He was a man from the country, a lover of fast cars, a sober businessman and a visionary at one and the same time. Ferruccio Lamborghini (1916 – 1993), the founder of the sports car brand, is regarded as being one of the great Italian entrepreneurial personalities of the 20th century and as a person with many facets; a man as fascinating as his cars.
Ferruccio Lamborghini came into the world on 28th April 1916 on a farm in the rural town of Renazzo di Cento near Modena. As a boy Lamborghini already had a burning interest in all mechanical objects. He graduated with an engineering degree from the technical university in Bologna. During the Second World War he was stationed on the Greek island of Rhodes as ground crew member of the air force.
1946: Start as an Entrepreneur.
After his release from British captivity as a prisoner of war in 1946 Lamborghini opened a workshop near to his hometown in which he assembled vehicles similar to tractors from ex-military vehicles. He is said to have had the idea on his honeymoon. Post-war Italy, including the region of Emilia Romagna, which was extremely agricultural, suffered from a serious lack of agricultural machinery and Lamborghini threw himself into his new business with ambition, great will-power and a lot of energy.
From the workshop a company arose in 1949 which produced self-developed tractors with two, three and four-cylinder diesel engines. These were modular constructions with numerous interchangeable components. An engine with direct injection was added to the range in 1954. The company Lamborghini Tractori SpA then moved to a new plant. With an output of 400 vehicles per month it was one of the biggest agricultural machinery manufacturers in Italy in the late sixties.
1960: The Selfmade Man Experiences a Rapid Ascent.
Following a journey to the USA Ferruccio Lamborghini broadened his business segment in 1960. A new company, Bruciatori SpA, was formed to manufacture heating and air-conditioning units for private and industrial purposes. This second company also flourished. With the profits from the two business segments Lamborghini attempted to realize a dream, the manufacture of helicopters. The government denied him approval for this project, though.
In 1962 Ferruccio Lamborghini was 46 years old. A self-made man, he had risen to being one of the richest entrepreneurs in Italy. This stocky, energetic man still had both feet firmly on the ground, though. His fellow travellers and employees valued his intelligence and his sincere, cheerful and sometimes rural direct nature.
The Passion for Fast Cars.
Lamborghini enjoyed his success and the good things in life: good food, fine wines and fast cars. In 1948 he had already built an open sports car on the basis of a tuned Fiat Topolino and took part with this car in the Mille Miglia road race, which was extremely popular in Italy at the time. However, the race ended for car number 427 after about 600 miles, as Lamborghini reported himself, “in a bar which I entered with the car through the wall”.
The story of how Ferruccio Lamborghini decided to make sports cars himself at the end of 1962 has been circulated often and with many variants, legend and truth having become inseparably mixed. Essentially this is what seems to have taken place: Lamborghini owns a collection of powerful Jaguars, Mercedes, Ferraris and Maseratis, but no car completely satisfies him. In one case the luxury is insufficient for him, in another case the ventilation is too weak or the quality inferior or the power transmission noise seems to be too loud for him.
Lamborghini is not even happy with the workmanship on his new Ferrari 250 GT. He requests a meeting with Enzo Ferrari in nearby Maranello, but is refused. He has the GT taken to pieces by his engineers and recognizes that many of the parts used are standard items. Lamborghini thinks that he could build such a sports car very much better himself and, if he were to do without his expensive motor sport, he would even be able to open up a new, profitable business segment.
1963: The Sports Car Brand is Created.
Ferruccio Lamborghini established his own motorcar company, Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini S.p.A., in Sant'Agata Bolognese in May 1963. Its location in the small town between Modena and Bologna was chosen carefully. Typical for Lamborghini. The ultra-modern plant in green meadow land with an area of 50,000 m2 had plenty of space to grow, the tractor and heating factory not being far away. And it was in the middle of the “Terra di Motori”, engine country, home to the factories of Ferrari, Maserati or Ducati, and now Lamborghini as well.
Although a highly qualified source of skilled workers from the sports car industry existed, the wage level was low because the region was otherwise relatively structurally weak. Lamborghini gave the municipality an employment guarantee for his workers and in return he received a long-term interest-free loan. The impatient boss exerted considerable pressure during erection of the factory and after just a year it was complete.
The aggressive bull on the corporate coat of arms already decorated the first Lamborghini sports cars. The head of the company, himself born under the zodiac sign Taurus, loved this symbol - he saw in it an expression of his forward-urging and occasionally impetuous character.
1972/73: Lamborghini Retires.
The sparkling success of the sixties was followed by the crisis of the seventies, triggered by a slack economic situation, strikes and intensified regulations on the U.S. market. A big tractor transaction that had been agreed with the Bolivian government failed at the last moment in 1972. To support his agricultural machinery company, Ferruccio Lamborghini sold 51 per cent of the shares in the motorcar company to the Swiss national Georges Henri Rossetti. One year later he sold off the remaining 49 per cent to René Leimer, a colleague of Rossetti. At roughly the same time he lost confidence in the tractor business and sold it to the competing Italian Same group, which continues to manage it up to the present day under the old brand name.
Lamborghini kept only the heating segment as well as another newly formed company by the name of Oleodinamica, which produced hydraulic valves; he appointed his son Tonino as the manager of this company. The patriarch retired to a 32 hectare estate by the name of La Fiorita, which he had purchased in 1971. He led the life of a prosperous winegrower in Panicarola/Umbria near to the Trasimenic Lake and set up a small private museum.
Feruccio Lamborghini, who all his life had always felt best in shirt sleeves, returned to his roots. He planted the traditional grape types Sangiovese, Gamay, Ciliegiolo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. His red wine came onto the market with the name “Colli di Trasimeno”, however, quickly acquired the colloquial name “Sangue Di Miura”, Miura blood. Lamborghini’s wines have received many awards. They are well established in the international high-end segment due to their exceptional quality.
Ferruccio Lamborghini, who was awarded the title “Commendatore” and knighted “Cavaliere Del lavoro” (knight of work), died of a heart attack on 20th February 1993. He was buried in his hometown Renazzo.
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