Imagine for a moment that you’ve gone to an international car show, and on arriving discovered that John Deere has built a car. And not only that, but it is a super fast and exotic grand tourer, designed to take on the biggest names is GT carbuilding. You’d probably have to go home and lay down, but you would have also gotten an important insight into what it must have felt like to be at the 1963 Turin Auto Show. Because that is where Lamborghini, up until that point a company known for building tractors, unveiled the 350GTV. This was the prototype that would lead to the production 350GT, Lamborghini’s first production car.

The seed for the 350GTV was planted in 1958, when Ferruccio Lamborghini bought a Ferrari 250GT, the first of three 250s he would own. He liked the car, enough to own three of them, but he found the racing-derived machines to be lacking in interior amenities, and that the clutch would wear out far too quickly. The clutch was an especially big problem, since it required trips back to Maranello to have them replaced. Lamborghini tried to have this addressed, but Enzo Ferrari was famously too proud to listen to criticism, so Lamborghini decided to make his own GT car.

Continue reading to learn more about the Lamborghini 350 GTV.

Exterior

1963 Lamborghini 350 GTV High Resolution Exterior
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1963 Lamborghini 350 GTV High Resolution Exterior
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1963 Lamborghini 350 GTV High Resolution Exterior
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The design for the 350GTV came from Giorgio Prevedi, of Carrozzeria Sargiotto. It was widely praised at the time, and remains one of the best examples of mid-century modern design in the automotive world. The back end of the car is particularly interesting, since it has the look of a fastback but also has a separate trunk lid. It’s an unusual feature, and it was toned down quite a bit for the production version.

The shape of the car was very sleek and streamlined, with a very low hood

The shape of the car was very sleek and streamlined, with a very low hood that incorporated one of the better pop-up headlight designs of all time. These didn’t survive the transition to production car, the design of which was handled by an entirely different design firm. The inspiration of this prototype is evident in the finished product, but it is often lamented that the production design wasn’t quite as bold. The car is currently painted in a dark green metallic color, similar to British Racing Green, but was originally a pale blue.

Interior

1963 Lamborghini 350 GTV High Resolution Interior
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The 350GTV has quite a lavish interior, with leather upholstered seats and a padded leather dash.

The interior of the 350GTV was one of the primary reasons for the car to exist in the first place. There is a difference between a sports car and a gran turismo, and the interior has a lot to do with it. While a sport car’s only function is to go fast, a GT car must both go fast and provide you with a comfortable setting for a long trip; a grand tour, if you will.

So, the 350GTV has quite a lavish interior, with leather upholstered seats and a padded leather dash. There is a giant center stack, sparsely populated with lights and switches, and topped with a gauge pod. There is a wooden steering wheel and shift knob, and there is chrome trim throughout. There are even arm rests on the doors, which seem like a pretty basic thing for what is supposed to be a luxury interior, but not every manufacturer always understands that.

Drivetrain

1963 Lamborghini 350 GTV High Resolution Exterior
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Technically speaking, the 350GTV didn’t have an engine, at least, not at the Turin show. It was only after the car was assembled that it was discovered that the engine didn’t fit under the bodywork. There wasn’t enough time to make the changes, so it debuted with a load of bricks under the hood, which stayed shut through the show. But, there was an engine designed for the car, quite an impressive one at that. The engineering work was done by Giotto Bizzarrini, the man who had done the engine work on the Ferrari 250 GTO.

Bizzarrini wasn’t a fan of Enzo’s either by 1963, and was a pretty logical choice to do the work. The engine was an all-aluminum alloy, quad-cam V-12 that displaced 3.5-liters and produced 342 horsepower and 250 pounds-feet of torque. The downside was that it hit peak horsepower all of the way up at 8,000rpm, and Lamborghini ultimately decided that such a high strung engine didn’t really fit with the idea of a more civilized GT, and it was detuned for the production model.

Prices

1963 Lamborghini 350 GTV High Resolution Exterior
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It’s impossible to say just what the 350GTV is worth. This is partly because there is only one of them, so pricing trends are nonexistent. On top of that, the car hasn’t changed hands in a decade now, so the pricing info that we do have is dated. But at least we do have something, and that is that the car was last sold in 2005 for a total of $315,000. That’s lower than the average price that the 120 units of the production 350GT go for, so chances are that if the car were to go up for auction again, the price would shoot up considerably. With some 350GT examples cresting $800,000 in price, it’s not impossible to imagine that the 350GTV could fetch $1 million at the right auction.

Competition

Ferrari 250 GT Lusso

1956 - 1959 Ferrari 250GT Berlinetta
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It was an earlier version of the 250 that first inspired Ferruccio Lamborghini to build his own car. But the Lusso, which also debuted in 1963, is the version most similar to Lamborghini’s GT cars. The word “lusso” is Italian for “luxury”, and these models had the nicest interiors and most comfortable suspension of the many 250 models. It beat the 350GT to production, but did not manage to keep the car from being a success.

Read our full review here.

Maserati 3500 GT

1963 Lamborghini 350 GTV
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The 3500 GT was only slightly cheaper than the 350GT when it finally debuted in 1964. But, Maserati sold more than 2,000 units of the 3500 GT to the 120 that Lamborghini sold of its grand tourer. Maserati instantly went from being a company that sold about a dozen cars a year to being a major contender in the world of expensive Italian GT cars, all because of the 3500 GT. It had a six-cylinder engine when the others had 12, but the displacement was the same as the Lamborghini. The result was less horsepower but more torque, and the car was more drivable in everyday situations than the competition. Probably why it was so popular.

Conclusion

1963 Lamborghini 350 GTV High Resolution Exterior
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It is dangerous to fall for the allure of prototypes or concepts. Real cars are rarely so uncompromising, either in terms of design or performance. Even concepts that make it to production rarely do so unchanged, and the 350GTV is an excellent example of this. As great as the 350GT was, it lacked the singular vision of the prototype, from before more people who hadn’t been involved in the original design started tweaking it. But at least the prototype still exists, inspiring us all to wish for better cars.

  • Leave it
    • * There’s only one, and you can’t have it
    • * Power way up at the top of the range means you really have to work for it
    • * Buying a GT car from a tractor company would have seemed risky
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