The legendary life of Ferruccio Lamborghini through personal anecdotes handed down from family or narrated in the magazines of the time.
The Origins | 1916 – 1938
Ferruccio Lamborghini was born in Renazzo, in the Ferrara province, on April 28th,1916. The eldest of five sons, he grows up in his family farm where his father tries passing him on the passion for land-work and agriculture culture.
But Ferruccio has a totally different take on his future, with a clear talent for engines and cars.
After primary school, Ferruccio attends the professional training institute, ‘Taddia Brothers’, an ever since melting pot of Centenese entrepreneurs. Once achieving the school license and despite the opposition of his father – who was willing to pass him over the management of the farm – he decides starting training in the workshop of a local master blacksmith, who shares with him the iron working and welding secrets.
As since very young he is headstrong and stubborn, he finally manages to get hired by cavalier Righi, owner of the most important workshop of Bologna. At that time the workshop was commissioned for the maintenance of the Army’s vehicles: this period, even though short, will be of great importance for the experience and competences of Ferruccio.
After the Bolognese adventure, at 18 years old he opens a workshop in Renazzo with his lifelong friend Marino Filippini, who he had already worked with at Righi’s and who many years later would be employed in one of his factories.
Always animated by passion and bravery, when he could, he would buy an old used car or motorbike that, once fixed up, could easily be seen driven through the dusty country roads: these were carefree and intense years that left a lasting mark in the character and personality of Ferruccio.
This carefree atmosphere is though abruptly shattered by the outbreak of the war.
Ferruccio was sent to the isle of Rhodes, in the Aegean Sea, then Italian territory, and assigned to the ’50th Autoreparto Misto di Manovra’, reporting directly to the High Command Armed Forces of the island. Known as the ‘Autocentro’, this unit was responsible for the maintenance and repair of all military vehicles on the island.
The caporal autiere Ferruccio Lamborghini immediately realizes the unique opportunity he has come across: to work with the most sophisticated tools of Italian and foreign mechanical industry.
Soon after Ferruccio is made head of the workshop department but it is first and foremost his extraordinary intuition that consistently brings him to the center of any situation and makes him one of the most popular around.
The bravery and talent of Ferruccio in the engines area lead him to popularity and to the total trust of the Commander, who also lends him his personal car to repair the brakes.
Island life continues, marked by the tragedy of war until September 8th,1943, when all staff of the ‘Autocentro’ runs away from the city. But Ferruccio can’t stay away from engines for too long and he returns to Rhodes in civilian clothes. After doing a series of odd jobs, he later opens a small workshop with the permission of the same Germans who prefer to take advantage of his mechanical skills rather than imprison him.
In 1946, a year after the war ended, he is free to return to Italy, but he is not alone. In Rhodes Ferruccio met Clelia, an Italian girl from Ferrara, who he madly fell in love with. At that time Ferruccio had clear ideas for his future: he wants to get married and exploit the incredible opportunities starting out in his Country, which is just wriggling away from war and where a new air of freedom and enterprise is inhaled.
Back to Italy Ferruccio finds a very particular situation: due to its geographical position away from the main roadways and infrastructure, the Centese area emerged from the conflict in better shape than many other areas, but, agriculture is now in crisis, after being for centuries the major source of income in the area. In this situation, there are some unique opportunities and Ferruccio is immediately caught up by the libertarian euphoria, the Italy-after-war redemption spirit, and by the simplified bureaucratic load required to begin industrial activities that boosts employment and decides to test its technical and mechanical knowledge (sometimes futuristic like the Diesel engine). He clearly foresees a new market for agriculture automation on large economies of scale.
At this time the market is dominated by Fiat, Landini, Motomeccanica, all of whom were still producing vehicles with combustion engines. Thus for several reasons there was plenty space for technological improvement.
At the end of 1947 Ferruccio Lamborghini decides to produce an economic yet powerful tractor dedicated to the peasants of the ‘Bassa’ with their small farms. He purchases all kind of cheap surplus war equipment, improves the engine and the fuelling system and produces a very simple internal frame: the ‘Carioca’ tractor is born, introduced to the public on February 3rd,1948, the day dedicated to Saint Biagio, patron saint of Cento town.
The degree of success is evident by the many farmers that admire, evaluate and buy the tractors.
Thus, he decides to expand production. His father comes to his aid , and by giving the bank the farm as collateral, Ferruccio is granted a loan from the ‘Cassa di Risparmio di Cento’ and purchases a thousand Morris engines, 6-cylinder 3,500 cc gas powered, hires more workmen and starts production of tractor L33, the evolution of the ‘Carioca’. In 1950 annual production reaches 200 pieces, the company employs 30 workers and administration is carefully followed by Annita, who Ferruccio has married a few months earlier.
In 1951 he has to move to a larger structure: Ferruccio buys a ten-thousand square meters field, once a racetrack area and the first real production company is born: ‘Trattori Lamborghini’.
At the beginning of the 50s the move from manufacturer to industrialist happens.
The number of employees increases with the growth of production, the name of Ferruccio is famous in the world by now and the atmosphere in the company is cheerful and relaxed.
The sales network was born during these years. Initially Ferruccio tried finding the main customers, personally creating the distribution chain and meeting agents at the trade fairs.
The production unit requires more and more space. The plant grows almost continuously: it is just before the economic boom and Ferruccio has once again hit the mark. He has a uncanny ability to understand what people want a minute before the competition does.
This is confirmed by the fact that, for some years now, he has been producing tractors with Diesel engine and he soon obtains the license from MWM (Motoren Werke Mannheim) to produce these engines in Italy.
In 1952 the Italian government issues a new law granting loans to farmers for the purchase of farm machinery provided that it is produced domestically. Once again this demonstrates the great insight of Ferruccio. This law together with the broker-ability of Ferruccio drives up production.
New products are projected and investment in innovation continues until, in the 60s, ‘Lamborghini Trattori’ reaches nearly 400 employees and produces 25/30 units per day.
The 60s confirm Lamborghini Trattori as a leader in the sector. The models launched on the market enjoy great success: the name of Ferruccio is known worldwide and obtains important personal rewards.
In 1959 during a trip to the United States , Ferruccio Lamborghini visits a few companies that produced burners for domestic heating and immediately thinks of the Italian situation. As a result of the economic boom and the house, with all its comforts, is the most common evocative dream at the time. He noticed that the burners were a trend for the future, intended to replace coal-fired boilers for heating. Following accurate evaluation he understands he can withstand competition in this field and embarked on the burner adventure.
He hires the best available technicians and in less than a year he buils a new plant in Pieve di Cento, ‘Lamborghini Bruciatori Condizionatori’.
But challenges are to continue. It is a period of intense change and evolution that push Ferruccio to start off its old passion for cars. It is the end of 1962 and all staff is called together to announce the desire to start off building cars.
The selection of the project manager falls on the engineer Gian Paolo Dallara, a young designer with an excellent technical background, Ferruccio undertakes a deep professional and personal relationship with; the design of the engine, instead, is assigned to Giotto Bizzarrini, who for four years has worked at Ferrari, involved in the development of models 250 GT 2+2 and GTO.
Once again Ferruccio knows what he wants: V12engine, four camshafts in the head, two valves per cylinder, six twin-choke carburetors and dry sump lubrication. As already done for other products, he hires the best technicians from the competition and starts manufacturing a car that represents a dream for many car-lovers.
Ferruccio is willing to exhibit the new car at the Turin Motor Show in 1963. He purchases a field in Sant’Agata Bolognese and the technicians start working in a thereby workshop, while in the meantime the factory is built to become ‘Lamborghini Automobili’.
As a sign of the new company he chooses the Bull: warrior, stubborn, never tamed, just like his zodiac sign.
The company is opened in Autumn 1963: at the same time the 350 GT frame-engine is exhibited. However surrounded by disbelief, Ferruccio doesn’t bother.
The car is first presented in Turin, then in Geneva, and soon after mass production is started in one of the 11.000 square-meters warehouses with two assembly lines (one for engines, the other for assembly) and using modern machinery.
Once again Ferruccio is successful. Soon the company becomes one of the first Italian manufacturers of granturismo.
His product is excellent, quality of cars is worldwide known, but admiration is extended on Ferruccio himself: simple, charismatic, charming and skilled, he immediately established a very particular relationship with journalists and ‘colleagues’ belonging to the automobile world.
In 1966 the P400 Miura is exhibited at the ‘Salone dell’Auto’ in Turin. A fast, endurance, extremely innovative granturismo impressed with a unique and unmistakable lifestyle.
The results are amazing. In its category, the Miura is many years ahead of competitors’ vehicle.
From all over the world the most unlikely characters ask to purchase the car. Dozens of Miuras are ordered, cinema and music stars are competing to purchase one. All over the world this name means luxury and elegance. The Miura car is considered a piece of art and, indeed, exhibited at the MoMA in New York since 1968.
The end of the 60s marks the beginning of a new era inside the factories. For the first time ‘Lamborghini Trattori’ is hit with a serious crisis that affects many sectors of the Italian economy. In the earlier years ‘Lamborghini Trattori’ carried out a radical transformation of the product that engaged most of the company from both a financial as well as organizational point of view. The number of employees doubled and a very large order from the Bolivian state was approved. But the political situation in the Southern American country suddenly changed following a coup-d’etat and the new government cancelled the order. As a result in 1970 there are 5.000 tractors ready and hold still on the factory ground.
The company is strongly marked by the presence of the trade unions and by strikes: Ferruccio becomes very disoriented.
In the Spring of 1971 the crisis seems to slowly recede, but it comes at a high cost: the buildings, and only the buildings, are sold to FIAT, which is interested in gaining an opening in an area such as Cento, already rich in highly specialized manpower.
Each employee is given a choice to either go to FIAT or to follow Ferruccio in the new company located in Pieve. In fact in 1970 ‘Lamborghini Burners’ was transferred to Dosso, where in the meantime a modern and large facility was completed designed to accommodate the increased production of air conditioners, boilers and burners: ‘Lamborghini Calor’.
With the newfound liquidity gained by the sale of the tractors originally made for Bolivia, without carrying the high management costs and thanks to the support of the loyal workers, Ferruccio seems reborn. However he is signed by the years of crisis and in 1973 he decides to sell ‘Trattori’ to Same, which he had handed over management a year earlier.
The company he hands over is healthy, modern, with highly skilled labor force.
The year before, in 1972 he takes another drastic decision: he sells 51% shares of ‘Lamborghini Automobili’. After excellent years, signed by the production of the Countach car, Lamborghini realizes that the situation has permanently changed: the first signals of the ‘energy crisis’, austerity and social pressure lead to serious consequences and Ferruccio is no longer in line with the industrial world he is surrounded by.
After deciding to separate from his companies, Ferruccio starts looking for an ideal space, far away from the noise of the industrial world, to rediscover the relationship he had with land that had never abandoned him.
He purchases a land near Lake Trasimeno (La Fiorita) and in 1974 he moves.
Engaged with great effort in working on the estate, he turns an old cottage covered with holly oak trees into one of the most modern agricultural estates of Europe: he transformed the farmhouse, bought more land and finally called one of the most experienced winemakers in Italy and creates an absolutely innovative winery for those years.
Initially Ferruccio moves to ‘La Fiorita’ to relax and to go hunting. But given his continuous entrepreneur tendency, soon he turns this land into a renomated farm, into tennis camps, swimming pools and golf camps.
Here Ferruccio lives his last years; he dies in 1993 surrounded by friends who daily visit him to remember the past days together and also project the future.