We pick up our Lamborghini front-engine grand touring coverage at a time of design disappointments. Though the exotic Miura gave the company instant notoriety as it simultaneously created the super car class, the company’s other model was due for replacement. A more traditional looking two-door, the 400GT 2+2 was an edit of the 400GT Interim (2+1), which was itself an engine upgrade on the 350GT, the company’s first production car.
Ferruccio Lamborghini anticipated the need for a new design, and went in search of a 400GT replacement around the time it entered production in 1966. Lamborghini turned first to Carrozzeria Touring. But even though they penned the 350GT and 400GT designs, their two-seat shooting brake suggestion, Flying Star II, was not to Lamborghini’s taste.
In fact it was sort of like Touring didn’t read the prompt. An abandoned race car design called the 400GT Monza from Neri & Bonacini was also presented as an option. The firm built Lamborghini’s tube frames a few years before, but that didn’t lend them enough goodwill at Lamborghini to get their design accepted. Time for take three!
Lamborghini proved it could make a luxurious grand touring coupe that a few people were willing to buy instead of a Ferrari with its first-ever production car, the 350GT. Based on the 350GTV prototype that was not actually drivable, the 350GT eventually grew and matured into the very similar 400GT we featured last time.
At its inception, the 400GT was just a 350GT with a larger engine, since the intended roof edits to turn the 2+1 into a 2+2 were not production ready. Lamborghini advertised the 350, 400, and 400 2+2 as three separate models, a fun take on the truth. But after three variations of the original 350 design, it was time for something new. The replacement process was not without drama.
On July 6th, the European Union formally introduced laws that require auto manufacturers to install speed-limiting hardware on new vehicles. While speed governors have been around for years (and are becoming increasingly popular among certain manufacturers) the EU’s new rules actually require technology that takes things a step further by allowing cars to actively detect and then regulate the speed for any given road.
The 350GT was Lamborghini’s first production car, and as we learned in our last entry, was a very rapid adaptation of the 350GTV prototype. And while the GTV was certainly more elegant looking than the GT, the former’s foibles included a hood line that was too low to fit the company’s V12, as well as a general lack of practicality.
Practicality was the word of the day in the 350GT’s development. The 2+1 grand touring coupe brought Ferruccio Lamborghini’s vision to life, as a competitor to the well-established finery from Ferrari. There were just 120 examples of the 350GT produced before its successor joined the ranks. The new car had a larger engine that made more power but looked very similar to its brother. Meet the 400GT.
After Lamborghini’s 350GTV show car debuted in Turin, Ferruccio Lamborghini was very intent on turning the coupe’s good publicity into sales of a real production Lamborghini. But the prototype lacked running gear, an engine that fit under its hood, and there were many other miscellaneous issues. As we learned last time, redesign work began on the GTV’s chassis, engine, and body at a furious pace. That’s where we pick up today.
We return to our coverage of Lamborghini’s front-engine grand touring coupes today, and the story of the company’s first prototype. A teardrop-shaped two-door with sweeping lines and an angular rear, the 350GTV was the first passenger vehicle Ferruccio Lamborghini ever made. His past experience was as a successful businessman and builder of stylish Italian tractors at Lamborghini Trattori.
The high-strung 3.5-liter V12 was completed (albeit in race car specification) and the coupe’s body had been casually assembled by the craftsman of Carrozzeria Sargiotto, who usually made plastic moldings and not cars. Was the next stop the 1963 Turin Auto Show? Nope.
In 2017, General Motors bowed out of the European market. The tactical retreat came after nearly two decades of struggling to make the region profitable and freed up cash the company could use to expand more profitable endeavors located elsewhere. This basically entailed widening its footprint in China, eliminating modestly sized passenger vehicles from its North American lineup, and setting aside any extra money for electric vehicle development. However, the automaker’s Western clientele has been slower to embrace EVs than hoped, even with gas prices becoming astonishingly high, and market analysts expect the United States to be the very last developed nation to see alternative powertrains go mainstream.
One possible solution for this conundrum is to sell those all-electric vehicles elsewhere — namely Europe.
I was reminded the other day (by Facebook) about a particularly beautiful coupe I’d photographed at a local car show in 2014. It had two doors, a big engine in the front, svelte and restrained styling, and a Lamborghini badge on the nose. It’s easy to forget that Lamborghini made elegant grand touring coupes long before it got to the likes of the outrageous Countach or LM002. We start at the beginning, with the company’s very first prototype, the 350GTV.
It’s a new week, and I’m back with another German car Rental Review for your enjoyment! Today’s rental is one of two American market entrants into the premium compact five-door liftback segment, and not a car one expects to find in an Enterprise lot. Presenting a 2020 Audi A5 Sportback, two years and 50,000 rental miles later.
As a fan of the midsize luxury sedan class, it’s sad to see how many manufacturers have given up on the segment. The German trio still has their stalwarts, but Japan gave up in 2020 (RIP Lexus GS), the only American still in the ring is the Cadillac CT5, and its outlier status is accompanied by newcomer Genesis with the G80.
It’s a dying class, which is why your author was especially pleased to spend the Memorial Day weekend with a longstanding headliner of the German luxury sedan genre: A 2021 BMW 5-Series.
A group of German automakers, chemical concerns, and battery producers have announced the joint development of a “battery passport” designed to help government regulators trace the history of the cells. The consortium is funded by the German government and is supposed to work in tandem with new battery regulations that are being prepared by the European Union.
According to the German economic ministry, officially the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, the overarching plan is for the EU to mandate traceable hardware be installed in all batteries used in the continent by 2026. Those intended for use in electric vehicles are up first, with the passport scheme also serving to chronicle everything from the vehicle’s repair history to where the power cell’s raw materials were sourced.
Even though the global semiconductor shortage has been going strong for about two years now, the world has failed to successfully manage the situation. Production stoppages remain relatively common within the automotive sector, with manufacturers continuing to attribute factory stalls to an inability to procure a sufficient number of chips. But the excuse seems to have evolved into a catch-all explanation for supply chain issues that continue that go beyond a single missing component.
That makes it a little hard to determine precisely how much of the ongoing production shortfalls can be pinned on semiconductors. But AutoForecast Solutions (AFS) was keen to take a whack at it and determined roughly 1.4 million vehicles have been removed from the automotive industry’s targeted output for 2022 — that’s on top of the 10.5 million units we lost in 2021. While the issue is indeed global, AFS stated that the last batch of vehicles to get the ax was predominantly from Europe.
Today we conclude the story of Isotta Fraschini, a company that started as a simple import business but rose quickly through racing successes to become one of the most highly regarded luxury car makers in the world. In our last entry, the Great Depression finished off IF’s last passenger car – the 8B – in 1934. Afterward, the company moved on to heavy truck manufacture alongside its marine and aeronautical engines. Said trucks were still in production when Isotta Fraschini launched a grand final attempt at a return to the luxury passenger car market.
Isotta Fraschini advanced very quickly from its humble roots as a French car importer. Through racing recognition and the utmost attention to quality and engine technology, IF became one of the most well-regarded luxury car companies in the world. The firm’s first two large cars the Tipo 8 and 8A were considered on par with Rolls-Royce, and the company found buyers in the elite of America and Hollywood stars.
But the company’s fortunes changed in 1929 as The Great Depression bowed its head, and put a big dent in the ultra-luxury car market. The 8A concluded its run from 1924 to 1931 with under 1,000 total sales. IF was immediately ready with another super lux car as the world was still deep in The Great Depression, but company ownership attempted to pursue other passenger car avenues. And IF might’ve prospered were it not for fascist government intervention.
Sort of like the Cimarron we covered in our last edition of Abandoned History a couple of months ago, today’s vehicle is pretending to be more than it is. It’s the luxury X-Class truck Mercedes-Benz sold in markets outside the USA. Can you tell what it actually is?