Q: Greg. I heard my friends discuss that Italian tractor manufacturer Ferruccio Lamborghini started his Lamborghini car company because he was upset with Enzo Ferrari. Can you tell us more of what happened and how Lamborghini’s are respected today as an ultimate sports car?
Bob K., Rhode Island

A: Bob, it’s my pleasure.

The first ever Lamborghini sports car didn’t come about like one might think. Matter of fact, Lamborghini at the time was a respected tractor manufacturer and to this day there are still outstanding Lamborghini-brand tractors available. Lamborghini founded his tractor company in 1948 in Cento, Italy, and in 1973, it became part of SAME Company. The current tractor logo badge is a triangle containing the letters “FLC” for Ferruccio Lamborghini Cento.

The Ferrari/Lamborghini saga began when Ferruccio bought himself a 1958 Ferrari 250 series, but after driving the car and looking at it closely in his garage, he wasn’t happy with some of the car’s features, or lack thereof.

Being a highly respected tractor manufacturer of the day, Ferruccio phoned Enzo (Ferrari) and explained to the famous Formula 1 race car constructor that the sports cars he offered to the public needed more attention, as his Ferrari didn’t even have disc brakes. Lamborghini felt that even though Ferrari’s cars were good, they were noisy, offered plain interiors, and were too stiff in the suspension to be what he termed “proper road cars.” He also did not like their clutches and after-sale customer care.

Well, Enzo Ferrari didn’t take the call well at all. He flatly told Ferruccio to mind his own business, concentrate on his tractors and leave the sports car building to him (Ferrari).

So, Lamborghini took the matter into his own hands, and decided then and there to build his own exotic GT sports car and he did quite well right out of the box.

Lamborghini hired away Ferrari’s top engine man, Giotto Bizzarrini, to help build his first Lamborghini Gran Turismo (GT) sports car to debut as a prototype in 1963. Not surprisingly, the car featured a “Bizzarrini” V-12 engine with 320 horses for power as back then, the bigger the better.

Although no one expected huge sales from this all new Italian super sports car, Lamborghini was pleased with the interest from the public and moved forward. He initiated a production run from 1964 to 1966 and sold 120 of them, good for an ultra expensive hand-built car. Had Lamborghini thrown in the towel after his GT350 prototype, Ferrari surely would have made him the laughing stock of the sports car “wine and cheese” crowd.

Not only did Lamborghini motor forward, the automotive press gave his cars rave reviews. Then in 1966, he debuted what many felt was one of the finest built sports cars in the world with his all-new Lamborghini Miura. The Miura was still a mid-engine, rear drive, V-12 sports car and was on the receiving end of numerous awards and citations by the motoring press and sports car organizations. A total of 764 were built through 1973.

And with the mention of the year 1973, older performance car enthusiasts remember that dreaded year when the oil embargo brought not only Lamborghini to its knees, but just about every other car manufacturer that didn’t build small economy cars.

By 1978, Lamborghini was forced into bankruptcy after ownership changed hands three times since 1973. Thanks to Chrysler Corporation, itself a near bankrupt company years earlier, they took control of Lamborghini in 1987 and then quickly sold the badge to a Malaysian and Indonesian company in 1994.

Finally in 1998, Volkswagen stepped up to the plate and bought Lamborghini. Volkswagen then brought in the Audi designers to handle all research and development. Under Audi direction, Lamborghini today is a successful sports car and currently, three models are available, including the V-12 Aventador, V-10 Huracan and the new URUS Super Sport SUV.

After seeing both the Lamborghini Super Trofeo class race at Watkins Glen several times, and also the GT3 Huracan that competes in the IMSA Weather Tech series, I can attest Lamborghini is alive and well.

In ending, the “war” between Lamborghini and Ferrari is similar to the Ford vs. Ferrari hard feelings that is right now a hit movie you can see this week, called “Ford v Ferrari.” It stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale and is week’s (Nov. 18) number one top box office attraction sitting in number one with over $31 million in tickets sold according to Variety.

Ferruccio Lamborghini passed away in 1993 while Enzo Ferrari passed in 1988. In Ferrari’s defense, he never really cared as much about his road cars. His love was always Formula 1 racing.

Today, both Lamborghini and Ferrari produce outstanding road cars, while the Lamborghini tractors are still some of the best built in the world.

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at greg@gregzyla.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.