportions of a long, loping bonnet, elegant roofline and a pared-back rear end are the epitome of a grand tourer shape, but crucially it’s not dull to look at, even when you see it parked next to the grandfather of the supercar. At 49 inches tall, the 400 GT was slightly loftier than the 350 GT, although the newer car is still tremendously sleek. 

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Unlike the Miura, there’s not much of a starting procedure with the 400 GT; turn the key in the middle of the dash and the quad-cam V12 with its six Weber carburettors erupts into life. It doesn’t take long for you to realise that it’s an incredibly smooth engine, and that most of the sound is coming from the pronounced and purposeful quad-exhausts to the rear. 

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The first thing you notice about the 400 GT when setting off, aside from the heavy steering, is the clutch pedal. The biting point is surprisingly low, especially after we found that the one in the Miura is so high. The two share the same transmission as well, a five-speed manual with synchromesh gears, which was uprated from the 350 GT’s ZF ’box. The gear selector and shift action both feel mechanically slick and precise, so if you miss a gear it’s your fault, not the 400 GT’s. 

Initially, Ferruccio Lamborghini envisioned his car company as a constructor of grand tourers, and this ethos is crystal clear with the 400 GT because it’s an absolute doddle to drive. 

Spring and shock rates were changed from those of the 350 GT to cope with the extra weight brought about by the shift from the aluminium bodywork of the older car, to the steel panels that adorn the 400 GT. However, the focus was definitely on providing a cosseting ride, and the soothing suspension and substantial tyre profiles of 70mm certainly manage this. 

The 400 GT does its best work at cruising motorway speeds, becoming a docile grand tourer ready to eat up a cross-continental jaunt. You’re always aware there’s a special engine under that bonnet stretching out in front of you, which you have a clear vision of, because you sit rather high up in the 400 GT. 

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Every interaction with the 400 GT is a joy. Slowly and smoothly changing down the gears to give yourself time to soak up the difference in tone from the V12, then squeezing the throttle is an unforgettable experience. The engine’s power delivery is consistent up to its 6,500rpm maximum speed and what you hear is more of a steadily thunderous note than the howling V12 we now associate with Lamborghini supercars. 

There are disc brakes front and rear, and the system provides a reassuring amount of pedal feel and stopping power. Meanwhile, the comfort-oriented independent suspension allows more body roll than you might expect. 

Still, the 400 GT never really goads you into driving particularly quickly. The steering rack certainly gives you plenty of communication, but it requires a lot of elbow grease in the tighter bends, and you feel like you’re leaning on those vintage tyres quite a bit once you press on.

A quick look around your surroundings reveals a simple, but beautifully finished interior. The brown leather of the squishy seats and seat console match the wood of the steering wheel and overall it’s a relaxing environment to be in – before you notice the central instrument on the dash is the oil pressure readout. It’s fantastically airy in the cabin, with great visibility all around thanks to thin pillars and large windows, despite the 400 GT having a higher shoulder line and a smaller rear window than the 350 GT. It even has a decent-sized boot and a lot of cabin space up front, although rear passengers will feel a tad cramped. Nevertheless, it’s a classic car you could genuinely drive every day.  

But would you? Perhaps not this one. Back in 1966, the 400 GT cost from around £6,000, almost double the average UK house price. Despite this, Lamborghini took a hit on every 400 GT sold because it wanted the car to remain competitive with the Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. The popularity of the 350 GT and 400 GT confirmed Lamborghini was in the car-making business for good. Only 367 350 and 400 GTs were built. Of course, being possibly the tidiest 400 GT 2+2 in existence means this particular example is priced at around £1 million. Don’t worry, though, cheaper ones have come on the market in the past few years for a mere £500,000.

Model:Lamborghini 400 GT
Production dates:1966-1968
Price then:From £6,000
Price now:From £50,000
Engine:4.0-litre V12
Power/torque:320bhp/374Nm
Transmission:Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
0-62mph:6.8 seconds
Top speed:168mph
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Senior news reporter

A keen petrol-head, Alastair Crooks has a degree in journalism and worked as a car salesman for a variety of manufacturers before joining Auto Express in Spring 2019 as a Content Editor. Now, as our senior news reporter, his daily duties involve tracking down the latest news and writing reviews.

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