In the UN of supercar makers, Lamborghini isn't just a member. It's got a permanent seat on the Security Council. Over the past 50 years, Lamborghini has firmly established itself as one of the most desirable and respected brands in the automotive industry. Like its archrival, Ferrari, the supercar specialists from Sant'Agata emerged from unlikely beginnings and have survived through great financial upheaval.
In the process, Lamborghini has given the world some of the most insane and iconic cars in recent memory.
Here's how Lamborghini became
For most people, this is the vision that comes to mind when you mention the name "Lamborghini." But that wasn't always the case.
After World War II, Ferruccio Lamborghini found great success making farm equipment for rebuilding Europe. As a result, the wealthy entrepreneur acquired a fleet of the finest sports cars the continent had to offer.
So how did Lamborghini go from tractor-maker to supercar legend? It depends on who you ask.
One version of the story says Ferruccio Lamborghini decided to build his own cars after being told off by Enzo Ferrari for complaining about repeated repairs to a Ferrari sports car.
Another version of the story says that Lamborghini realized that the sports-car business could return solid profits. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
A long-time fan of bull fighting and born under the sign of the Taurus himself, Lamborghini used the symbol of a raging bull as the company's logo. The company would go on to name all of their cars after fighting bulls or aspects from the bullfighting world.
Lamborghini's sports-car venture debuted in 1963 with the stylish 350GT and later ...
... a handful of 350 GTS convertibles.
Ferruccio Lamborghini certainly had an eye for talent.
To create the 350's stunning bodywork, Lamborghini hired the designers at Milan-based Carrozzeria Touring. Touring had a track record for turning out crowd favorites.
Not only did Touring design Aston Martin's iconic DB5 (seen here in James Bond trim) ...
... the firm also designed many of the bodies for Ferrari's first commercial hit, the 166.
Lamborghini needed to design and build an engine from scratch to power his sports car. To create the engine, Lamborghini tapped the services of former Ferrari development chief Giotto Bizzarrini.
While at Ferrari, Bizzarrini oversaw the development of such legendary cars as the 250 GTO.
The Bizzarrini-designed 3.5-liter, V12 engine turned out to be immensely powerful and offered engineers a great platform to improve and build upon.
Through the decades, the Bizzarrini engine got bigger, more powerful, more refined and more technology advanced.
In fact, Lamborghini employed versions of the Bizzarrini engine all the way through the Murciélago, which ceased production in 2010.
As a follow up to the stylish, but very conventional, GT cars, Lamborghini went bold with the Miura.
Often seen as the first true supercar, the Miura is named after the long line of fighting bulls bred by the Miura Cattle Ranch in Seville, Spain.
The Miura debuted at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show, and its futuristic lines stunned the show floor. The car featured a level of styling the public had never seen before.
This raging bull's exotic shape was penned by Marcello Gandini of the Bertone design firm. This would be the first of several iconic cars Gandini would go on to design for Lamborghini.
Like the company's GT cars, the Miura was powered by the Bizzarrini V12 engine. This time, it was mounted in the middle of the car, behind the driver, as opposed to the more conventional front-engine layout.
Even with the popularity of the Miura, Lamborghini couldn't find the financial resources to sustain control of the car company bearing his name. In 1972, Lamborghini was forced to the sell the automaker to a Swiss group.
After Ferruccio left the company, Lamborghini changed hands several times and even ended up in receivership for several years before being purchased by Chrysler in 1987.
During that period, the company released several well-received models, such as the Espada ...
... the Jarama ...
.... and the four-seat, mid-engined Urraco.
In 1974, Lamborghini struck pay dirt with the Countach, whose up-swinging doors would become synonymous with the brand. The name comes from an Italian saying, which roughly translated is "Holy cow!" Indeed!
To create the Countach, Lamborghini went back to the formula that made the Miura a critical and sales success.
The engine is a larger and more powerful version of the V12 Bizzarrini design from years ago and ...
... the body was once again designed by Gandini.
For the next decade and a half, the Countach would allow Lamborghini to compete head-to-head with Ferrari at high-end showrooms around the world. But when it came to the fight for teenage-bedroom-wall poster space, the Countach won by a country mile.
In fact, the Countach would eventually become Lamborghini's most hyped and instantly recognizable model, even 40 years after its debut.
By the late 1980s, the Countach was beginning to show its age and ...
... with the introduction of the 201 mph Ferrari F40, along with ...
... Porsche's groundbreaking 959 supercar. It became clear to Lamborghini that the brand was in need of a new flagship model.
The result was the 202 mph Lamborghini Diablo. It's named after a bull that battled a matador in marathon fight that lasted several hours in 1869.
Coming off the success of the Miura and Countach, Lamborghini returned to its tried-and-true formula.
Once again, the Lamborghini turned to an upgraded version of Bizzarrini's V12 engine for propulsion and ...
... Marcello Gandini to design the supercar's sleek body.
Interestingly, Chrysler wasn't sold on Gandini's initial proposal and told its own designer, Tom Gale, to touch up the design. After the Diablo, Gale would go on to design the seminal 1990s American supercar, the Dodge Viper.
For Ferruccio Lamborghini, the Diablo would be the last model he would experience before his death in 1993 at the age of 76.
Although Lamborghini experienced a brief period of financial resurgence under Chrysler ownership, it didn't last. In 1993, Chrysler sold the company to a group of Indonesian investors.
In 1998, the Asian financial crisis forced the company's Indonesian owners to put Lamborghini back on the market. Volkswagen Group's Audi brand leapt at the opportunity to buy the company.
But before the German luxury automaker could buy Lambo, Audi CEO's sought permission from VW Group boss Ferdinand Piech. Piech, a descendant of Porsche founder Ferdinand Porsche, reportedly said he couldn't openly support the move because it would upset his family.
In late 1998, Audi purchased Lamborghini for $111 million. In 2001, Audi-owned Lamborghini released the Murciélago, successor to the Diablo.
The Murciélago is named after a fighting bull that was stabbed by a matador 24 times and survived. Obviously, it was a message to the company's rivals in Maranello.
For the Murcielago, Lambo designed the body in-house, under the supervision of Luc Donckerwolke. But the Bizzarrini V12 is back for one more tour of duty.
In its most powerful production form, the Bizzarrini V12 in the Murcielago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce produced more than 660 horsepower.
In 2004, Lamborghini added the entry-level Gallardo to the lineup. The car would become the bestselling model in company history.
The Gallardo, named after a historic breed of bulls, is powered by a V10 engine instead of a V12.
In 2005, Stephan Winkelmann took over the top job at Lambo as the company's president and CEO. In 2011, Lamborghini's introduced its first all-new car under Winkelmann's management — the Aventador.
The 12-cylinder Aventador is the first Lamborghini flagship to not carry the Bizzarrini V12.
The 217 mph Aventador is named after a bull that was involved in a brutal battle with a matador in 1993.
In 2014, Lamborghini released the new Huracan — the company's follow-up to the highly successful Gallardo. The striking Huracan is named after a bull that fought in 1879.
Like the Gallardo, the Huracan is also powered by a V10.
In 2016, Winkelmann left Lamborghini. In his place, the company brought in former Ferrari Formula One boss Stefano Domenicali to be its new CEO.
So what's next for Lamborghini? In addition to building bonkers supercars and concepts such as the Centenario and ...
... The Terzo Millennio ...
... Lamborghini unveiled a new SUV in December called the "Urus." According to Lambo, the 190 mph Urus is the fastest SUV in the world.
The Urus is Lamborghini's first off-roader since the over-the-top LM002 from the 1980s. The Bizzarrini V12-powered brute was originally designed to be Lamborghini's entry into a military contest to build the successor to the Jeep. The Humvee won that competition.
Lamborghini will begin deliveries of the Urus, named after a brutish ancestor to the modern bull, in the Spring of 2018.
Today, Lamborghini is a very different beast, compared to the upstart carmaker it was five decades ago.
In fact, Lamborghini now has the heritage and pedigree that it lacked before in the eyes of collectors. Here, a trio of Lambos sit in Jay Leno's famed garage.
Now financially stable, Lamborghini is free to unleash its mad yet supercool supercar genius upon the automotive world.