Behind the Lamborghini Ferrari Feud

A skilled mechanic decides to critique the maker of his luxury sports car and ignites a rivalry that would produce some of the most beautiful and high-performing automobiles in history. The tale of two Italian super-sports car makers is a testament to the determination of hard-working, dedicated, and proud pioneers. The Lamborghini and Ferrari feud set off a race to build great supercars, and the rivalry pushed each iconic company to greatness.

The Love of Ferrari

Enzo Ferrari grew up with a love for racing. Born in 1898, he was passionate about cars and shared this passion with his father and brother. When Enzo was ten years old, he attended a race on the Bologna circuit, where he would begin to dream about working for the FIAT car company. His application was rejected at FIAT, so he began working for a smaller company as a tester.

Enzo would eventually start racing in 1919. His first car race was uphill from Parma to Poggio di Berceto and finished in fourth place. After working for Alfa Romeo and a successful racing career building a superstar team of drivers, he started an auto supply and manufacturing company. He somehow was able to enter two cars in the Mille Miglia race in 1940, but then the world changed.

Enzo love for racing
Enzo Ferrari and his early love of racing

Enzo’s manufacturing company was forced into war production under Mussolini’s fascist government during the outbreak of the Second World War. Allied bombers bombed his factory, and he relocated his operations when, at the end of the war, he would decide to make cars bearing his name, and the Ferrari car company was born. The new business would build some of the greatest cars in the world, and Enzo became respected as a successful entrepreneur.

According to Brand Finance, the car company founded in 1939 by Enzo Ferrari is one of the most influential brands in the world. Over time it had produced some of the most expensive cars in history. Iconic, classic cars such as the 1962 250 GTO became the top car sale in history when it sold in 2014 for $38 Million to businessman Craig McCaw. Later in 2018, the same model sold for a new record $52 Million at a Sotheby auction.

Throughout its history, Ferrari cars have been a symbol of power, luxury, speed, and wealth. It’s no surprise that successful entertainers, entrepreneurs, and business people enjoy owning and driving the highest quality cars in the world. Ferruccio Lamborghini wanted the best, and he began purchasing Ferrari’s when his tractor manufacturing company began to flourish.

Amazing footage from the legend himself, Enzo Ferrari. The opening line goes something like this, “I remember that in 1912 I saw a picture on the illustrated press that was published back then in Turin of Ralph De Palma, and I think, he had won, at that time, the Indianapolis 500. I said to myself: “This guy is Italian. Why, one day, couldn’t I too be a pilot of cars?” And all of my acts have been a consequence of this adolescence dream.”

From Tractors to Super Cars 

Ferruccio Lamborghini grew up in a grape farmer family, but he was raised interested in mechanics and engineering. After his service in the air force in World War II, the young businessman noticed a shortage of agricultural equipment for farmers. Ferruccio began re-purposing military vehicles into tractors and selling them under the Lamborghini Trattori company name, and his venture took off.

Lamborghini’s tractor business grew quickly from the production of one tractor per week to more than four a week. Ferruccio’s company was making 200 tractors per year using Italian army engines from military vehicles. In 1951, the Italian tractor manufacturer Ferruccio Lamborghini developed his first production tractor made entirely in-house except for the engine.

The L 33 model tractor included a Morris 6 cylinder, diesel-fueled 3,500 cc engine, including a Lamborghini patented fuel atomizer. More success and growth followed, and the company opened a new tractor factory in 1956. With the new factory, the production of the outstanding Lamborghini-brand tractors would be increased even more. Lamborghini’s business turned him from a respected tractor manufacturer into a wealthy industrialist and started him down the path of becoming one of the household names throughout Italy.

The Hunt for the Greatest Car of All-Time

As sales of Lamborghini tractors grew, so did Ferruccio’s cash in his bank account. His love for cars inspired him to purchase Alfa Romeos and a Maserati 3500GTS. He also owned a Mercedes-Benz 300SL and a Jaguar E-Type coupe. But like many great engineering minds, he had a critical eye for each car he owned. He was constantly searching for the perfect car.

Ferruccio traveled to Maranello to buy a new Ferrari 250GT in 1058. He enjoyed the 250GT so much that he bought many more Ferrari’s over the next few years. But just like he critiqued the other car manufactures, he had a few ideas for Ferrari. At one point, he was quoted as saying Ferrari was a good car, but they were noisy and rough. Repurposed track cars with poorly built interiors was another description he would give Ferrari.

A Mechanics Mind

Ferruccio continued to accumulate expensive luxury cars as a result of his profitable enterprise. He bought two Ferraris, a black one for his wife and a white one for himself. He would take valuable customers for drives in the expensive cars and be sometimes known to ‘burn the clutch,’ which meant repeated trips to the Ferrari factory to replace the parts.

Frustrated by the recurring weak clutch problems, Ferruccio had his tractor mechanic look at the problem and discovered the clutch in the Ferrari was the same part Ferruccio used in his tractors.

He not only replaced the Ferrari clutch with a clutch from his tractor company, but he also decided to venture to the Ferrari factory and present his findings with the founder of the company, Enzo Ferrari. It was the first encounter that would later ignite into the great Lamborghini and Ferrari feud.

Ferruccio tractors
Ferruccio Lamborghini pictured at his tractor manufacturing facility, his primary business before entering the super-sports car industry

The Lamborghini Ferrari MeetingĀ 

Many versions of the story have been retold from the meeting of Enzo and Ferruccio. Lamborghini could not understand why Enzo would use a sub-par clutch in such a luxury vehicle. Enzo saw things from a different point of view.

In fact, Enzo reminded Ferruccio that he is a tractor maker and should stick to building farming equipment and let Ferrari take care of the car business. Whatever ended up happening that day, one thing was clear. The meeting between the two businessmen didn’t go over well. A few insults were exchanged, hard feelings were felt, and a rivalry was born.

Valentino Balboni, who was a long-time test driver who worked directly for Ferruccio, insisted he had the real story. Balboni had a first-hand account behind the Lamborghini and Ferrari Feud.

He was quoted in this Car and Driver interview, “Ferruccio… started yelling, he was so mad because he said, ‘I pay for my tractor 10 lire, and I paid Ferrari 1000 lire for the same part.’ So, one day, when he met Enzo Ferrari, the two started talking. During the discussion, Ferruccio Lamborghini had a bad idea to tell Enzo Ferrari, ‘You build your beautiful cars with my tractor parts.”

“Enzo Ferrari told him: ‘You are a tractor driver, you are a farmer. You shouldn’t complain driving my cars because they’re the best cars in the world.’ ” This only infuriated Lamborghini, who became equally agitated and animated.
“Lamborghini told him, ‘Oh, yes, I am a farmer! I’ll show you how to make a sports car and I will do a sports car by myself . . . to show you how a sports car has to be.’ interview with Valentino Balboni

There’s some speculation on where precisely this confrontation took place, but Balboni insists this was the actual exchange between the two, as the story has been retold hundreds of times.

Ferruccio Lamborghini
Ferruccio Lamborghini inspecting car parts at his auto plant.

By 1963 Lamborghini had officially founded his auto company, the Automobili Lamborghini. Mr Lamborghini immediately began recruiting the best team he could find to compete with his new car-making rival. At the time, many people criticized Ferruccio for building a sports car that would compete directly with such a powerful brand as Ferrari.

After all, he was already a successful businessman and quite wealthy from his tractor company. He had also successfully moved into other manufacturing ventures such as air conditioning systems; why would he begin building cars? Behind the Lamborghini and Ferrari feud, it looked as though the fight was over before it even started.

1963 Lamborghini 350 prototype

The 1963 Lamborghini 350 GTV prototype which was built in only four months, in time for an October unveiling at the 1963 Turin Motor Show

If you could imagine walking around the 1963 Turin Motor Show and stumble on a car made by a tractor company, you’d know what many attendees were thinking at that time. Not only was the car made by a tractor company, but the car was actually a fantastic design built for the highest performance and ready to take on the most expensive supercars in existence, such as Ferrari and Maserati.

Lamborghini Ferrari Rivalry

The design for the 350 GTV prototype came from Giorgio Prevedi. It was an immediate hit among car critics and caught the eye of much of the auto industry at the time. Giotto Bizzarrini was recruited to do the engineering work on the 350 GTV and was a pretty great choice because he was the one who did the engine work on the Ferrari 250 GTO, which had over time developed a rocky relationship with founder Enzo Ferrari.

Ferruccio Lamborghini and his team developed an all-aluminum alloy quad-cam V-12 engine, which produced 342 horsepower and 250 pounds of torque. By the end of 1964, Lamborghini sold his first 13 cars. His harshest critics silenced for the time being. The Lamborghini brand began to be known for its power, comfort, luxury, and refinement.

Lamborghini Miura
Ferruccio standing next to the 1967 Lamborghini Miura

One of my favorite quotes from Ferruccio Lamborghini was from a “60 Minutes” report. A reporter traveled to Italy to interview Lamborghini about his company. While Ferruccio drove the reporter around town to show off the new Countach model, the reporter asked if it would be safer to test drive the new car on a test track. Ferruccio responded, “The company does not have a test track; our cars are built for the road.”

A new Lamborghini sports car starts at a little over $200,000. A well-kept, classic Lambo can be worth several millions of dollars. Over the years, the brand has seen financial difficulties from time to time, eventually becoming part of the Audi AG and recognized as Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini S.p.A.

It’s easy to get a sense that Lamborghini cars are made from the desire to improve on Enzo Ferrari’s cars. Building the ultimate sports car takes incredible dedication, and it doesn’t hurt to have some big egos pushing the limits of what can be accomplished. The world of supercars is better for this rivalry between Lamborghini and Ferrari. There is no doubt.

An inside look at the Lamborghini company in Italy. And a drive with the new “Countach.” Incredible footage and a timeless luxury brand.