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History of Lamborghini: 1972-1980


The company continued to work at its regular pace. In 1972, the P250 Urraco, the 400 GT Jarama, the 400 GT Espada and the P400 Miura SV were in full production. That year, in an attempt to improve sales that were frankly quite disappointing until then, the Jarama hand a 365-hp engine and was dubbed the Jarama S.

In 1972, the Urraco, which had experienced several initial slowdowns, was finally put into production. Almost inevitably, the S version also arrived in October of that year. In this case, the goal was not to enhance the car's performance but to improve its overall quality, which had been neglected in the haste to start production.

The following year, while waiting for the Countach prototype to be developed to a stage that would enable its production, the Espada was further modified and perfected, and the new series was presented in October 1972. New wheels as well as perfected detailing of the entire body, the dashboard, the central instrument panel and various components characterised this well-made Series III. This last series essentially represented the decisive peak in the evolution of this outstanding four-seater, which is still in great demand among Lamborghini fans around the world. Its production would reach the respectable figure of 1226 units, quite a large number for a carmaker of this size selling at top-level list prices.

The production model of the Countach was codenamed LP 400 because its V12 - positioned longitudinally behind the cockpit - was increased to an ideal displacement of 4 litres (3929 cc). This model debuted at the 1973 Geneva Motor Show.

Standard production of the Countach began at the end of 1973 with the bright-green model exhibited at the Paris Motor Show, which is now part of the permanent collection of the Lamborghini Museum. This was the first Countach featuring the large single front windscreen wiper. The model range for 1974 thus included the Countach, the Espada Series III, the Jarama S and the Urraco S.

In the meantime, the world was changing. The oil crisis sparked by the 1973 Arab-Israeli War created a climate of fear about petrol supplies. As a result, the big, fuel-guzzling super sports cars rapidly became passé. They were considered the expression of unjustifiable luxury, whose exploitation of too much of our planet's natural resources was no longer acceptable. These were extremist stances that were destined to pass, but at the time they created enormous difficulties for all the makers of this type of car. Given its market position at the top end of the super car segment, Lamborghini was dealt a particularly harsh blow and the company did its best to react. In an attempt to overcome these problems, two new Urraco models were presented. In effect, they were spin-offs of the P250 range: a two-litre model (P200), again with a single camshaft but this time with a lower engine displacement in deference to tax restrictions, and a more powerful and mature 3-litre model (P300), with double overhead camshaft timing system and the power raised to 250 hp.

The gradually deteriorating social situation and the drop in sales made it necessary to streamline the production range.

The Jarama essentially went out of production, and at the 1974 Motor Show in Turin Bertone proposed an intriguing study based on the mechanics of the P300. The Bravo was a wedge-shaped coup with an unusual treatment of the front and rear hood, and the front and side windows were jointed without any visible posts. Lamborghini decided to work alongside Bertone to develop a Urraco model with a removable roof panel. Presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 1976, the Silhouette was an aggressive model with an unmistakable appearance. The Silhouette had the 3-litre 260 hp V8 engine of the Urraco P300, mid-mounted transversally behind the cockpit, and the body and chassis were made completely of steel.

The commercial and production difficulties were complicating the life of the company, leading the head of Lamborghini to seek outside collaboration in order to make better use of the equipment that, due to dropping sales, largely remained idle. The most significant cooperative effort came in 1976 with BMW Motorsport, which was headed by Jochen Neerpasch at the time. The contract envisaged the design and subsequent production of a super sports car with the engine mounted behind the cockpit, based on concepts for which Lamborghini had more experience and a better image than anyone in the world.

Unfortunately, another event intervened, further complicating things. Following contacts made with military suppliers of off-road vehicles, and particularly with 'MTI' (Mobility Technologies International), the company owners decided to design and construct a vehicle that was completely different from the ones that had been designed at Sant'Agata until then: a full-fledged high-performance off-road vehicle offering maximum mobility on the roughest terrain, the Cheetah. Various technical and legal problems ultimately made it impossible to produce the Cheetah, as it required too much of an investment for the small Italian company. The project never got off the ground and, at the same time, the collaboration with BMW evaporated.

Production of the Espada ended in 1978, followed by the Urraco and, lastly, also the Silhouette in 1979. Thus, only the S version of the Countach - the one invented by Wolf - was still in production. There was nothing left to be done except to continue with this extraordinary model, which allowed the company to survive despite the fact that business was shrinking. In fact, between 1978 and 1982, a total of 237 units were delivered. For the purposes of comparison, 158 'normal' Countach LP400s were produced between 1973 and 1977.

Bertone still believed in the company, and in 1980 he presented an intriguing study for a completely open car based on the P300: the Athon. The name was intended as a 'hymn to the sun', as the car was completely open and had no roof whatsoever, but there was no follow-up to it. The company slid toward bankruptcy and then liquidation. By 1980, Lamborghini was considered finished.