Cars

The Lamborghini That Started It All

To some, the Lamborghini Miura was a socially important car, since everyone from Frank Sinatra to Rod Stewart to Miles Davis owned one when it was new. To others, it was the first of the modern supercars, noted for kickstarting a whole generation of poster-worthy rides with engines in the back. Regardless of the rationale, you'd be hard pressed to find someone that doesn't hold the Miura in high esteem, and RM Auctions has not one, but two of them hitting the block at their upcoming Monaco auction.

The whole car was essentially a skunkworks operation, in that the engineers worked in their own time to develop a car that they felt could be revolutionary, despite Ferruccio Lamborghini's personal misgivings on the project.

Eventually, they convinced their boss to let them give it a proper go, so they took a powerful V-12 — never a bad start — then turned it sideways and somehow managed to shoehorn it into a tiny engine bay, along with the transmission and the rest of the drivetrain. They were so proud of it they showed the chassis off before the body was even designed.

When the exterior was finally finished, by a young man who would later design both the Countach and the very first BMW 5 Series, it was a low-slung masterpiece that was at the same time classy and sporty. It more or less redefined what really good car porn was.

The interior sits somewhere on the spectrum between stunning and gorgeous. The bucket seats and dash full of functional gauges are wrapped in more leather than a Russian nightclub owner, and there's an additional handle for your passenger, for when the G-forces get too high.

Of course the leather stopped when it got to the shifter. You simply don't get more iconic than a gated Italian shifter.

But for some, being the best street car wasn't enough. As a sort of test to see how the car would translate to the race track, they built a special version called the Jota. The body panels are made with an aluminum alloy, and the side windows are built from plastic, just to save weight.

In all it's 800 pounds lighter than its road-going sister, and save for a few exterior clues by way of different headlights, or that you can see the engine snarling behind the driver, it looks mostly like a normal Miura.

But it isn't. The interior has no carpet or leather, because luxury equals weight. The dashboard has more switches than a Brett Farve retirement party, and every ounce they didn't remove from the car screams to be driven at frighteningly high rates of speed.

Yet, despite that, and despite the fact that the engine is so gorgeous it conveniently and metaphorically sports a dozen erections, they only made one Jota. They tested it a bunch, then sold it to a private collector who qualified for biggest putz of the 1970s when he totaled it. This one's a perfect copy of the original, so if you're gonna buy it, please, don't wreck it.

There have been many cars — by Ferrari, Jaguar, even Lamborghini itself — that have tried to recapture the magic that the Miura brought to the table. Almost all of them have failed, because there can be only one first.


Aaron Miller is the Rides editor for Supercompressor. He had entirely too many posters of cars on his wall as a kid, and you can follow him on Twitter.