Ferruccio Lamborghini's first production car, the Touring-styled 350GT, debuted at the 1964 Geneva Motor Show. The work of two of Italy's most illustrious automobile designers, the 350GT featured a glorious 3.5-litre, four-cam V12 designed by Giotto Bizzarrini fitted in a chassis penned by Giampaolo Dallara. The 350GT's four camshafts and all-independent suspension meant that it upstaged the best which Ferrari offered at the time; but to compete with his Maranello rival's larger models, Lamborghini needed a four-seater, and the 400GT 2+2 duly appeared in 1966. A development of the 350GT, the newcomer used an enlarged - to 3,929cc - V12 engine and featured occasional rear seating together with various detail revisions to the coachwork.
Despite its novice status as an automobile manufacturer, Lamborghini soon dispelled any lingering doubts about its ability to compete with the world's best Grand Tourers. Reviewing the 400GT 2+2 in 1967, Autocar magazine voted it "better than all the equivalent exotic and home-bred machinery in this glamorous corner of the fast-car market." The relaxed manner of its long-legged performance was reckoned the finest quality of the Lamborghini, whose V12 engine was judged to have the broadest range of smooth torque of any unit the testers had experienced. It was quiet too: "The engine is so smooth and so nearly silent that it is hard to believe that 12 pistons and 24 valves are shuttling up and down just ahead of one's feet." The gearchange, handling, ride and interior comfort were all found to maintain the high standards set by the car's wonderful engine, and Autocar concluded by stating: "To achieve this level of performance without noise, fuss, temperament or drama is an achievement; in the time taken for development, it is nothing short of sensational."
One of the early 'transition' models dating from the switch-over period from 350GT to 400GT, chassis '0523' exhibits some features of each. It has the 350's single windscreen wiper and lower, rounded seat backs. At the rear the car has the later, smaller rear window with defroster and the fuel filler is located in the sail panel. The car also has the early style headlamps, set within the bodywork instead of on the more common chrome extension plates.
Originally sold in Belgium to an American military officer who exported it to the US during the mid 1970s, chassis '0523' entered its second ownership in 1978 and was used very little before a long period in storage. A third owner bought it whilst still stored in 1981.
Trailered home, the car was found to be in very solid original condition but needing some restoration. It underwent a major mechanical overhaul (see summary below) and was repainted in its original dark (non-metallic) blue paint.
The engine was removed and completely rebuilt with the chassis and drivetrain refurbished as necessary. The car showed no evidence of ever having been damaged and rust issues were minimal.
'0523' was acquired by its current owner in the summer of 1987. He flew in to purchase the car and drove it home over 1500 miles from central Florida to the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, with no problems. During his 21 year ownership the car has been used regularly, including many longer trips to view sports car races at venues such as Watkins Glen, Road America and Mid Ohio, again with complete reliability. Total mileage accumulated during this time is roughly 30,000 miles.
The car has been meticulously maintained over this period including a complete interior retrim in the early 1990s with new leather upholstery, headlining and carpets; a mechanical overhaul in 2001 (major tune up, valve adjustment, fully rebuilt carburettors, new timing chains, rebuilt water pump); rebuilt braking system (calipers, master cylinder and servos all rebuilt and filled with silicone brake fluid) in the late 1990s and a suspension overhaul including new bushings and rebuilding the Koni shock absorbers which was completed last summer. Additionally, in 2006 the car received a professional repaint in the original dark blue finish, including stripping all existing coats of paint and fitting new front and rear window rubbers. This work was performed by a local restoration shop with a world wide reputation and numerous concours showings at venues such as Pebble Beach, Meadowbrook and Amelia Island.
While chassis '0523' is definitely a strong, reliable driver, it also shows extremely well. Following its recent paint refinishing, it was shipped across the United States for the annual Concorso Italiano in Monterey and was used on many of the driving events during the weekend, culminating in winning the People's Choice Award for Lamborghinis, one of 85 cars in contention.
Specific work performed on this 400GT over the years:
- Borrani wire wheels fully rebuilt
- Complete brake system rebuild utilizing silicone fluid
- Full rebuild of the clutch hydraulics
- Front wheel bearings replaced
- Four rebuilt Koni shock absorbers
- Professional repaint in 2006
- All stainless trim professionally polished
- All chrome trim (including Borrani knock-offs) replated
- New power window motors fitted during the repaint
- New window seals
- Underbonnet area in excellent original condition including original padding
- Dash panels, seats, door panels all retrimmed in original materials and patterns
- Carpeting and headlining retrimmed in original materials.
- Boot fully retrimmed
- Removed from car and rebuilt during the early 1980s
- Work included fully rebuilt cylinder heads with new valves, guides and seats
- Original bores honed with new rings and pistons
- New rod and main bearings
- New clutch assembly
- Radiator and oil cooler boiled and refinished
- Distributors and carburettors rebuilt during 2001 overhaul mentioned above
The car is US titled and eligible for importation into Europe at the reduced tax rate for historic cars (5% via Great Britain or 6% via Holland) which Kidston SA are happy to arrange for the buyer.
Chassis '0523' has been featured in the following publications which accompany the car: "Lamborghini-The Spirit of The Bull", pages 16-17, Paul Cockerham, 1996; "Lamborghini- Super Cars Supreme", Page 19, Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, 1994; "The Complete Book of Lamborghini", Page 24, Peter Lyons, 1988; "Lamborghini", Pages 25,69,71, Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, 1991; "1994 Lamborghini Calendar", September 1994 "Car of the Month" by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide.