1972 Lamborghini Urraco P250 The very first of Sant’Agata’s junior supercars
As Lamborghini launches the latest Huracan, Massimo Delbo goes back in time to Sant’Agata’s original baby supercar: the very first Urraco. Photography Max Serra/Lamborghini.
LITTLE WHITE BULL
The very first of Sant’Agata’s junior supercars
When Ferruccio Lamborghini established Automobili Lamborghini in the autumn of 1962, he knew exactly what he wanted. The new factory was to be built in record time (it opened in 1963!), and his sports cars should be the most dreamed about in the world. In setting himself this challenge, the already successful entrepreneur spared no expense: he hired the best men, personally hand-picked from among the most promising young talents. His engineers Giampaolo Dallara, Paolo Stanzani (fresh from university) and Giotto Bizzarrini (yes, the Giotto Bizzarrini, as a consultant), plus test driver Bob Wallace, were the young heart of the new factory and all shared their boss’s vision. So when Lamborghini unveiled the Miura in 1966, the car world immediately understood that he had hit his second target and, from that moment on, his cars would be revered the world over.
A wise entrepreneur, however, knows that he can’t rest on his laurels. Even when the factory was flooded with Miura orders, Ferruccio knew that a single 12-cylinder model wouldn’t sustain the company long-term, and assigned his technical team the task of developing a smaller sibling. The one-off Marzal of 1967, designed for Carrozzeria Bertone by the same young and talented Marcello Gandini who’d fathered the Miura, was the first step, equipped as it was with a 2.0-litre straight-six — in effect half of that fabled V12. 'We all knew,’ Dallara reminds us, 'that besides the enormous commercial success of the Miura, we would need something simpler to grow the production numbers. This is the reason why we were allowed to “chop” the Miura engine for the Marzal: it was a crude and cheap way to test if half a VI2 would have been enough. If it worked, it would have been easy to develop and to manufacture because of the number of shared parts. Only it didn’t. It was too small.’ When the Marzal was ready, Bob Wallace spent time driving it but his reports were adamant: there were teething troubles that could have been fixed with a (costly) development programme, but from the start the engine lacked the power expected of a Lamborghini. And so in 1969 Paolo Stanzani, then the company’s production manager, moved forward with the study for a new model with a new V8 engine that would develop into the Urraco.
‘The Urraco was by far the most innovative car I ever worked on,’ the late Stanzani once told me — an impressive statement considering his involvement in the Miura, Espada and Countach. ‘Everything was new and, once the company approved the concept of a 2+2 berlinetta with a transverse mid-mounted V8 engine, I was left with a sheet of paper and the task of creating it. And Marcello Gandini was asked to shape it. I have to say that I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in a project like this, because as well as being a wonderful human being, and an immensely talented designer, Gandini had mechanical competence. He understood the technical needs of a car like this, such as the issues linked with cooling/
‘THE URRACO WAS RRAND NEW IN EVERY SINGLE RESPECT, SO IT REQUIRED MASSIVE INVESTMENT’
His first styling proposal took a lot of inspiration from Bertone’s 1968 Alfa Romeo Carabo show car, while a second suggestion resembled what, in subsequent years, would become the Ferrari 308 GT4. His third concept was approved by Lamborghini and barely modified before production.
Meanwhile Stanzani was hard at work creating a brand new 90° V8, an over-square unit of 2.5 litres. To keep the engine as light as possible, everything was made of aluminium alloy, the block consisting of two castings held together by 20 studs. From the very first prototypes, the flat, interchangeable Heron-type cylinder heads featured recesses only for inlet and exhaust valves and the spark plugs. Timing for the single overhead camshaft on each cylinder bank was by toothed belts, a system intended for ease of maintenance but which proved to be a weak point and was replaced by a timing chain in the subsequent 3.0-litre version. That came with twin overhead camshafts for each bank too.
For the suspension, Stanzani adopted MacPherson struts on all four wheels: not easy to get right, but good for space in the cockpit. To solve USA crash test issues, he mounted the steerings rack and pinion immediately ahead of the toeboard, with a collapsible column. The modern interior was characterised by unusual positioning of the instruments: in the 1970 Turin show car, they were gathered at the centre of the dashboard, while in the first production series, offered only in 1972, they surrounded the steering wheel, with a huge revcounter on the left and matching speedo on the right.
‘TURN THE KEY AND THE V8 SURROUNDS YOU WITH A WONDERFUL SOUNDTRACK'
There was no Urraco badge to begin with; simply the P250 label, with P standing for posteriore (rear, for the engine position), a name that lasted until just after the first press releases had been sent. Then Ferruccio himself picked the name ‘Urraco’, a small but fierce breed of bull. From 1970 to 1972, during which time only 36 cars were built, the Urraco remained a developing project, plagued by the beginnings of the oil crisis, political tensions in Italy and Europe, and the cancellation of a massive order for Lamborghini tractors — agricultural machinery was, after all, the foundation of Ferruccio’s empire — and this put the company’s finances under heavy strain.
In the meantime, Stanzani had to arrange production tooling: the Urraco was brand new in every single respect, so it required massive investment. After four or five handbuilt prototypes — including the styling proposal by Bertone, the 1970 Turin show car, and a yellow car famous for being the test mule mostly driven by Bob Wallace, all without a chassis number — the first production Urraco was finally built in the autumn of 1972. It’s the white car you can see in these pictures, owned today by a collector in the Milan area of Italy.
THE KEY AND THE V8 SURROUNDS YOU WITH A WONDERFUL SOUNDTRACK'
Chassis 15000.1060*1 was the first of the 50 cars that are today recognised as a sort of pre-production run, easy to spot thanks to the Lamborghini badge applied on the rear hood too. This one, being the first, sports further differences from the following cars. One of the most obvious, evident when opening the rear luggage compartment, is the unique shape of the inner wheelarches, square in this case, rather than rounded as they were on following cars. There are also three air extraction grilles at the rear of the roof, a solution sported by the Espada and shared with only two other Urracos (15006.1060*4 and 15008.1060*5). Unfortunately, car no.5, a test and press car for Lamborghini, was crushed when its test duties were over. Further differences are the positioning of the engine cover’s support struts (here on the left side), front bumpers in five pieces instead of three, and the open-gate gearshift without a lock-out to prevent shifting into reverse while on the move.
This car’s declaration of conformity was released on 29 September 1972. It was then employed as a model for photographs, taken by Peter Coltrin in front of the Lamborghini factory and today part of the Klemantaski Archive. 'We are sure that the car in the pictures is no.l because of its visible trademark differences,’ says its current custodian. ‘We know, too, from the factory specification of the car, that the original interior was red. The big question is when and why the car was equipped with its current trim, which is like that of an S version, launched shortly after.
‘What we believe, because of the Bertone advertising pictures used in the 1987 Serge Bellu Lamborghini book, is that after the Sant’Agata shoot, the car went back to Bertone and was used to test the new trim planned for the S. In the advertising pictures, it is easy to spot the different pattern of the fabric, which matches the current interior. It has most likely remained in the car ever since.’
The car was used for further tests before being made ready for delivery on 20 October, the seventh Urraco officially to leave the factory. It was shipped to the Rome dealer SEA on 7 December and first registered in the name of Ms Mirella Romiti, most likely a close relative of the actual owner who would have wished to stay ‘under the radar’ of the Italian fiscal police. A long series of owners followed, 11 in total in several different Italian provinces, and the current owner bought the car in 2008, in Campogalliano, close to Modena.
‘I had been looking for one for a very long time, and I already knew of this car, for years offered at crazy money on the internet. After a no-sale at auction, the owner came down to more realistic values and I bought it. It was in a sad condition, as often happens with these cars. The people who originally bought an Urraco usually had limited historical car knowledge. They were self-made men, showing off their success by buying a new supercar.
‘While the Miura could have been considered a hypercar like the current Pagani, the Urraco was a “normal” supercar and, with the passage of ownership, their values decreased along with the care and financial commitment of their owners. When the Urraco became a “classic”, very few were left untouched, and these soon disappeared from the market, leaving only cars that were too far gone or too expensive to restore.’
When he bought it in 2008, Urraco no.l was a perfect example of what 30 years of cheap maintenance could do to a car. ‘The colour was wrong, an Alfa Romeo cream white that covered the engine-lid louvres too, and the paint finish was basic,’ recalls the owner. ‘In the early 1980s, the car was involved in an accident, nothing too serious, but the rear bumpers were not replaced and the panels were covered with layers of filler, an attempt to reshape them to look like “Urraco Bob”’s, the one-off created for testing by Bob Wallace. The missing rear bumpers caused me terrible headaches, but I won the lottery when I found them as new/ old stock parts, still with their perfect, original chrome.’
The spare wheel well, a notorious rust trap, had to be rebuilt, as it had been replaced incorrectly. The boot floor had also corroded, as in so many Urracos, and the incorrect front grille — one of three types — was remanufactured to match that of chassis no. 15006 (the fourth car made).
Sit behind the steering wheel of an Urraco and what strikes you first is how short the nose is. It slopes away steeply, too: without popping up the headlights, you can t judge where it ends. And once you’ve clambered in, you find that the alignment of steering wheel, pedals and seat is not straight.
Turn the key and the V8 fires promptly, revs quickly, and surrounds you with a wonderful soundtrack. Its voice is lower in frequency than the V12 s, and louder, more resounding than the Ferrari 308 s. The clutch pedal is not heavy, but your right foot feels all the work the throttle linkage is doing to activate the carbs behind you. Equally, the gearshift requires deliberate inputs, but it isn't difficult to wrestle from ratio to ratio.
As you might expect, twisting roads are the Urracos preferred playground, where the excellent balance and well-resolved chassis can show off. The steering becomes lighter as speed builds, and you soon get used to the slightly awkward driving position.
The engine’s character depends on the revs. Perhaps not surprisingly for a V8 of such modest capacity, below 3500rpm it is slow in its responses and — frankly — not particularly impressive, but from there to 6000rpm it is full of energy. The brakes are impressive: easy to modulate and very efficient, and, while a little-used Urraco will punish its owner with recalcitrant behaviour, even during a hot day and despite the countless stops and restarts demanded by a photo shoot, the temperature readings of this car remained perfect.
At the 1974 Turin show, Lamborghini introduced the Urraco P300, with a 3.0-litre engine and twin-cam heads for greater power. There was also a detuned 2.0-litre version, a tax-break special just for Italy. Production stopped in 1979, after only 776 had been built in total, some way short of original expectations — yet the point had been made. The Jalpa followed, there was the fabulous Gallardo from 2004, then the Huracan. And you can see the latest version of that on the right.
1972 Lamborghini Urraco P250
Engine 2463cc 90° V8, SOHC per bank, four Weber 40 IDF carburettors
Max Power 220bhp @ 7800rpm
Max Torque 165lb ft @ 5750rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Steering Rack and pinion
Front: MacPherson struts, lower links, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Rear: MacPherson struts, reversed lower wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Brakes Vented discs
Top speed 145mph
Right and far right 2.5-litre V8 seems modest by today’s standards and soon grew to become a 3.0-litre quad-cam; pop-up headlights add character to the nose.
Above and right ‘S’-spec interior dates to an experimental retrim shortly after the car was built; front grille had to be created from scratch, to match another early car’s.
Above, left and right Rear three-quarter is the Urraco's most distinctive angle, thanks to pillar trim that segues into the louvres; replacing the half-bumpers was a headache.
CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK
How does the latest Huracan compare to the car that kicked off the Baby Lambo vibe? Massimo Delbd finds out
I’ve driven the Urus and more than one Aventador, but until now I hadn’t driven Sant’Agata’s V10- powered baby. The 2020 Huracan Evo looks stunning in Blu Aegeus with orange stripes and I’m childishly excited. Why? Well, I’ve had a soft spot for the Urraco since I sat in one aged four, and the Huracan is its great-grandchild. Yes, this four-wheel-drive V10 is the direct descendant of the near 50-year-old V8 original, and I’m sure both Ferruccio Lamborghini and Paolo Stanzani would have been very proud of it. It certainly looks the part. And I remember a Lamborghini tour on which a collector — a really passionate driver — preferred to leave me with an Aventador S so he got extra time with the Huracan Evo.
That 5.2-litre, 631 bhp V10 sounds ferocious, bellowing angrily through the exhaust as you might expect but revving with a multi-layered chorus. What impresses even more is not simply how fast it goes, but how it goes fast, always manageable despite having almost three times the power of the first Urraco, and feeling secure and confident at speed. Maybe it loses out a little in direct driver involvement: because the Urraco is denied power-assisted steering (which acts on all four wheels on the Huracan) as well as four-wheel drive and myriad electronic driver aids, it offers a slower but purer experience.
Even so, the Huracan is utterly exhilarating on twisting roads. It’s also much better built and finished, as you’d expect of a car made under the auspices of Audi rather than the tiny independent that Lamborghini was in the Urraco’s day. What really clinches it as the spiritual successor is that the Huracan confirms Ferruccio Lamborghini’s foresight in building a ‘junior’ supercar — if 631 bhp can be considered a junior figure — and it builds in that respect on the reputation of the Gallardo.
Test driver Bob Wallace would have loved it — and I suspect he would have loved the latest, pared-back Huracan Evo RWD even more.