“La Bella Machina” – Lamborghini’s 1964 debutant, the 350 GT

While watching Wednesday nights episode of  “The Car Show ” on the Speed Channel, as host Adam Carolla set the backstory for this weeks show ( a road trip to Laguna Seca to race his vintage BRE Datsun, but dependent upon its restoration  being completed prior to race day), he offered viewers a behind the scenes glimpse into his own garage, and some of the cars that make up his collection.

A considerable portion of his collection has been devoted to early Datsuns (prior to the makes  re- branding to Nissan), in the form of 510’s, and 610’s as well as a few select 240Z’s (in IMSA trim) and several more recent iterations. His builders of choice for vintage Datsuns are two of the best; Pete Brock of  BRE Datsun fame, and Bob Sharp of Bob Sharp Racing ( the builder and race car provider to  Paul Newman ,and the cars he drove to many a victory and sports car championships.  Back in the day, these two were the benchmark their competition measured themselves against.

It was during his garage tour that Adam Carolla’s focus shifted over to a make of car that I never knew he had any interest in. So imagine my surprise when he began to talk about Lamborghini’s. The camera panned across  what appeared to be a mid 1965-66’s Muira, but the car that he stopped at and appeared most passionate about was his 1964 Lamborghini 350GT.  He told the story of how the 350 GT was the very first production model for Lamborghini ( only 120 , 350 GT’s were built from 1964 to 1967), and this all came about became of an argument that Mr. Lamborghini had with Enzo Ferrari regarding Ferrari’s cars.  As legend has it, Mr. Lamborghini  was so enraged by Ferrari’s comments, that he vowed to beat Ferrari at his own game. Lamborghini was a manufacturer of tractors at the time, and so decided to shift his focus to the production of an rival  Italian automobile. Thus the inspiration behind his very first production model, the 1964 350 GT.

Adam Carolla went on to describe his attraction to this particular model, and pointed out the many unique design and styling cues found on the car, as well as many of the finish details that looking back were quite rare and unique for 1964. His car was a beautiful example of this particular model, and even more amazing given it’s rarity. But for me what was even more incredible about that moment was that back in June of this year, I had the pleasure of encountering my very first Lamborghini 350 Gt in person, one early Saturday morning at Cars & Coffee, in Irvine, California.

Tucked away on the very last row of the main parking lot, and settled in amongst corvettes, Porsches, and Austin Healeys sat this hidden jewel. As I approached, all I knew was that it appeared to be european and was incredibly cool. Close up, I quickly realized that it was in fact Italian, and after a quick review of several of the badges, I became clear that this was in fact a Lamborghini, complete with Superleggeria badging.

Lamborghini 350 GT badging

And out back , located near the right taillight was the 350 GT emblem.  I knew this was a classic, possibly late 50’s, early 60’s but still had no idea as to the actual year. As I began shooting pictures of this stunning car, I overheard several people asking questions of an older gentleman standing by the drivers side of the car. The older gentleman turned out to be the owner, who proceeded to share the story of how he came to own this particular car.

Apparently, the present owner had rescued it from a French body shop, where it had been hidden away,  in hibernation for the past 20+ years. Once the 350 GT was stateside, a sympathetic, yet thorough restoration began. Parts were disassembled, cleaned and reassembled. In regards to the motor, the owner said they did a compression check, and proved to be well within specifications.  Because the motor was original, and of low mileage, his experts felt a rebuild would be unnecessary So instead, they simply cleaned and detailed the motor and decided to replace any of the gaskets or parts necessary to get the car up and running.  The remainder of the car was just as stunning as the motor had been; the body and paint were just as flawless as was its beautiful  leather interior. The intoxicating combination of its medium gray metallic exterior, combined with the terracotta leather put all of the other cars parked in proximity to shame. And then there was the chrome; from window trim to  bumpers  to the Borrani wheels, it was all magic.

And the last part of his story was just as compelling as was the start. He revealed that his participation in that weeks Cars & Coffee event was in fact the 350 GT’s debut. This had been its first shake down run, and the owner laughed that with less than 100 miles run so far, all systems were functioning and that nothing had fallen off yet, so all was good. With that closing comment, the owner got behind the wheel, fired up the melodious 12 cylinder motor, and drove off to enjoy the rest of his Saturday.

For me, I left that morning with a new found appreciation for  the 1964 Lamborghini 350GT, “La Bella Machina”, and have now added it to my wish list of cars.

The following are a few of the photos taken of the 350 GT from its debut at  Cars & Coffee back in June.

1964 Lamborghini 350 GT

1964 lamborghini 350 GTLamborghini 350 GTLamborghini 350 GTLamborghini 350 GTLamborghini 350 GTLamborghini 350 GTLamborghini 350 GTLamborghini 350 GTLamborghini 350 GT(All photos by the author)

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