April 23

This Day in History

Automotive

Apr 23, 1987:

Chrysler buys luxury automaker Lamborghini

On this day in 1987, the Chrysler Corporation purchases Nuova Automobili F. Lamborghini, the Bologna, Italy-based maker of high-priced, high-performance cars. Although the terms of the deal were not disclosed, the media reported that Chrysler paid $25 million for Lamborghini, which at the time was experiencing financial difficulties.

Lamborghini was established in 1963 by Ferruccio Lamborghini (1916-1993), a wealthy Italian industrialist who made his fortune building tractors and air-conditioning systems, among other ventures. Lamborghini owned a variety of sports cars, including Ferraris. According to legend, after experiencing mechanical problems with his Ferraris, he tried to meet with Enzo Ferrari, the carmaker's founder. When Enzo Ferrari turned him down, Ferruccio Lamborghini decided to build cars that would be even better than Ferrari's. Lamborghini's first car, the 350 GTV, a two-seat coupe with a V12 engine, launched in 1963.

The company's logo featured a bull, a reference to Ferruccio Lamborghini's zodiac sign, Taurus the bull. Various Lamborghini models had names related to bulls or bullfighting, including the Miura, a mid-engine sports car that was released in mid-1960s and gained Lamborghini an international following among car enthusiasts and a reputation for prestige and cutting-edge design. The Miura was named for a breeder of fighting bulls, Don Eduardo Miura.

In the early 1970s, Lamborghini's tractor business experienced problems and he eventually sold his interest in his sports car business and retired to his vineyard in the mid-1970s. Automobili Lamborghini changed hands several times and in 1987 was sold to Chrysler. As The New York Times reported on the day of the sale: "Chrysler officials have acknowledged in the past that an association with a high-priced European brand could give it credibility in the luxury end of the market, where the company has long been weak." The Times also noted that Lamborghini was producing about 450 cars a year and was best known for the Countach, which carried a price tag of $127,000 and featured a 420-horsepower, V12 engine capable of speeds of 170 miles per hour.

In 1994, Chrysler sold Lamborghini to a group of Indonesian investors. Four years later, German automaker Volkswagen took control of Lamborghini. The company has continued to build high-performance cars, including the Murcielago (capable of 250 mph) and the Gallardo.

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