LAMBORGHINI MIURA REVIEW

The single most iconic supercar of the 1960s. Having bought Ferrari cars as soon as he could afford them, Ferruccio Lamborghini set his mind on proving that he could make a better car. His bold challenge began in 1964 with the 350GT, but it was the arrival of the Miura - arguably the founder of the modern mid-engined supercar class still current today - that established Lamborghini cars. The Lamborghini Miura was first displayed as a rolling chassis at the 1965 Turin Motor Show, the first completed car ready for unveiling to a stunned press and public at the 1966 Geneva Salon. Designed by Gianpaolo Dallara as the fastest and most stylish car available, the Miura carried its transversely mounted engine amidships in a box-section platform chassis, with stunning coupe coachwork by Bertone's Marcello Gandini. Like the contemporary 400GT, the Miura used a 3,929cc version of Lamborghini's Giotto Bizzarrini-designed four-cam V12. With 350bhp at 7000rpm available via six Webers and four-valves per cylinder, the Miura was capable of shattering performance with a top speed of nearly 288kph / 180mph being claimed. A five-speed gearbox with synchromesh and limited slip differential, suspension was independent front and rear by double wishbones and vertical coil springs, with roll bars front and rear.

The first Miura, the P400, was a far greater success than was anticipated. The maximum production figure of 20 was exceeded five times over in its first year; Lamborghini buyers were falling over themselves to snap one up.

However, despite popularity and the cutting-edge technology it employed, the Miura still had plenty of room for improvement. Contemporary road-testers couldn’t achieve anything like the claimed 180mph top speed, and high-speed stability was questionable.

In 1969, the P400S was launched, refining the original concept. Larger inlet ports upped engine power from 350bhp to 370bhp, while better tyres and suspension tweaks improved handling. Inside, electric windows, radios and air conditioning attempted to civilise the beast.

Lamborghini still wasn’t happy, launching the improved Miura SV two years later. On paper, not much had changed – 0-60mph was still achieved in less than six seconds, with power creeping up to 385bhp. This was to be the greatest incarnation of the production Miura.

A whole host of facelift changes played with the original Bertone lines; gone were the controversial ‘eyelashes’ on the pop-up headlights, while new lamps all round complimented a redesigned grille. Look a little closer and some bigger changes had taken place.

Located in the engine’s sump, the gearbox and final drive shared their oil with the mighty V12. This arrangement, although fine with the BMC Mini, asked rather a lot of the lubricant. As a result, the SV featured separate engine and transmission sumps. Putting the power down onto the road were now nine-inch wide rear wheels, in place of the precious seven-inch items.

150 SVs were built (against 474 P400 examples and 140 of the P400S), but by the early ’70s, the new Countach meant the Miura was old news.

WHY YOU WANT ONE

Why would you not want a Miura? Not even the stoniest of hearts could fail to be melted by the stunning Bertone shape, or the raucous exhaust note. As a work of art, the Miura is a masterpiece. As a car, the Miura is exactly how you’d expect a ’60s single-minded supercar to be. On the one hand, it offers a driving experience so raw and exciting as to be unreal. On the other, there are plenty of other machines that are easier to live with. Driving pleasure is the only thing that matters when you’re behind the wheel of the Lamborghini – worries such as fuel economy and ease of parking are for other drivers.

As Road & Track magazine reported in 1968, the Miura is "a road car designed to transport two people from A to B as fast as possible, with some degree of comfort." If you need to cover a great distance quickly and in style, then the mid-engined Lamborghini makes sense. Technology may have progressed in the five decades since its launch, but it’s not hard to see why Miura values are so high. If you are one of the select few who can afford such a machine, you won’t be disappointed.

AT THE WHEEL

There’s a sense of theatre about the Miura, apparent from the moment you open its door. The door handles are built into the side air intake grilles, requiring a press of a chromed button to swing open the swooping panel. Lower yourself into the leathery embrace of the driver’s seat, and you find yourself cocooned in the hand-built cockpit. Two dials with drooping eye-lids peer at you from beyond the steering wheel, while switches and instruments are scattered between the dashboard and the roof-mounted console. Then it’s time to start the engine.

As 12 cylinders rumble into life, it’s clear that the Miura is designed with one purpose in mind – to go fast. Very fast. Depress the heavy clutch, snick the heavy gearlever through the exposed metal gate, and set off. Low speeds are not the Lamborghini’s forté, with both ride and engine uneasy as they crawl along. Pick up the pace, accompanied by a glorious howl from the twin exhausts, and suddenly it’s a different car; poised, agile and furiously quick. It may not be an easy car to drive, but the Miura is one you would forgive any flaw.


VITAL STATISTICS

LAMBORGHINI MUIRA SV

Engine 3929cc/V12/DOHC

Power 385bhp@7350rpm

Torque 330lb ft@5000rpm

Top Speed 172mph

0-60 mph 5.5sec

Economy 13.9mpg

Gearbox 5-spd manual


WHAT TO LOOK FOR

1The steel spaceframe chassis was never rust-proofed from the factory, so trapped water can spell disaster. Floorpans can rot, as can the rear bulkhead behind the seats. This takes most of the stresses from the engine, so needs to be in excellent order. 

2The front undertray is vulnerable from low-speed kerb impacts. Inspect this area closely for any damage, and signs that filler has been used to disguise it. Doors can sag and window glass can drop into the door when winding mechanisms fail. Windscreens can delaminate, due to the stresses that the frame is placed under. Due to dramatic value increases, make sure you’re looking at a Miura that has been restored properly.

3Oil leaks can be a particular headache with the Miura’s V12 powerplant. If the engine is allowed to fall out of tune, this will cause a number of problems, including poor running and reluctant starting. The best way to ensure a Miura is kept in tip-top condition is to drive it regularly and to fix any problems as and when they arise. This requires either specialist knowledge, or deep pockets. Not a DIY favourite.

4Ensure that all the electrics are in good working order – typically for most Italian cars, this is not always the case. Check the electric windows on the P400S and SV. If the original brake discs are still fitted, they could be warped – juddering under braking and excessive pedal travel suggests this. Tyres need to be in excellent condition, as Miura high-speed stability depends upon them.


VERDICT

‘Pretty car,’ said the Mafia boss in The Italian Job. True, he was casting his eye over an Aston Martin at the time, but he could just have easily been referring to the Miura that was destroyed at the beginning of the film.

To many Brits, this was their first glimpse of Lamborghini’s raging bull. And what a machine. Everybody should experience a Miura once, although of course most never will.

Our pick of the range is the last-of-the-line Miura SV, which benefitted from a whole host improvements that the cars picked up during their lifetime. That isn’t to say the P400 and P400S are lesser machines, though. As a car to own before you leave this world, Muiras are unbeatable.

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