ROAD TESTS FROM THE SIXTIES
Lamborghini 350 GT
Road Tested in 1965
LAMBORGHINI 350 GT
THERE IS SOMETHING about the air in Italy that produces good GT cars. Some countries don't have the knack at all, but south of the Alps there is an embarrassment of riches, with Alfas and Lancias and Maseratis and Isos and Ferraris, even Fiat weighing in with the 2300-S. I suppose the Mille Miglia, may the trees ever shade its grave, honed the sports/ GT to its finest point, because if the latest car was a blivet, all Italy knew about it the next morning. And what corner it had gone off on.
The fever has calmed a little and no longer is it an adventure to take the Brescia-Padua road, but still unusual GTs keep cropping up. Some are not very successful, like the late lamented A TS, some just seem pointless, but with all of them you are justified in asking just how they can expect to compete with Ferrari? He has a good racing name which gives vast publicity, there are parts and service in most civilized areas, and in recent years his cars have become quite fashionable to drive in spite of the stiff price tag. The exigencies of economic production being what they are, anything comparable in matters of performance, roadholding and silence is going to cost more money to build. Chances are as well that the result will not be as good, although a Ferrari is not necessarily the perfect car any more than a Rolls. So why do people bother?
Engineers are rather like doctors in that they always think
they know more than the next guy. When they find a wealthy man who wants something different (or vice versa) a new car is born. In this case it was Cav. Lamborghini, manufacturer of tractors and oil burners among other things, who thought that he could improve on an existing article and incidentally leave something besides agricultural implements to perpetuate his name. A fuller story has already been written by Borgeson in this magazine (Aug. 1964) so I won't go into any more detail. . . suffice it to say that in my opinion Lamborghini has succeeded very well as far as the mechanical side of the problem goes. Designs are ready for a 2 + 2 and a 4;-liter, there is some talk of a smaller 1600 by Ing. Dallara in the form of a 6-cylinder "half-12," and the row of Touring bodies waiting to be filled up with machinery speaks of orders in hand. Touring has been bought by someone (allegedly Ford) so this supply may dry up, but I gather that there are several bodymakers who are ready and willing to execute these to the Cavaliere's designs. The only snag, as always, is a worthwhile dealer organization to serve the customers, and in spite of all the efforts of engineers the Lamborghini will stand or fall on this. We all know foreign cars that nobody experienced will touch with a barge-pole because the concessionaires are incompetent, high-handed, or simply out to make a fast buck. With a new car like this, suitable vendors are hard to find . ~ . we wish the factory luck, as it deserves to survive. It cares about making a good automobile.
This test had been floating around since last year sometime, but one thing and another (like a 3-day dense fog, for instance) prevented its completion. Unlike some makers, Lamborghini recognizes the value of publicity as he feels that he makes a good car; there is nothing to hide, so why the cloak and dagger act? At any rate, we were supposed to have one of the latest coupes for Geneva but an imminent customs strike demanded its departure before schedule, so we had to manage with an old one which was a dealer's demonstrator in for one of its periodic services. It was, in fact, one of the first cars delivered and as such had the old-style ZF gearbox and a number of other details which have since then been changed.
In the main, though, it was the basic 12-cyl coupe with Touring body, and again unlike some makers, was certainly not a specially tweaked Press model.
Although we went out to the works with Pete Coltrin, Lamborghini preferred not just to turn us loose with the car cold and sent head tester Bob Wallace out to teach me the ropes. The first impression on sitting in the form-fitting seats (reclinable leather ones) is of light and air, as the windshield comes quite far into the roof from the cowl, thus avoiding that feeling (as someone said about a 500 Fiat) of driving down the road in a Chinese pagoda. There is a feeling of great width, though, heightened by a low ish seating position, but in any case this wears off as soon as you find the edges are where they seem.
As one would imagine, there are a great many instruments laid out across the dash, and although a drawing would be
quicker than describing, nobody could decipher it. Directly in front of the driver, that is to say past the wood rimmed wheel with its charging bull motif, there are a large tach (redlined at 7000) and speedo (300 km), with the all-important oil pressure gauge just between. To their right there is a rectangular engine-turned panel bearing seven little telltale indicator lights (for switches) and water temp, oil temp, gas, and ammeter dials. Directly below these are a red light for the powerful parking brake, another smaller one t.o indicate when one of the thermostatically-controlled fans is on, the squirt button, and the two handwheels for the Lancia heater, which is being replaced with another sort, thank God. Below that row are seven long toggle switches, the end ones being fans for the fresh air vents in the fenders and Nos. 2 through 6 being wipers, panel lights, the second radiator fan (they j are located side by side), rear window defrosting, and fog lights.
Below that are the electric window controls, the ign. key, and the lighter, its accessory ashtray being on the gearbox tunnel between the seats. Over on the right of the dash are the fiddly glove box and panic rail, the whole business being thoughtfully padded in black leather. Rear seats there are none, although there is a flat place for baggage, the trunk is as good as most sports cars but nothing tremendous, and the finish even on this demonstrator was something you could be proud of.
Bob gave me heart failure for a while until I saw what he was about, hopping humpbacked bridges to show that it landed straight, clapping on the binders from full noise to burn in the new pads, and even braking furiously in Ginther's Corner near Nonantola to show how stable the car was even with everything locked up. I must say that I was impressed, as the i.r.s. removed all traces of hop or judder while refusing to do any of the horrid things that i.r.s. is supposed to do. Likewise, he went teeming around the bends at full chat without a wiggle, although admittedly his running commentary "about the time he went through a herd of bicycles at dusk and that the tires weren't all that special was rather off-putting. Eventually we got to the autostrada and, as he was more experienced with the car, he did the performance figures, muttering the while about what an old pig it was and that 500 rpm was missing someplace. I didn't mind, as the sight of Fiats approaching backward at an indicated 280 kph (174 mph) is absorbing enough.
At this speed there was a good deal of row from the wind, pattering front wheels and carburetor roar, but most of this smoothed out a few hundred rpm lower than the speed we were doing. Anyway, the Lamborghini seemed quite steady even with a fair crosswind; barring the everpresent Fiats, I .would~'t hesitate to do it myself.
After we had done enough standing-start kilometers, we set sail again for the factory where Pete was moping about missing his lunch. Bob turned the car over to us, I drove off with the handbrake on, Pete and I repaired to Cantoni's to see to our tums (in spite of a gentleman at the next table taking out his teeth and polishing them), and then we meandered out into the country for some pictures and whatnot.
Frankly, I had forgotten what fun it was to drive a quickish well-balanced car as, while my Lancia is steady and all that, it could scarcely be construed as a contender for the Land Speed Record. After an initial awkward period getting caught out on things like the centrifugal clutch, I found myself flitting along at a speed which felt comfortable to me but which caused poor Pete to mash his metatarsals on the floor carpet. This is a significant point, especially for me, as I am one of these people who take forever to settle into most cars and as for a few. . . never! I can only say that it was helped by the feeling of solidness on the road coupled with the reluctance of the rear end to slip at any speed.
It wasn't because the driving position was so outstandingly comfortable, as the pedals are offset to the left a bit far for my liking, but just that the car wasn't hairy and went where it was pointed. Many high-performance cars require aiming rather than steering, but the Lamborghini's, in spite of a strong self-centering action and not inconsiderable kickback from bumps at low speed, was extremely accurate. The geometry features an especially long steering arm and perhaps this has something to do with it.
Driving a car like the Lamborghini is very good for the ego. Although this particular gearbox was a bit heavy (the synchro pressure has been reduced from 20 lb to 5 on the later gearbox), the gears all came up neatly when needed and it was easy to trundle along at low rpm in third, say, behind some mimser and then motor flexibly past to the rising murmur of many little diggadiggadiggas. Such swank. At very low speeds in too high a gear there was a bit of surge and clatter as well as a comparatively bumpy ride, but then most of the time you will be going faster, won't you? This particular example also had a definite rumble from the limited slip, but as it is a production Salisbury unit with a certain amount of slop in the splines, little can be done except build your own (which is at present being designed). It was, in any case, not noticeable except on the overrun or under about 2500 rpm, a small price to pay when the purest joy can be gotten "from rasping crisply from corner to corner, skimming through flatly under the interested gaze of the local farmers, and then massaging up through the gears along one of those long, bumpy tree-lined straights, steady as a rock at 135 mph when most cars would be gambolling like a spring lamb.
My Lancia will never feel the same.
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List price.. . . . ...... . . . . . .$13,900
No. cylinders & type.. .V-12, do hc
Bore x stroke, in.. . . .. .3.03 x 2.44
Displacement, cc. . . , . . . . . . . .3464
Equivalent cu in. .......... .. . .211.4
Compression ratio.. . . . . . . . . .9.5:1
Bhp @ rpm.. . . . . . . . .336 @6500
Equivalent mph. . . . . . . . . . . .141
Torque @ rpm, Ib-ft. .254 @ 5700
Equivalent mph. . . . . . . . . . . .124
Carburetors, no. & ma ke. .6 Weber
No. barrels & dia.. . . .2V-38 mm
Type fuel required........... . . premium
Clutch type. . . . . . . single plate, dry
Diameter, in....................... .10.5
Gea r ratios: 5th (0.86). . . . . .2.85: 1
4th (1.00)............................. .3.31:1
3rd (1.24).......................... .4.10:1
2nd (1.71)........................... .5.66:1
1st (3.00)............................ 9.93:1
Synchromesh. . .. . . . . . . . . . on all 5
Differential type. . . . . . . . . . . hypoid
Ratio. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3.31:1
Optional ratio.................... .3.77:1
CHASSIS & SUSPENSION
Frame type: space type with round & square tubes.
Brake type. .. . . . . . . . . ., ., . . . disc
Tire size.. . ., . . . . . . . . . . . . .205-15
Make..................... .Pirelli Cinturato
Steering type.. . . . . . worm & roller
Turns, lock to lock................ .. .4.0
Front suspension: independent with unequal A-arms, coil springs, tube shocks, anti-roll bar.
Rear suspension: independent with s.La. (short and long arm) arrangement, coil springs, tube shocks, anti-roll bar.
Normal capacity, persons.................................... . . .2
Seat width, in.................. 2 x 23
Head room. . . . . . ..36 Seat back adjustment, deg. . . . .40
Entrance height, in................. . .57.2
Step-over height. . . . . . . .12.5 Door width. . .. . . . ..43
Curb weight, lb............... .(mfg) 2160
Test weight... . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2505
Weight distribution (with driver), front/rear, %....... .48/52
Wheelbase, in.......................... .96.5
Track, front/rear........ . . . .54.3 /54.3
Overall length, in.................... .177.0
Width . .. .. . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 68.1
Height......... . . . . . . .. . . . ... .48.0
Frontal area, sq ft. . . . . . . . . . .18.2
Ground clearance, in. .. ... . . . .5.1
Overhang, front /rear. . . . . . .34/49
Departure angle (no load), deg. .17
Usable trunk space, cu ft. . .. . .8.8
Fuel tank capacity, gal. . . . . . . . .21
INSTRUMENTATION: Instruments: tachometer, speedometer, water temperature, oil temperature, oil pre'ssure, am meter, fuel.
Warning lights: temperature, turn signal, high beam, radiator fans, fuel level, ignition.
MISCELLANEOUS: Body styles available: coupe as tested.
ROAD TEST RESULTS
0-30 mph, sec . . . . . . . . . . .2.5
0-40 mph........................ .3.7
0-50 mph.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5.1
0-60 mph.. . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .6.8
0-70 mph. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . .. .. 8.8
0-80 mph......................... ..11.2
0-100 mph........................ .17.0
50-70 mph (2nd gear)........................ .3.6
Standing 1/4 mi, sec... . . . . . . .14.9
Speed at end, mph. . . . . . . . . .93
High gear (7000), mph. . . . . . . .152
4th (6500) .. .. .. . .. .. .. .. . 122
3 rd (6500). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .97
2nd(6500).............................. .711st (6500).. .. . .. . . .. .. .. .. .40
30 mph indicated...... .actual 25
40 mph . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33
60 mph. . . . . . . . . ... . . . . . . . . . .50
80 mph . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .66
100 mph . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .83
Normal driving, mpg........................................ .13-17
Cruising range, mi............ .270-350