hen you hear the name Lamborghini, the image of a sleek Italian supercar immediately comes to mind. Both Lamborghini and Ferrari have defined the image of the Italian supercar throughout the 20th and the 21st century going back as far as even before the Second World War. Although iconic, many don’t know that the rivalry between the two titans of Italian supercars came about due to a feud between their two founders.
This feud would lead the Lamborghini company to switch from building tractors, something they became renowned for in post-war Italy, to building supercars instead in 1963.
A farm boy
Ferruccio Lamborghini was born on 28 April 1916 in the small town of Renazzo di Cento in the north of Italy. Ferruccio was born to a family of grape farmers, leading to him growing up closely with much farm equipment. Of all of the farm equipment he would use as he grew up, Ferruccio became fascinated with tractors, something which led to him creating Lamborghini Trattori in 1948.
Italy experienced an economic boom after the Second World War. The economy was stimulated by the need to rebuild the war-ravaged country. As the whole country was focused on war production for most of the 1930s and 1940s, there was a distinct lack of farming equipment across most of Italy. Ferruccio took advantage of this growing demand with the creation of his tractor-making company in 1948, where they would use spare parts created during the war to create their first tractors to fill the ever-growing demand for farm equipment.
This company would make the once poor farmhand richer than he could have ever expected, allowing him to diversify his business ventures, such as through the creation of Lamborghini Bruciatori, an oil burner factory he created in 1959 which would go on to create air conditioning units. These riches also allowed him to buy perhaps one of the biggest statement pieces an Italian businessman could buy at the time, a Ferrari.
Enzo Ferrari’s mistake
Ferruccio would go on to buy a Ferrari as his wealth grew, but he found one big problem with the supercars, they had a very bad clutch. Ferruccio went out of his way to report this fault going as far as talking to the founder of the company, Enzo Ferrari. The tractor tycoon argued that his tractor clutches were much better than the ones in Enzo’s cars, a claim that Enzo swept aside, thinking that the ‘peasant’ had no know-how on how supercars work.
Angered by Enzo’s ignorance, Ferruccio decided that if you wanted something done, you should do it yourself. He modified his Ferrari 250 G, changing out the clutch, which fixed most of the car’s faults. During this process, he realized that he could easily compete with Ferrari by using his tractor components in a supercar format leading to him potentially making triple the profits Ferrari was making.
Out of this feud came the renaissance of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. in 1963, a firm created to directly compete against Ferrari’s monopoly on Italian supercars. Lamborghini became famous for inventing the architecture of supercars by using a rear mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout first seen in their Lamborghini Miura released in 1966. Ever since, both firms have been fighting for dominance over the Italian supercar market.
An argument gone wrong
This moment in history is a shining example of a “what if” scenario. Would Ferrari meet no resistance if it wasn’t for Enzo’s incompetence and overconfidence in that one discussion in the 50s? Would other firms, such as Lancia, be more successful if it wasn’t for Lamborghini’s entry into the car industry?
It is impossible to predict what would’ve happened if Lamborghini remained solely in the tractor business, as with every other significant event in history. We can only speculate about the potential outcomes of such events, but we can say for certain that Ferrari would have been much more successful without the competition.