Window Shopper: Lamborghini Miura


Story By Alan Cesar

Here’s how you win the supercar war: Buy a Miura.
It’s the belligerent instigator. The powder keg. The one that will not be appeased.
The Miura redefined Lamborghini as a maker of an entirely new class of vehicle: the supercar. It caught the whole world sleeping, including Ferruccio Lamborghini himself; three of his company’s engineers conceived the platform after work hours. Simply nothing like it existed at the time, but every subsequent charging bull would follow its formula.
Prior to 1966, the combative competitors Ferrari and Lamborghini had been making front-engined grand tourers. The Miura was revolutionary.
Why? It posted the highest claimed top speed of its day; it took automotive sex appeal to a new level; and its engine was mounted transversely behind the driver, a first for a street car.
The car earned its name from Don Eduardo Miura, famed breeder of many large, fierce fighting bulls. Some of Don Eduardo’s bulls made their way into other Lamborghini products: Two of his toughest beasts were named Murcielago and Reventon.
Own a Miura, and you’re guaranteed the most eyes at a car show. Crowds will gather—rocketing right past that plebeian Veyron, that milquetoast Silver Cloud—to peek at the V12 in its belly. It’ll almost certainly earn some trophy.
Lamborghini improved the breed through the production run, increasing the engine’s compression and horsepower output from 350 to 370 in the Miura S, then to 385 in the SV. It doesn’t matter which one you buy, though; they’re all excruciatingly expensive, incredibly rare, and nearly impossible to maintain.
So, you’ll buy a rough one and rebuild it yourself? Nothing doing. Parts like steering wheels and rear bonnet latches were forged from raw unobtainium. If you ever do find those components—from another Miura owner with spares, for example—your desire will train heavy artillery on your vacation fund and retirement account. Rebuilding a Miura costs more than buying one that’s already done.
For the money, there are many more drivable, better-performing rarities. Consider a Countach instead, or a Ferrari 512 BB. Like Don Eduardo’s bulls, the Miura is a difficult beast to live with.
Since it’s such an ordeal, how do you know if you’re cut out for Miura ownership? The requirements are few, but substantial: You’re willing to put up with a lot of inconvenience and expense for something with mythical status. Sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants.

Things to Know

Stick with a standard Miura if you’re going to drive it. A base Miura will cost $400,000 to $575,000; the S sells between $650,000 and $850,000; and the SV hits $1.1 to $1.7 million.

Test-fit yourself in the driver’s seat before getting too caught up in visions of cruising mountain passes. It’s not a comfortable car. The seats slide but don’t recline. There’s no head, leg or foot room: You either fit in it or you don’t.

Supercars are known for their awful visibility, and the Miura can be blamed for starting that trend. The rearview mirror is almost entirely ornamental because you can’t see much other than the engine. Side mirrors? Most Miuras didn’t even have them. Most examples only see about 500 miles of use per year and are driven only to and from car shows. The 3.9-liter V12 lasts fewer than 30,000 miles under this type of use, but that’ll serve for many years.

Forget about cruising on steaming summer days. It’s hot in the cabin from both directions: The large windshield lets in lots of sunlight, and the engine throws plenty of heat at your back. Its air-conditioning system is awful if it’s already equipped. If not, it will cost $50,000 in parts to add.

Parts support from the manufacturer is nonexistent. The key to happiness with a Miura is finding the few parts that interchange between other cars of the era: The windshield wiper arrangement is from a Triumph, while its headlight assembly was lifted from the Fiat 850 Spider.

A Miura’s looks will literally stop traffic. The car is breathtakingly fast and makes incredible noise, but be careful approaching its 170-mph top end on public roads. Never mind the traffic fines—the nose of the car gets light at those speeds.

Don’t just take it to a shop for Italian cars; this car has many quirks and unique components. You need a Miura specialist. A Ferrari shop won’t do.

The frame is hollow, and it’s open in places. Water can easily collect inside and cause it to rust through. Replacement frames are available—at $50,000 to $70,000.

Be prepared for parts bills that regularly go well into five digits. Old Koni shocks are rebuildable, but complete replacements are nearly impossible to find. Reproduction aluminum wheels are $2500 each. Engine rebuilds run $30,000 to $50,000 if nothing is broken. Rear tires simply don’t exist for the SV in their original size; others are available through Coker Tire for $500 to $700 each.

The Miura isn’t for the faint of heart, and owning one means making many serious compromises. You can’t just want any really cool car; you have to want this one in particular. It’s very good at being iconic, but not very good at being a car. The Countach is a better vehicle in every way but, of course, it’s not a Miura.

Cool Factor

Place in history: The world's first supercar.
Jay Leno keeps two Miuras, but no Ferraris.
Funny guy Adam Carolla also owns two. Nicolas Cage used to own one.
Rarity: Only 465 base Miuras–and fewer than 150 each of the S and SV– were ever made.
The Miura driver in the opening scenes of "The Italian Job" taught us all a good lesson: Don't cross the mob.

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Comments
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MR_UGLY
MR_UGLY None
9/27/12 2:12 p.m.

I have an unbuilt model still in the somewhat sad original box. I think I'll store my dreams of owning one there. I first saw one on the Champs-Elysees on a clear evening under the Parisian lights. I couldn't have been the only one staring. After it passed, my wife and I entered a building and proceeded downstairs to Lido's where I saw ( oh, never mind).

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