The rivalry between Ferruccio Lamborghini and Enzo Ferrari is legendary. Outraged to be « snubbed » by the manufacturer of Maranello, the tractor producer of Sant’Agata near Bologna decided to do better by launching his own brand. After a promising start, he struck a big blow in 1966 with the Miura, a masterpiece designed by Marcello Gandini at Bertone, never to be produced in either targa or cabriolet version. Never ? Not quite since in January 1968, at the Brussels Auto Show, Bertone presented the Miura Roadster. The one that remains unique today.
When the Miura was first presented, the public was stunned: the unique lines and evocative power of the central-rear positioned engine were heresy for Enzo Ferrari. He immediately sees the danger and reacts illico. In 1968, the Ferrari 365 GTB/4, unofficially nicknamed the ‘Daytona’, is introduced to try to defend the concept of the forward placed engine: « the horses are made to pull the cart, not to push it”, proclaimed Enzo. At the same time however he began through his ‘Dino’ brand, a mid-engine model, to pursue two different philosophies at once.
Bertone chops the top off of the Miura
Was it in order to maintain the buzz for the Miura or to contain the excitement? In January 1968, Bertone presented at the Brussels Auto Show the Miura Roadster. One thing is certain in any case: Lamborghini has never thought of offering its customers a convertible or targa version of its supercar. The Miura Roadster was meant to be a show car with no windows or roof. It was a greatly modified example compared to a normal Miura: the rear was subtly modified leaving the V12, 350 horsepower engine, uncovered with two air intakes slightly modified at the B pillar and a spoiler with different rear lights in the back.
Despite these slight modifications in the design, the Miura model was immediately recognisable and this Roadster was an immediate success. One month later at the Geneva Motor Show, its success was even greater. But the project was condemned from the start due to the lack of rigidity requisite for making the Roadster a viable production model and therefore commercially possible. The Miura Roadster was put into storage after appearing at every European car show that year.
A new life for the Roadster
In 1969, the story of the Miura roadster took a new turn. The ILZRO, or the “International Lead Zinc Research Organization”, decided to buy the prototype to be a demonstrator for new applications and uses for lead and zinc metal alloys. In collaboration with Bertone and Lamborghini, the car was transformed, employing lead and zinc alloys wherever possible at the cost of a severe weight gain.
Renamed Zn75, the car lost its original blue color for green paint, and a brown leather interior replaced the original white upholstery. The Miura roadster then travelled the world as to demonstrate the attributes of the materials it was transformed to be made of. After ten years of shows and exhibits for the ILZRO, it was sold to one of the organisation’s executives only to begin the life so often the case of collector automobiles: passing from hand to hand for many years until the early 2000s when a passionate collector finally decided to return the car to its original condition.
Back to the beginning
The project was monumental because it required restoring the car to its original state by getting rid of the lead / zinc modifications the the ILZRO had completed. It was refinished in its original slightly glittery blue color with the original white upholstery and red carpet. In all $300,000 was spent in the restoration of the car while all ILZRO additions are kept with the car as part and parcel of its unique history. After completion the car was presented at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2008.
Presented on Simon Kidston’s stand at RétroMobile in 2019, this one-of-a-kind Lamborghini has today found a new passionate and wealthy owner. It is true that one Miura SVJ Spider was also made on the initiative of the Swiss Lamborghini importer and was shown at the 1981 Geneva Motor Show but only the Miura Roadster can wear the badge of official factory production.