History of the Lamborghini V12 Engine

The History of the Lamborghini V12 Engine


It started in 1963 when Ferruccio Lamborghini started a company to build the perfect sports car. He founded it in Sant'Agata Bolognese, a small town located in northern Italy, and the company took his now famous last name. The company's logo prominently featured a bull, a reference to Ferruccio Lamborghini's zodiac sign, Taurus the bull.

From the beginning Lamborghini had one demand in the design of his first cars: they had to have the highest performance V12 engine possible. He felt that anything less would yield a sub-standard sports car. Thus, the Lamborghini V12 tradition was created and has been part of the Lamborghini legacy ever since.

What was Lamborghini's first car?

His first car was the Lamborghini 350 GT. It was a two-seater coupe and it did have a 3.5 litre V12 engine, which was developed in house. This first generation V12 was built with a 60° cylinder angle, double overhead camshafts, and offered 320 hp. It was mounted upfront in the chassis and powered the rear axles, as was the performance car layout common at the time. This pioneering V12 was the foundation for all subsequent Lamborghini V12 engine designs until 2012 when the Aventador was released.

What came after the first 3.5 litre V12?

For the 400 GT (1966), Lamborghini increased the bore and stroke to 4.0 litres, which offered 380 hp. This engine was eventually used in Espada (1968), the Islero (1968), and the Jarama (1970). But what really stopped the presses was in 1966 when the Lamborghini Miura was released. The Miura design was the first time in history that a V12 engine was transversely-mounted in a car. According to legend: one of the company's engineers was having such a difficult time fitting the V12 in a prototype longitudinally that he went out to the parking lot, looked under the hood of his Mini (which has a transversely-mounted engine) and said, "Why not?"

When the design was completed, the new Miura coupe broke all rules. When launched, it became the fastest production car made with 370 hp and a top speed of 175 mph. The Miura was a big hit for Lamborghini and helped position the young company as a Ferrari-fighter. It also allowed Lamborghini to establish a good foothold in the United States, a country that remains its largest market today.

What came after the Miura?

The Miura continued until 1972 when it was replaced by the Countach. Designed by Bertone's design ace, Marcello Gandini, the Countach ushered in the popular scissor doors and the sharp, angular design that has defined every Lamborghini model since. It shared virtually no styling cues with the Miura but it continued to use the potent V12, 4.0 litre engine.

What came after the Lamborghini Countach?

The Countach was finally replaced by the Diablo, which earned the distinction of being the world's fastest production car in 1990. The Diablo could hit 202 miles per hour, thanks to its 5.7 liter V12 engine; the largest ever fitted to a production Lamborghini at the time.

As the new century arose, the infamous Lamborghini V12 was still the engine of choice as the Diablo was handed over to the Murciélago. With an initial 6.2 litre capacity and 580 hp, the Murciélago was capable of 205 mph. More than 4,000 units of this super car were built over the course of its nine-year long production run.

Does the Aventador have a V12 engine?

Introduced in 2012, the Aventador was powered by a V12 too but it was a new design. Previous to the Aventador, all Lamborghini V12 designs were based on the original 1963 design, just with more displacement. The all-new 6.5-liter version upped the stakes and pumped out 690 horsepower and 507 lb-ft of torque to all-four wheels through a semi-automatic transmission. 

In 2015, the new Aventador SV improved on pretty much every aspect of the previous Aventador with revised suspension, brakes, transmission, aesthetics, and power. The SV upped the 6.5-liter V-12 power to a wild 740 hp.

As of this writing, the Aventador is still in production as it enters the 2021 model year. Lamborghini admits it will adopt new technologies in the coming years (including perhaps a hybrid drivetrain) in order to comply with new emissions regulations, but it firmly believes the V12 engine is here to stay in it's super car lineup.

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