Lamborghini’s Front-Engine Grand Touring Coupes (Part Three)


After the Lamborghini 350GTV show car was launched in Turin, Ferruccio Lamborghini was determined to convert the good publicity of the coupe into sales of genuine production Lamborghinis. But the prototype lacked running gear, an under-hood-mounted engine, and many other miscellaneous we know last time, the work to redesign the GTV’s chassis, engine and body began at breakneck speed. This is where we pick up today.

Carrozzeria Touring quickly finished styling the new 350, and Lamborghini engineers rushed to complete the engine and chassis redesign. In a shocking product turn that Hyundai simply could not have achieved, the new production-ready 350GT has been launched. five months After the 1963 Turin Motor Show. Its first location was the 1964 Geneva Motor Show. Two months later, the Lamborghini factory started production.

The new car features an all-aluminum body, ditching the steel mix used in the concept version. However, the 350GT’s more realistic styling and engine-ready shape mean the production car is bigger and heavier than the 350GTZ. The prototype’s 96.5-inch wheelbase was increased to 100.4 inches in the GT. Likewise, the 182.7-inch GT is more than 10 inches longer than the Scaglione Concept.

During the transition, the width also increased slightly, from 68.1 inches to 69.3 inches. But the most obvious difference between the concept and the production 350 is the height, which goes from a very low 41.3 inches (this is Ford GT40 territory) to even 48 inches. The GTV has a theoretical weight of 2,848 pounds but no engine or transmission, a largely meaningless number. The production 350GT weighed 3,197 pounds, still light for a V12 coupe.

Although the 350GT was assembled in Sant’Agata, Lamborghini’s headquarters, the body was built by the designers at Carrozzeria Touring. The tubular chassis structure of the 350 retains the basic design Bizzarrini originally designed for the GTV, but uses square tubes that are easier to produce.

The final production chassis design was done by Gianpaolo Dallara (1936-), who remained at Lamborghini after Bizzarrini’s departure. The GTV chassis was not suitable for production car service, as its tubular construction meant that the door openings were very small, and the door openings had a tube running through them in the middle.

Dallara added piping in the center floor, as well as front and rear brackets for the engine, suspension and rear differential. The brackets and solid floor allow the door openings to expand to full size and provide a better location for installing body panels than Bizzarrini designed.

Touring uses their Superleggera production method (which they have patented) to attach aluminum body panels to Neri & Bonacini frames. Touring did most of the GT’s construction and supplied the Lamborghini factory with the complete body with bumpers.

Lamborghini has set a goal of producing 10 complete cars a week, but that’s an illusory number. By the end of the 1964 production year, they had completed a total of 25,350 GTs, or about 1.6 cars per week.

On March 9, 1964, the first completed car – number 17001 – was ready for engine installation at the Lamborghini factory when it arrived from Touring. Nicknamed the 101, the car was shown shortly after at the Geneva Motor Show. Lamborghini kept the next two examples for itself, the first Lamborghini sold was the No. 104, which was delivered on the last day of July 1964. This example exists today in a museum in Sinsheim, Germany.

Despite rapid development and a tight budget, the production 350GT performed impressively for its time. The V12 sprints to 62 mph in 6.8 seconds and reaches a top speed of 158 mph. Few cars in 1964 could match the 350GT.

From May 1964 to the end of 1966, a total of 120 350GTs were produced (rather slowly). By then, the Miura had just hit the market, and most of the attention would have been forever diverted from the front-engined Lamborghini.

Part of the reason for the slow production is the quality control and rigorous testing Lamborghini used on its first model, contrary to what conventional wisdom might have assumed. Lamborghini put the 3.5-liter V12 on the tester for a full 24 hours. The engine ran on electricity for 12 hours, the second half on gasoline, and was pushed further and further. The tests produced detailed data, which was analyzed and recorded in detail before the engine was installed on each vehicle. The car then went through more than 300 miles of testing to make sure everything was in order.

Production of the 350GT overlapped with its replacement, the very similar-looking 400GT. Due to the same chassis, some 350GTs were later converted into unofficial 400GTs, with the addition of the car’s larger 4.0-liter V12. However, there are several versions of the 350GT that are considerably less than the standard 120 example.

The first is the 350GTS, the spider version of the 350 coupe. Lamborghini chopped off the GT’s roof and showed it at the Turin Motor Show in November 1965. When transitioning to a convertible, the 350 loses its +1 seat in the rear because that area is used for folding fabric roof storage. Touring built the convertible but didn’t get full production approval: only two were completed in 1965. One is black with green interior and the other is gold with dark skin.

Another personality of the 350GT also came out in 1965 as Zagato’s 3500GTZ. Designed by Ercole Spada (1937-), who later designed the BMW 7 Series E32, the 3500GTZ was a more hardcore sports coupe. It uses a chopped-up version of the 350GT chassis that doesn’t look like the 350GT it’s based on. Closer to the Datsun 240Z from a few years later, the 3500GTZ features large, enclosed circular headlights encased in a chrome shell. Its fenders don’t have the GT’s sculpted look, and its hood is longer, wider, and sleeker. It looks more like a Ferrari.

The 3500GTZ skips the GT’s curved A-pillars and also does away with the side glass at the rear of the B-pillars, replacing it with a large wraparound rear window that gives it a hatchback look (though it’s still cut out). A tall, blocky rear end and a large vertical surface replace the GT’s subtle curves, and a thick chrome bumper wraps all the way around the rear. The taillights are large, round and vertical. The 3500GTZ is so far from its base that onlookers are unlikely to guess it.

Not many have seen it, as only two 3500GTZs were produced, numbered 0310 and 0320 (or maybe 0322, not sure yet). Zagato released their Lamborghini version at the 1965 London Motor Show and then sold the car (number 0310) to a Lamborghini dealer in Italy.left drive is disturbing It was later converted to right-hand drive by an Australian owner. In 2006, it returned to Europe and changed back to its original left-hand drive configuration. Another example numbered o320 or 0322 was never built or was destroyed at some point.

The 350GT’s success ensured Lamborghini’s viability in the Italian sports car segment and allowed the company to focus its money on the Miura, widely regarded as the first supercar. Next time we’ll go with the 350GT replacement: the somewhat exciting but not exactly new 400GT.

[Images: Lamborghini]

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