Lamborghini’s precarious journey to the safety of VW

Lamborghini, throughout its’ 51 year history has been through some rather difficult times and turmoil. In fact, the Italian powerhouse has had more owners than you can count on one hand. This means that the company exchanged hands at an average rate of more than one per decade. That’s quite impressive actually, although in a bad way; and needless to say, the supercar business is quite erratic and unpredictable.

‘Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini’ was founded in May 1963 in Sant’Agata, Italy; by its’ first and original owner; the man himself, Ferruccio Lamborghini.  (Automobili Lamborghini 2014) Through the passing years, and under the rule of Ferruccio, the company gave birth to the most exquisite array of cars. These included masterpieces such as the 350GTV, Miura, Espada, Urraco, and the legendary Countach. (Lambocars 2000-2013)

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Over the subsequent years, social situations and Labour unions facing difficulties, meant change and unrest; and many companies and especially factories came to their knees. At this point, in 1972, Ferrucio sold 51 percent of the company to Swiss industrialist Georges-Henri Rossetti, and later the remaining 49 percent to a friend of his, also a Swiss man, Rene Leimer. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

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Right after the Swiss overtaking, and by 1973, the Arab-Israeli war was threatening petrol supplies, and thus, the need for such excessive cars had pretty much almost completely diminished. In 1977, Lamborghini tried a collaborative project with BMW, however was not a success, and tried another joint venture in 1977. This time, creating a partnership with ‘MTI’ Mobility Technologies International, to create military off-roaders for the US; this too ended in decay. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

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In 1978, the Italian courts appointed a new head, Alessandro Arteses. By 1979 however, the company was quickly taken over by Raymond Noima and Hubert Hahne, a German racing driver. (Sheehan 1999-2014) By 1980 the company was declared bankrupt, and the courts appointed; the once again Swiss; Mimran brothers. Jean-Claude and Patrick Mimran, were very wealthy and had a booming sugar empire in Senegal.

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By 1981 the Mimran brothers had outright bought the company, and injected the much needed cash to bring the brand back to life, while also expanding the factory premises. The cars were flowing smoothly through the years, with models such as the Jalpa P350, the Countach LP500, and the LM002, although they were not exactly in excess. (Lambocars 2000-2013) Times were tough as always, and although the Mimran brothers did an excellent job at keeping the company moving, a larger investor needed to  step up to the plate. (Sheehan 1999-2014)

On the 23rd of April 1987, American car giant Chrysler took the reigns of Lamborghini. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014) Being in command, the US firm helped bring Lamborghini back on its feet, and up to pace in the supercar market segment. They created the ever so successful Diablo with its many variations; including an entire one-make race series achievement. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

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In the year 1993, on the 20th of February, Mr Ferruccio Lamborghini, the creator of the amazing brand, passed away in Purgia, Italy. (Lambocars 2000-2013)  The next year in 1994, Chrysler came to financial difficulty and suddenly sold the company off to a group of Indonesian investors, led by Tommy Surharto of the Surharto Family. (Lamboweb 2014)

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Under the influence of the Indonesians, the Diablo range saw further success, and by the late 90’s a successor was in the pipeline. The end of the 1990’s, however also brought along a financial crisis, which affected the investment group and so, they decided to join forces with Audi to develop the Diablo replacement. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

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By now, Audi saw, that the company was in trouble, and could not let a great opportunity go, and thus, in 1998, Audi AG purchased Automobili Lamborghini, and became the new sole owner of the company. (Lamboweb 2014) This led to some great developments, and transformed the brand into what it is today. In essence, the Audi-VW bailout of Lamborghini was the best thing that could have happened to the company.

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Volkswagen took over Auto Union in 1974, although decided to keep Volkswagen and Audi as separate brands. (Volkswagen 2014) VW, however doesn’t only account of Audi, as it has its hands in a lot of pies in the automotive industry. In 1980, it acquired ‘Chrysler Fevre Argentina S.A.I.C’ and promptly renamed it to ‘Volkswagen Argentina S.A.’ (Volkswagen 2014) In 1991, it also purchased Skoda in its’ entirety and adopted it into the VW Group (Volkswagen 2014)

The year 1998 was a massive achievement for Volkswagen, as it managed to collect an array of manufacturers in the luxury car segment, and call them its’ own. This consisted of the additions of ‘Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd’, ‘Bentley Motor Ltd, ‘Bugatti International S.A Holding’, becoming ‘Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S.’, as well as ‘Automobili Lamborghini SpA’.(Volkswagen 2014)

It seems then, that Volkswagen can be compared to the bully on the school playground who just takes everybody’s toys for himself. The only difference is that, had the bully not taken those toys for himself, they would have been broken into pieces in the hands of their original owners, and thus would leave them with nothing to play with. The actual Volkswagen Group then, is really more of a car brand philanthropist, rescuing all the companies from certain doom. Thus, the VW Group actually consists of the brands; Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Ducati, Lamborghini, MAN, Porsche, Scania, Seat, Skoda, and of course, VW, including VW Commercial Vehicles as a separate entity. (Volkswagengroup 2014), ( Volkswagenag 2014)

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The overtaking of Lamborghini came at a great point in time, and Volkswagen managed to transcend the brand towards growing success. Without the VW ‘bailout’, who knows how many more unstable hands the legendary Raging Bull would have had to endure, and indeed, would it have survived at all? It’s not all down to just money either, as Volkswagen, have a very long heritage and history of expertise. One thing is for sure though, the Germans really know how to build a true Italian supercar; they combined World class precision and engineering to the Lamborghini name and created the vibrant and passionate, yet sophisticated image that it transmits today.

 

References:

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Lamborghini’s paradigm shift towards the millenium

In the year 1980, Lamborghini had gone through a paradigm shift. After a bad period, and in financial ruin, the company was taken over by its new owners and was about to blossom once again. With a new technical director at the helms, Giulio Alfieri, Lamborghini was ready to shine again at the 1981 Geneva Motor Show. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

Wanting to take the show by storm, and to show that they were back, Lamborghini exhibited a number of cars. One of them was a Swiss version of the Miura, which was nothing new, as there was another type of car the public hadn’t seen yet. This was the reinterpretation of the original military off-roader, the Cheetah, and was dubbed the LM001. The now new, Swiss owners, the Mimram brothers, wanted to reignite the previously failed attempt at an off-roader and with a new steady flow of cash, the desperately needed evolution of Lamborghinis’ line-up became a possibility. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013)

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The LM in LM001 was rumoured to stand for Lamborghini Militaria 001, or Lamborghini Mimram. Although, similar to the original Cheetah, with a rear mount engine, it was more of a reimagining, rather than an evolution of its’ predecessor. The LM 001 however did have some problems, and with it came a successor later on. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013)

The show did not stop there however, as the stand also featured two Countach models.  The Countach S, which had the new Wolf style rear wing, but was old news by now, and the new Countach 5000. Although, very similar in looks, the 5000 housed a new 4.7-litre V12, bringing the amazing power figures back to the series. This reignited the ferociousness of the Countach name, as the previous Countach S had lost power due to all the cosmetic upgrades, and larger tyres that it had received in the previous years. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

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Another interesting car being previewed was the Jalpa prototype. With the open top 1976 Silhouette only seeing 52 units produced, never saw any export to the United States, and thus the Mimram brothers wanted to create a new open top “targa style” roofed Lamborghini. Bertone turned the original Silhouette into a beautiful, smooth, and much more refined car. It was in style with the supercars of that era and also used wheels which were pretty much a replica of the ones used on the Athon concept. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013)

By the release of the new Jalpa P350 (pronounced yawl-pa), (Lambocars.com 2000-2013) in 1982, the car was dubbed the new baby Lambo. Unlike the Countach though, it housed a nice V8 engine, was a “targa” open top and was exported to the U.S, but still suffered. It was uncomfortable to drive, had a lot of competition from the likes of Ferrari and Porsche, and was quite normal looking. In fact, it was very dull next to the outrageous and lavish big brother, the Countach, and let’s face it, if people were going to buy a Lambo, they didn’t want to be inconspicuous and understated. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013)

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By the next year, the Mimram brothers were adamant on introducing an off-roader, and thus, offered the LMA002, now making use of a front mount engine to better balance the car. After receiving continuous and progressive updates, by 1986 we had the colossal beast known as the LM004 7000. This car doesn’t exist anymore, but it made use of a humongous 7.0-litre engine propelling the 3-ton monster to 124mph (200km/h). It was more of a luxury item, and had an integrated telephone, fridge and air conditioning. Once commercialized in 1986, it was finally called the LM002 utilising a 5.0-litre engine. It was suitably nicknamed the “Rambo Lambo” (Miller 2014) but we now recognize it as “that” off-road Lamborghini. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013)

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In 1986 the Countach saw further developments, and was released in the form of the LP5000 Quattrovalvole. A tuned version of the now 22 year old V12, skyrocketed the car to 455 bhp, and well ahead of the competition, and especially of its main rival at the time, the Ferrari Testarossa. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013) This gave Lamborghini a good and steady sale of their cars, and by 1987, the Countach and Jalpa, as well as orders for the LM series were flowing and progressing the company. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

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By the year 1987, the successor to the Countach, the Tipo 132, was in its beginning prototype stages. The Jalpa, also received an update, the Spyder. Also known as the speedster, the car featured a canvas roof, but because of complications, never made it into production. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

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In the same year, 1987, the company over went a massive change once again, and attained its new owners. This time, the American based motor company, Chrysler took over on the 23rd of April. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

In order to celebrate the Chrysler overtaking of Lamborghini, a new concept car was created, now by American designers. By 1988, The Portofino was a 4-seater aerodynamic concept developed onto a lengthened Jalpa chassis. Using the same engine as the Jalpa, it was rather fast achieving 149mph (240km/h), however, its’ main feature was horizontally opening “Lambo doors” for both the front and rear passengers. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013)  It even used the Lamborghini raging bull in the Chrysler logo, as the badge. This car inspired the later released Eagle Optima, and even further on, the Dodge Intrepid. (Miller 2014) Still in the same year, another concept was developed, known as the Genesis, designed by Bertone design, which was a super, mini-van styled car, with speed in focus and also featured the Lambo style doors.

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At this time the company was also manufacturing engines for Formula 1 cars at their Lamborghini Engineering SpA building. Although the engines were becoming more and more successful over the years, by 1991, the endeavour ended. Besides the engines though, Lamborghini had been working on new composite material manufacturing technologies and the Countach Evoluzione was manufactured in 1988. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

By 1989, the swansong and last model for the 17 year long production of the Countach, came into what was supposed to be a limited production, but ended up becoming the best selling version of the Countach ever. This car also became the celebration model, to mark the company’s 25 years in existence, and was thus called the Countach 25th Anniversary. In fact, the car was drastically redesigned, and although, used the base of the QuattroValvole, was a brand new Countach. It was a brilliant car and praiseworthy for the celebration model, which was actually supposed to be the belated Diablo, but was behind schedule at the time. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013)

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At the turn of the next decade, Lamborghini presented their brand new car, on the 21st of January. It was unveiled at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, and was the successor to the extremely successful Countach. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013) Obviously wanting to create a mesmerizing and absolutely crazy, Lamborghini defining, brand new supercar, the brief said the car needed to reach a minimum of 196mph (315km/h). Thus, the mighty Lamborghini Diablo was the answer. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

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The car was a much more refined version and combination of the Countach and the P132 prototype. It featured integrated air intakes, and looked less violent, but with Marcello Gandini being at the forefront of the design, the car was a true reflection of the styling characteristics of Lamborghini. It had a very low stance, and a massively wide track at 204 cm. Naturally, the “Lambo doors” were adopted, and even had full side glass, whereby the entire window could be wound down electronically. It was a true driver’s car, with moveable seats, steering column and dashboard. The interior featured a CD player, an Alpine stereo system and hand stitched Italian leather. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013)

The 1990 version was still a rear wheel drive, however, later Diablos, and in fact Lamborghinis adopted a 4-wheel drive system which was to become the norm. The car also achieved an insane top speed of 217mph (340km/h) on the Nardo test track. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013). This put Lamborghini at the forefront of the supercar market of the era, and could only be approached by the limited production Bugatti EB110, and Jaguar XJ220. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013).

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1990 also brought with it a derivative of the Diablo, the Countach and the Miura, a new baby Lambo, the P140. It was intended to be the successor of the Jalpa, but because of the great speeds and quality that Japanese and German cars were able to attain, the P140 had to rely on its looks to be a noteworthy competitor in the market. As work continued on improving the car, attention turned to the development of the Diablo instead, and the project died over time. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013).

The subsequent years, brought with them all sorts of improved variations of the ever successful Diablo. The year 1992 brought with it the Diablo Roadster, an open top version of the flagship Diablo and featured slight changes such as the engine lid and the rear view mirrors. The side intakes and rear engine air intakes were also increased, as well as other cooling modifications and were used thoroughly on the 1993 Diablo VT. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013).

1994 saw the release of the Diablo SE30, SE, standing for Special Edition; the car was meant to be entered into the GT-championships. The interior was stripped out, parts were replaced with lightweight parts, and it introduced the Diablo rear spoiler and a new front end. The engine received a JOTA conversion, and essentially became a racecar for the road, making it the most hardcore Lamborghini which had come out for a very long time. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013)

As, what seems to be an apparent trend with Lamborghini, the company once again exchanged hands. This time, “Nuova Automobili Lamborghini SpA” was sold off by Chrysler, to a group of unknown Indonesian investors. The reason for this was unclear, but it didn’t stop Lamborghini from continuing its evolution of the Diablo range. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

By 1995, the series had been extended to the SE Jota Edition, Diablo VT Roadster, and the Diablo SV. The SE Jota, utilised a specially tuned Jota engine, which was developed at the same Lamborghini Engineering SpA building, where the V12 Formula 1 engines were in the early nineties. The VT Roadster, was a combination of the previous Roadster prototype, and the VT, naturally. It adopted many features of other Diablo models, while receiving minor to major adjustments on the exterior and interior. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013)

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The most interesting of the three, however, was the SV, known as the Sport Veloce, just like its’ great grandfather, the Miura SV. The car was one of the most brutal Diablos to date, and was apparently quite a handful and very scary to handle, especially on wet roads. The reason for this is quite simple, 510 bhp was combined with a rear-wheel drive setup. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013)

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At the 1995 Geneva Auto Show, sitting beside the previous three models, was another proposed successor to the Jalpa. The Cala, was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign and was a beautiful sporty car, with a 400bhp, mid-mounted engine. It also made use of a removable Targa type roof, a more curved surfacing style, and a glass roof section section, allowing more light to enter the cab. The Cala, being a driveable prototype, was tested by a few publications, had great reviews and was destined for success, but the project had to be put on hold, as the Indonesian investors, were experiencing severe financial problems.   (Lambocars.com 2000-2013)

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A single make series championship was bought to fruition in Europe, and a special Diablo SVR, was produced in limited numbers for the series. Further adaptations and variations of the Diablo range were released through 1996 and 1997, with the inclusion of the VT-R, the Diablo GT1, and the Diablo Roadster VT-R, which was specifically built to promote the VTR edition. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013)

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The adaptations and improvements for the Diablo range didn’t stop flowing, Lamborghini was churning out new and improved Diablos by the second. By 1998, the series was further developed to introduce the Diablo VS, Victoria’s Secret Special, the Diablo GT2, the SV Monterey edition and the SV Roadster. This however, didn’t stop the inevitable from happening once again. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

By now, the Diablo was getting old, and naturally Lamborghini needed to develop a new car to join the fleet. This didn’t come very easy though, as the owners had very limited funds available, and therefore devised a plan to go into collaboration with a top-level carmaker. They joined forces with Audi, and wanted to use the V8 from the Audi A8 in the new baby Lambo. Audi’s technical staff however, saw a great opportunity in the company. Not too long after the ordeal, on the 27th of July, Lamborghini, was sold down to the very last share, and signed over to the German car giant. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

The Lamborghini powerhouse did however manage to make one very last tribute and true Italian concept car, before becoming part of the rigid corporate German Audi-VW brand. This last grasp at the true nature of Lamborghini, was the Pregunta concept. It was a marvellous car especially in terms of aesthetics, and executed a futuristic jet fighter styling, brilliantly. Utilising a massive 530 bhp, it managed to reach a top speed of 206mph (331km/h) and with its’ muscular and radical new design language it certainly looked the part. (Dailymail n.d)

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After the takeover by Audi-Volkswagen, production of the Diablo continued and spawned many variations. These included the Diablo VT Roadster Momo Edition, Diablo GT, the VT Roadster MY1999, the SV MY1999, and the VT MY1999. Furthermore, in 2000, the GT-R, Millenium Roadster and Diablo VT 6.0 had been introduced. (Lambocars.com 2000-2013)

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In 1999, there was also another prototype, named the Canto, but was decided that it was not up to Lamborghini standards and was therefore scrapped. Until this time, there had been no major revolutions for Lamborghini for a while, but at the turn of the century, in 2001, Lamborghini was about to pronounce its brand new marvel. (Automobili Lamborghini 2014)

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Favcars.com (n.d) available from < https://hajdunorb.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/160eb-1994lamborghinidiablose30jota.jpg>

Forums.ubi.com (n.d) available from < http://oldconceptcars.com/wp-content/uploads/jaguar_xj220_concept_8.jpg>

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