Classic Cars: Lamborghini 350GT Is Refined Beauty

Engineer Gian Paolo Dallara had the work ethic and pragmatism to match Mr. Ferruccio Lamborghini’s no-nonsense approach in starting a company to produce road-going automobiles. Lamborghini would not engage in racing, which was seen as an expensive folly. Yet the made-from-scratch operation, located in Sant’Agata, Italy, was intended to create surpassingly great road cars, besting those from Ferrari not only in performance but also quality.

Gian Paolo, who is now seventy-seven years old and has enjoyed a prodigious career as a chassis designer, once pointed out that Lamborghini was a Taurus under the Zodiac. Subsequent Lamborghini cars were named for bulls, of course, but the founder could demonstrate single-mindedness and intractability as well. Proving himself as much a masterful politician as masterful engineer, he has said it’s sometimes necessary to compromise, the implication being that he knew when to do so in order to avoid the impasse that had been reached between Mr. Giotto Bizzarrini and il Commendatore.

Giotto was commissioned to design the V-12 for the first Lamborghini road car. It was to be a civilized version of a racing engine, yet the prototype was a high-revving thoroughbred. Faced with the founder’s displeasure, Giotto unsurprisingly left the project, and Gian Paolo was tasked with instilling manners in the metal. Besides being refined, the DOHC powerplant was also to be more durable.

In October of 1963, the young engineer Gian Paolo and his top assistant, Paolo Stanzani, who had been working with a shoestring budget, tested their revised V-12. It still had four camshafts and displaced 3464cc, but now it had a lower 9.4:1 compression ratio, more accessible distributors, single oil filter, milder profile for the four camshafts, and wet sump. Conventional sidedraft Weber carburetors replaced the 36mm vertical ones, which were better-suited for the track. Output was now 270 hp, and the new car, called the 350GT, would be capable of 0 to 62 mph in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 158 mph. The five-speed manual transmission survived these wholesale changes.

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