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The Lamborghini Miura Stands Alone in the Supercar Category

Reflect for a moment on your journey as a supercar enthusiast, whether it began with childhood dreams of Lamborghini Countachs or Ferrari 40 posters adorning your walls, or watching the entertaining supercar reviews on Top Gear UK. Have you ever wondered where the term “supercar” originated from?

Over two decades ago when this website was established, there were vigorous debates on the true origins of the supercar. Some argue that the iconic Ferrari 250 GTO was the pioneer, embodying the exoticism, power, and prestige associated with supercars. Others contend that the elegant Jaguar E-Type marked the start of supercars, being a vehicle exclusive to the wealthy elite.

For the vast majority of enthusiasts, the Lamborghini Miura holds the title as the first true supercar—the genesis of the term. Introduced in 1966, the Miura shattered existing notions of performance and sports cars, thanks to the passion and dedication of three engineers who revolutionized the automotive world.

A Game-Changing Design in Automotive History

To grasp the significance of the Miura, initially named the P400 Prototipi, as a revolutionary force in the sports car realm, we must delve into the era it emerged in. During the 1950s and 1960s, the quintessential Italian sports car design was the berlinetta—a long hood housing a V12 engine, a luxurious yet compact cabin, and a sleek rear end.

This design philosophy was evident in legendary sports cars like the Ferrari 250 GT series and Lamborghini’s debut model, the 350GT. The unwritten rule was that to be taken seriously, one had to build a berlinetta with a front-mounted engine, mid-transmission, and rear-wheel drive. For smaller sporty models like the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA, they were classified as sports coupes rather than sports cars.

Notably, Italians have a profound passion for motorsports, a passion that Gian Paolo Dallara, Paolo Stanzani, and Bob Wallace—three engineers working for Ferruccio Lamborghini—shared. With backgrounds in racing, these engineers observed the trend in Formula One cars moving towards a mid-engine layout, placing the engine behind the driver for optimal balance and performance.

Inspired by this racing innovation, the trio, after completing their work on Lamborghini’s 350 GT and 400 GT models, dedicated their free time to conceptualizing how they could translate this high-performance balance to a road vehicle.

The Birth of the P400 Prototype

Despite being initially denied by Ferruccio Lamborghini, who preferred adhering to the classic berlinetta GT style, the three engineers embarked on designing the Miura during their off-hours. Their endeavor was met with numerous technical challenges, primarily due to the unconventional approach they were undertaking.

While Formula One cars of that era utilized compact inline-fours and V8 engines, Lamborghini’s signature 3.9L V12 engine presented unique obstacles if mounted longitudinally. To address this, the engineers opted to position the engine transversely behind the cabin but ahead of the rear axle, a solution that posed further complexities in terms of cabin width and transmission integration.

A 1971 P400SV, the third and final version of the Miura. Note the distinct lack of “eyelashes” on the headlights, and the slightly enlarged air intakes for the engine behind the passenger door. Image via Wikimedia Commons

The influence of the Miura resonates in modern-day supercars, but its cultural impact transcends any quantitative measure. It marked a pivotal moment in automotive history, paving the way for iconic successors like the Lamborghini Countach—the quintessential poster car of the 1970s and 1980s.

The very essence of the supercar concept as we know it today can be traced back to the Miura. Its breathtaking design and unparalleled performance not only coined the term “supercar” but also catalyzed the creation of platforms like in the nascent days of the internet.

Consider the Miura as a fixed point in time, an immutable landmark in the annals of human automotive innovation. It delineated a clear before and after in the realm of supercars, forging a legacy that transcends generations and continues to captivate enthusiasts worldwide.

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