Lamborghini Miura (1966-1973) icon review
The Lamborghini Miura is an Italian supercar that took on Ferrari’s finest
A new V12 mid-engined Lamborghini doesn’t come along often. There have only been five models in 57 years, but in 2023 the firm will unveil the sixth and last in the line of flagship supercars to use a V12. It has a hard job replacing the fantastic and hugely popular Aventador, but similar challenges faced all the newcomer’s predecessors and they seemed to have managed just fine.
At a sneak preview of the officially codenamed LB744, the firm gave us the keys to the founding father of the mid-engined supercar genre, the Miura.
We all know the Miura’s history. The pioneering Italian model was born out of an argument between Ferrucio Lamborghini and the man he set out to beat, Enzo Ferrari. But it’s a tale worth recounting for this drive, to truly understand the impact the Miura had on the world.
As a successful tractor manufacturer, Lamborghini had amassed enough wealth by the late fifties to buy several Ferraris. Not content with the reliability of his purchases, he sought out Enzo Ferrari to provide some constructive criticism. Ferrari famously responded by telling him: “Let me make cars. You stick to making tractors.”
The comment spurred Lamborghini to found his own car company, Automobili Lamborghini, with the intention of creating faster and better machines than Ferrari.
His first car came in 1964. It was the 350 GT, a comfortable and classy grand tourer with performance to match the best sports cars of the day, thanks to a 3.5-litre V12. But it was not the car that would keep Maranello awake at night; that task would fall to the Miura.
The world first saw the Miura as a rolling chassis at the 1965 Turin Motor Show. Despite its radical design, inspiration was taken from the humble Austin Mini for the V12’s transverse layout. Lamborghini also used a common crankcase for the engine and transmission to make it more compact. This mid-engined format was only seen on racing cars of the era, so we can imagine the shock of seeing it featured on a road car at the time. A production-ready Miura starred at the Geneva Motor Show the following year, attracting interest and buyers with its stunning Bertone-designed body.
The first Miuras wore the P400 badge – ‘P’ denoting the car’s rear or ‘posterior’ engine and ‘400’ relating to its displacement. The P400 used the same V12 as the 400 GT, enlarged to 3.9 litres. From the P400’s 350bhp, power was upped for the later P400S model to 370bhp.
Only 764 Miuras were built, split between 275 examples of the P400, 338 of the P400S and 150 of the SV (a new chassis was built for one of the six Miura SV-based SV/J cars). The SV is undoubtedly the most coveted Miura. This is not just because of its comparable rarity, but due to its more powerful 385bhp V12, wider Campagnolo cast-magnesium wheels, plus bespoke headlights and rear lights.
Tweaks to the engine for the SV’s increase in power come in the form of revised Weber carburettors and the bespoke timing for the dual overhead camshafts. The car we’re driving is one of the last 96 SV versions, so the gearbox and engine have separate lubrication systems, which fixed the potentially disastrous habit older Miuras have of metal shavings from the gearbox making their way into the engine block.
Our experience of Lamborghini’s Miura SV begins at the firm’s Sant Agata headquarters in Northern Italy (funnily enough, only a 30-minute drive from Ferrari’s base at Maranello). I’m told this car is worth between £2-3million, which I do my best to put to the back of my mind.
Slotting yourself in requires a bit of practice. It’s just two inches higher than the 40-inch-tall Ford GT40, so put aside any notion you’ll look suave as you fold yourself in. Although the gorgeous Momo Prototipo steering wheel is the perfect size, it sits between your knees if you’re more than six foot tall (and anyone more than six foot three inches can forget about driving a Miura).
The pedals are a little too close to the seat and slightly offset to the right, but overall it’s a driving position you can quickly get comfortable with; Ferrucio Lamborghini wanted the Miura to be able to perform a cross-continental jaunt at a moment’s notice.
Firing up the car is straightforward. Turn the key on the steering column to activate the fuel pump, let it whir away for a little while, then turn the key further to cause the V12 to erupt into life. At this point you have to give the accelerator a few dabs to avoid the engine cutting out.
The first few miles of our journey include some rather rutted Italian backroads, heading to the Northern Apennines in Modena. A few potholes and uneven tarmac highlight the Miura’s surprisingly excellent ride quality. It might sit impossibly low with the wheels tucked way up into the wheelarches, but the double-wishbone suspension provides more comfort than most modern supercars over rough roads.
The first straight, smooth bit of road lets us open up the Giotto Bizzarini-designed V12. The gated shifter delivers a wonderfully mechanical motion with an exquisite metal-on-metal sound. Downshifting into second while giving the throttle a little jab spikes the revs; forget it’s nearly 60 years old, the V12 is still incredibly responsive. The only downside is the heavy clutch with its high biting point, but you get used to it.
The Miura was designed to comfortably beat Ferrari’s best when it came to top speed, with a maximum of 180mph (although varied tyre sizes might make this figure disputable). With a five-speed gearbox, the gear ratios are long. But it just gives you more time to enjoy the unfiltered crescendo of noise a few inches behind your head as the revs climb to a 7,850rpm limit.
Thanks to a steel monocoque combined with aluminium front and rear ends, the Miura weighs only 1,245kg, so the V12’s power is plenty to shove the Lamborghini down the road.
Most of the weight sits on the back axle, which combined with the fat tyres, provides tremendous traction, but if you were to push beyond the limit, there’s a sense the Miura wouldn’t be too forgiving. There’s little weight over the front end (something you would discover at high speeds when the car’s infamous nose-lift would become evident), but this means the steering is perfectly light. It simply goes where you point the wheel. Soon we’re piecing together a few hairpins draped on a picturesque hill, which is where the thin A-pillars and low scuttle really help. As you’d expect, the visibility behind is minimal, but in 1971 there would be precious little appearing in a Miura SV’s rear-view mirror.
We’ll lightly cover the brakes because essentially the stopping power can only be described as ‘period correct’. Still, you don’t need to be wearing Italian loafers to notice the pedal feel is well judged and the position itself is perfect for heel-and-toe action.
Lamborghini probably wouldn’t appreciate me likening its esteemed supercar to a tractor, but Ferrucio Lamborghini’s experience in making agricultural vehicles didn’t harm this Miura’s overall feeling of solidity and build quality.
The sense of occasion around a Miura drive will never fail, but the usability surprised me –so much so, I soon forgot about the rarity and price tag. It’s a big compliment to say that this supercar is far easier to drive than you’d think, and it’s a privilege to be given the chance to drive such an iconic car for the Lamborghini marque.
|Price then:||£20,000 (est)|