Italian industrialist Ferruccio Lamborghini was a driven man. The son of farmers, he had a natural understanding of machinery from a young age. Ferruccio spent his early career running a garage, experimenting with building and modifying cars and tractors. In 1948, he founded Trattori Lamborghini which quickly grew into one of Italy’s leading farm equipment manufacturers. In the 1950s, he supplemented his agricultural operation with the manufacture of heating and refrigeration units. With his tremendous success came a taste for fine automobiles, and Ferruccio was known to have a Mercedes-Benz 300SL, Maserati 3500 GT, and numerous coachbuilt Alfa Romeos and Lancias. He also owned several Ferraris, including a 250 GT SWB. While Lamborghini enjoyed the performance of his Ferrari cars, he took issue with the quality of both the vehicle and of the treatment he received at the service department. Legend has it that when he brought his complaints to Il Commendatore, he was brushed aside and told to stick to making tractors. What exactly transpired, we will never know, but whatever occurred between Enzo Ferrari and Ferruccio Lamborghini was enough to inspire the latter to create a GT car to rival the best Maranello had to offer.
The first production model to emerge from the newly-formed Automobili Lamborghini was the gorgeous 350 GT. With an all-new four-cam, 3.5-liter V12 as the focal point, Lamborghini set out to create the most exceptional high-speed grand touring car in Italy. Once journalists of the day got their hands on the car, there was almost universal praise for Ferruccio’s twelve-cylinder tour de force. The stunning styling came from the legendary design house Carrozzeria Touring of Milan. The classic long hood, short deck proportions featured elegant sweeping lines and distinct oval headlamps set into pods in the nose. Sitting low and long, the 350 GT was one of Touring’s most distinctive designs, the shape enduring through the long-wheelbase 400 GT 2+2 and even forming the inspiration for the replacement Islero.
Completed on the 2nd of May, 1966, chassis number 0400 is a late production 350 GT, presented here in remarkable, unrestored condition. This car is believed to be among the last run of 350 GTs produced, as work had begun on the car’s replacement, the 400 GT 2+2. In fact, documents show the very next chassis (0403) served as the prototype for the softer-edge 400 GT 2+2 model. According to factory production records, chassis 0400 left the works finished in Azzurro Fiat, destined for the United States via Jake Kaplan’s east coast Lamborghini distributorship. The early history is not known; however, the car found its way to the West Coast sometime in the late 1970s, evidenced by the 1980 Long Beach Grand Prix sticker still on the windscreen. By the 1990s, 0400 was in the hands of noted Ferrari and Lancia expert Tony Nicosia. He remembered the car as highly original, unrestored, and good driving during his time with it. Nicosia serviced the 350 GT before selling it to the most recent owner over 20 years ago. Since then, it remained quietly part of a significant private collection of unique and important sports cars.
Finished as original in Azzurro Fiat with a black interior, chassis 0400 remains in incredible, unrestored condition, subject to a recent mechanical recommissioning to return it to running, driving order. The Carrozzeria Touring coachwork is remarkably good, with straight panels and consistent shut lines. These cars were well-built for their time, and this example retains the solid feel throughout the body. Some corrosion is noted on the underside, however, the car is quite sound considering it has survived so long without a full restoration. The paint and brightwork show considerable patina and some spot repairs, yet with undeniable charm and attractiveness in the honest, careworn presentation. The body sports correct 350 GT details such as the single windscreen wiper and correct oval-lens headlamps, while original Borrani wire wheels have a moderate patina, yet are in good condition with Pirelli P5 rubber.
Compared to other GT cars of the era, the 350 GT is remarkably comfortable, even for taller drivers. The panoramic windscreen, large backlight, and delicate pillars make for excellent visibility and the steering wheel, pedals, and gear lever all fall easily in line. At some point in the 70s or 80s, the seats were reupholstered in black with blue corduroy fabric inserts. While not entirely correct, they suit the careworn original interior very well and add a welcome touch of character to the black cabin. Aside from the seats, the door panels, dash, headlining, and rear luggage area remain in original, unmolested condition. Instruments are clean and in excellent order, and the switchgear is primarily original, with only the AM/FM cassette deck revealing its history as a regular driver in the 1980s.
At some point in this car’s history, the original 3.5-liter V12 engine was replaced with a comparable 4.0-liter unit, transforming this car into a de facto “Interim” model of sorts. With 320 horsepower on tap, the four-liter quad-cam V12 imparts the lighter 350 GT shell with superlative performance. With the previous owner, the car saw an extended period of storage, requiring recommissioning to return it to running, driving order. Recent work includes a full fuel system overhaul with rebuilt Weber carburetors, new brake boosters and plumbing, cleaned and inspected brake calipers, and new clutch hydraulic cylinders. The water pump and all fluids, including the engine, gearbox and rear axle are new. The car now runs quite well, with excellent brakes and gearbox. There may be some additional sorting required to return it to regular road use, however, as it sits, this is an excellent foundation for an event car and regular driver.
As a late production 350 GT updated with 4-liter power, chassis number 0400 is a highly desirable example of Lamborghini’s opening salvo against its chief rival Ferrari. This car’s character and charm make it well-suited for the enthusiast seeking a car to dial in for enjoyment on rally events and on the open road. The remarkable, unrestored condition also lends itself to a more extensive restoration if one so desires. The Lamborghini 350 GT is one of the greatest grand touring cars of the era, delivering equal parts comfort, practicality and performance in a distinctive and beautifully styled package.