Lamborghini Miura S.
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This was where it all started - the Miura was the first car to prove itself worthy of the "supercar" tag. Prior to the Miura's arrival in 1967 many sportscars had offered high levels of performance and handling - but the Lamborghini was the first built around the criteria that define our modern concept of the supercar: massive speed, jaw-dropping design and technical innovation - together with a wallet-wilting pricetag to which only the wealthiest could aspire.
When the Miura's chassis was first shown at the 1965 Turin motorshow it caused a sensation - Lamborghini were proposing to build a mid engined supercar with a transverse mounted V12 engine. The production car appeared at the 1966 Geneva show, featuring beautiful Bertone-designed bodywork and performance figures set to make it the quickest and fastest production car in the world. The Miura's price was similarly other-worldly - £8050 in Britain, at a time when the Jaguar E-Type cost under £2000. The Miura was produced between 1967 and 1973, with a grand total of 764 cars being constructed.
The Miura set the benchmark for the supercars that followed it - most of which shared its mid-engined, rear-drive layout. Monting the engine in the mid-section of the car has several benefits, principally redistributing weight towards the rear axle and also reducing the polar moment of inertia (resistance to turning) - and so improving cornering responses. But since the mid 1950s, when the first mid-engined race cars appeared, designers had struggled to produce a mid-engined road car due to the problems of fitting an engine between the back of the seats and the rear axle. The Miura's chassis designer, Gianpaulo Dallara, found a simple solution: mounting the 4.0 litre V12 engine transversely rather than in-line, with drive transferred to the rear wheels by a five-speed gearbox in the engine's sump - an engineering solution very similar to that adopted in the original Mini. The original Miura, known as the P400, offered 350 bhp, later variants coming with progressively more power: 370 bhp in the P400S and 385 bhp in the P400SV, although Bob Wallace, who was Lamborghini development engineer, later said that the increases in claimed power had as much to do with marketing as engineering.
Amazingly, the Miura's elegant bodywork was the very first automotive project of its young designer, Marcello Gandini. The Bertone styling house was given the job of designing the bodywork to fit the P400 chassis in 1965, but after only the most preliminary work had been done on the project chief designer Giorgietto Giugiaro resigned to go and work for rival company Ghia. He was replaced by Gandini who, prior to coming to Bertone, had been an upmarket interior decorator specialising in night clubs. Despite a total lack of experience, the young designer succeeded in creating a car that made him famous, and one of the most effortlessly beautiful automotive shapes of all time. The Miura's low nose, sweeping front wings, shallow-raked windscreen and squat, powerful rear section would evolve into the standard mid-engined supercar design template - although few of the Miura's spiritual successors would project the same air of effortless elegance that it managed. The semi pop-up headlamps were the defining front-end design feature, fitting flush into the bodywork when not in use, rising by about 30 degrees when switched on. Unfortunately, the lights themselves came from the Fiat 850 Spyder so were not ideal for driving at 150 mph at night.
Under the guidance of Bob Wallace, the Miura's chassis was tuned to try and give the handling needed to contain and exploit the vast power of the engine. With double wishbone suspension at each corner (in best racing tradition) and some of the largest-section tyres then available, it offered excellent on-paper specification. The Miura's biggest problem was that it existed at the outer edge of the available 1960s technology, especially regarding tyres, and with so much power being sent through the rear wheels (via a notoriously on/off throttle) even the best drivers had to maintain a watchful respect to avoid the possibility to spinning the car. Contemporary road tests all praised the Miura's towering performance but were considerably more reticent when it came to the chassis - the early Miura being noted for low-geared steering and skittish on-limit behaviour. One basic design problem was that the Miura's extraordinarily compact shape came from putting the engine above the gearbox. That was fine for a 1.3 litre Mini, but a 4.0 litre V12 mounted above the gearbox made for a high centre of gravity. Another, more alarming problem became apparent at high speeds, where a low-pressure area at the front of the car tended to create aerodynamic lift. It was a car for the brave and skilled.
Born into an age where even powerful family cars struggled to break 100 mph flat-out, and 0-60 times of over 20 seconds were far from uncommon, the Miura must have appeared an amazing machine. By the standards of modern supercars the P400's performance figures seem relatively modest - broadly similar to those offered by a Porsche Boxster S. But in the late sixties, the Miura was one of the quickest land-based objects on the planet. Early top speed claims proved wide of the mark - the P400 managing just over 160 mph flat out, while the S and SV developments got closer to 170 mph. Acceleration figures were superb by the standards of the day, but less so by modern ones, the P400's 0-60 mph time of 6.3 seconds being reduced progressively to around 6.0 seconds, the limiting factor being the rather slow gearchange.
Once again, the Miura got here first, establishing the supercar reputation for near-zero luggage accommodation, a tight-fitting cabin and relatively poor visibility. Limited bootspace is available behind the engine compartment, but the Miura's extremely low roof (overall height is just 1068mm, or 3.5 ft) and uncomfortable seating position mean that it is difficult for taller drivers or passengers to make themselves comfortable. The dashboard incorporates deeply cowled instruments and plenty of leather trim, although the build quality of the original cabins was notoriously fragile, and most will have been re trimmed at least once. Luxuries including electric windows and a radio were available.
Ultimate supercar rating.
The Miura's historical legacy is vast - and it would be hard not to conclude that as the original supercar, it remains one of the most important. We can still see it's ultimate evolution today, through the mid-engined V12 Lamborghinis that have followed it - Countach, Diablo and now Murcielago. But the Miura's importance is also greater than that - as the first supercar it defined the segment for a generation of engineers and designers, its influence clear in many of the cars that have followed it. Compared to modern supercars it is not the greatest to drive - not even that fast - but the combination of revolutionary engineering and beautiful styling ensures it remains not only one of the most significant supercars, but also one of the most desirable.
Engine and Gearbox.
Type :: V12
Capacity (cc) :: 3929
Power (bhp) :: 385@7800 rpm
Torque (lb/ft) :: 295@5750rpm
Transmission :: five speed manual
Configuration :: mid-engined, rear drive
Body and Chassis.
Materials :: steel
Front suspension :: double wishbone
Rear suspension :: double wishbone
Front tyres :: 205/70 VR 15 Pirelli Cinturato
Rear tyres :: 205/70 VR 15 Pirelli Cinturato
Front brakes :: 305 mm Girling
Rear brakes :: 280 mm Girling
Length mm :: 4390
Width mm :: 1780
Height mm :: 1068
Wheelbase mm :: 2505
Weight kg :: 1245
Fuel capacity litres :: 90
0-62 mph seconds :: 6.0
Top speed mph :: 170
Price :: £8,050 (1967)
Number Produced :: 764
Production Start :: 1967
Production Finish :: 1973
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