When Ferruccio Lamborghini introduced the angular looking 350 GTV on October 29th 1963 on the grounds of his brand new factory in Sant’Agata and subsequently at the Turin Motor Show, the car received a lot of attention, but it was also evident this was still a prototype, the car wasn’t ready to be sold to customers yet, the steering wheel was too close to the seats, there were no pedals installed yet and no exhaust system either … it would require several more weeks of development get the 350 GTV ready for production.
The original design of the Lamborghini 350 GTV was attributed to Franco Scaglione, the concept drawings submitted to Ferruccio were even more dramatic mind you, but in the end the latter decided the current looks of the 350 GTV weren’t what he was looking for so he wanted to change the overall styling completely and submitted some ideas to Bianchi Anderloni at the famous Carrozzeria Touring, who would ‘convert’ the 350 GTV prototype into a viable production model, which we all know as the 350 GT.
Everything on the exterior was changed, the very special rotating headlights were replaced with oval shaped fixed units from Cibie (some sources mention Bosch or Hella however), the angular styling at the front and rear of the GTV became rounder on the GT version (hence less expensive to manufacture) while the rather large rear window was retained.
By using very thin window surrounds on the windshield and rear window the outward visibility was very good on the Lamborghini 350 GT, keep in mind those curved windows on the 350 GTV would be very expensive to manufacture and not very easy to install, things that were taken into consideration to create a car that would be easier to build.
Do note that the very first 350 GT unit (chassis 0101) still had the distinctive, triple exhaust pipes as seen on the 350 GTV while the thin taillights of the latter didn’t make it into production, neither did that very nice looking Ferruccio Lamborghini signature, probably because it would be too expensive for mass production … if we can call the 120 units of the 350 GT that were built between 1964 and 1966 ‘mass’ production.
The chassis of the 350 GTV was modified for the production version by Neri & Bonacini, the wheelbase was increased by 100mm to 2550mm while overall length grew by 140mm to 4640mm to increase interior space for the two occupants … note that some early 350 GT came in a 2+1 configuration, a small seat was mounted in the rear instead of the usual shelve that could hold additional luggage, in the 2 seat configuration that rear shelve even offered a pair of straps to keep the luggage from moving around while driving, once production of the 350 GT was started the chassis would be made by Marchesi instead.
While the 350 GTV received a steel and aluminum body, the 350 GT would be built by Touring using their patented Superleggera method which involved mounting thin aluminum panels over a tubular frame to keep weight down … in the end the Lamborghini 350 GT put only 1050 kg on the scale, the wheels remained the well-known 72-spoke Borrani units in the same 15 inch size, but not all 350 GT would be aluminum bodied, towards the end of the production, when preparations were taken to build the 400 GT 2+2 the final 350 GT units were delivered with a steel bodywork already.
With the exterior sorted it was time to make sure the new V12 engine would allow trouble-free usage for at least 70,000 km (40,000 Miles) between maintenance intervals, the unit Bizzarrini created could deliver 360 hp at 8,000 rpm (some sources even state 400 hp at 11,000) thanks to using very expensive, race inspired, vertical 36mm Weber carburetors, a dry sump oil system and a high compression ratio of 11:1.
Chief Engineering Gian Paolo Dallara was taking care of modifying the V12 into a production unit, together with Bob Wallace they created an engine capable of delivering 280 hp at ‘only’ 6,500 rpm with a wet sump lubrication system and a 9.5:1 compression ratio, two electric Bendix fuel pumps supplied six dual 40DCOE 2 Weber carburetors of the necessary 100 Octane fuel, in this configuration the Lamborghini 350 GT could reach a top speed of 250 Km/h and accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds … some very impressive figures back in the early Sixties.
All these changes created the 350 GT (the ‘V’ for Veloce was dropped), the complete body design was smoothed but the overall looks were still different from any other car on the market at that time, and the 350 GT looked really ice. Between the unveil of the 350 GTV at the 1963 Turin Motor Show and the introduction of the 350 GT at the 1964 Geneva Auto Show only five months passed … and it quickly became evident the changes made going from prototype to production went down well … orders were being signed and production could begin on actual customer cars.
The Lamborghini 350 GTV was built on chassis number 0100, the 350 GT that was shown at the March 1964 Geneva Auto show was number #101 with Touring body (#17001), the first customer car would become chassis #104 with body #17004, delivered on the 31st of July 1964 … Automobili Lamborghini SpA was now officially a car building factory, note that the Geneva Show car #0101 was the only one with the triple exhaust pipes like seen on the GTV and came with a one a kind rear badge : 350 GT 2+1 for having the third seat at the rear … after that no other 350 GT would be delivered with this badge.
Unfortunately the original show car was later lost in an accident during a test drive … she was never rebuilt which made chassis number #102 the oldest Lamborghini, do note however that #102 and #104 were actually delivered before #102, all being factory development cars … chassis #106 was the very first Lamborghini 350 GT that was built to order with specific customer requested options, up to chassis #105 were factory prototypes and development cars that were repainted a few times and subsequently sold to customers too, #102 was located in the United States at the time of writing.
Once the car was released for road testing, people admired her even more, this was a smooth-running, sophisticated high-performer that was generally faster and technically ahead of everything Ferrari or any other make of high end cars had been offering … and this was only the beginning for Lamborghini, some truly amazing masterpieces would be leaving the factory doors in Sant’Agata in the near future.
The early production Lamborghini 350 GT would use a single front bumper running from left to right over a grille with vertical fins, however many owners would replace this setup with the split two-piece bumper and different grille due to cooling issues. The Raging Bull crest at the front was another really interesting story … some early 350 GT show a two-tone background using white and red in a diagonal design (#106 for instance), I have however also seen a two-tone logo with a similar design using dark blue instead of the red section, as seen on chassis #102 and #107).
Ferruccio Lamborghini had the initial series of Raging Bull crests produced by a contractor, he received a few different designs, like the white and red background, the white and dark blue background and naturally the well-known, completely black background which he later decided would become the one to be fitted to his cars from that moment on. That is why some cars now feature one of those diagonal badges, normally those were fitted to the very first cars that were delivered, and according to several sources all these owners were later given the official black Raging Bull logo to fit on their cars … some owners did keep the very special and extremely rare, original two-tone badge.
In the first official year of production, 1964 a total of 13 Lamborghini 350 GT were delivered to customers, the very first car was finished in silver metallic while later 350 GT featured a larger front air intake with two horizontal divisions and the bumper was split in two sections leaving the center open to allow for much better cooling, depending on where the 350 GT was sold some bumpers came with overrides for better protection. There were also two round vents added in front of the windshield (at first only one vent was cut into the bodywork) and at the rear a backup light was mounted underneath the license plate holder.
During the production of the Lamborghini 350 GT you could ask for a dual windshield wiper configuration instead of the single one originally used, some sources state the two wipers were on cars for the USA only while others seem to think only the 400 GT 2+2 had the double wipes … turns out it was a ‘no cost’ option.
On the inside there was a polished aluminum panel on the central console housing four dials, on later 350 GT models this panel was also finished in leather like the rest of the dashboard while some cars even came with a wood like vinyl plaque behind these dials … I have even heard about a car that had that plate simply painted in a black paint … as these cars are several decades old by now it is sometimes hard to determine what was original and what has been done during a restoration.
In early 1966 Lamborghini could install an enlarged 4.0-Liter engine onto the original 350 GT chassis, resulting in a Lamborghini 400 GT, not to be confused with the 1966 Lamborghini 400 GT 2+2 which offered two more seats, in fact the 400 GT looked just about identical to the 350 GT but had a more powerful engine (320 hp vs 280 hp), the factory even contacted owners of a 350 GT in 1966 to have the engine upgraded to the new 4-Liter unit … so you can encounter an original 350 GT with a 4-Liter engine and a 400 GT … that’s the Italian automotive world for you.
Today a Lamborghini 350 GT are rather hard to find with only 120 ever built, restoring an original, early aluminum bodied car like this and keep it running afterward could become very expensive, but these are the very first production cars to ever leave the factory gates in Sant’Agata, the 350 GT is a very important piece of automotive history, do keep in mind the very last 350 GT bodies delivered by Touring were steel instead of aluminum, for instance chassis #384 was a 350 GT with a steel body and the very first car to have the Lamborghini built gearbox with a Salisbury differential.
Note that the value of these early Lamborghinis has changed significantly over the last years, back in 1979 for instance a 350 GT could be bought for as little as $10,000 … in 1989, at the peak of the collecting frenzy that same 350 GT would require $185,000 but by 1999 the price dropped back to a mere $66,000 only to rise up to $220,000 by 2009 … six years later in 2015 a pristine, fully restored Lamborghini 350 GT would set you back between $750,000 and $900,000.