The missing-link Baby Bull
It’s 1974, and had the western world’s economy been in better shape than it was, the Lamborghini would have undoubtedly been on top of the world. Despite having been in existence as a supercar manufacturer for little more than a decade, Ferruccio’s beloved company had rocked the establishment with the seminal Miura and Countach – the world’s most exotic and desirable supercars.
But selling a handul of 170mph+ mid-engined V12 screamers was never going to be enough to sustain the ambitious company in the long-term. The front-engined GTs, the Islero and Espada were also selling in a trickle, leaving the ‘volume’, as it were, to the Urraco P250, launched in production form, and after delays, in 1973.
The 2.5-litre V8 mid-engined baby Countach was actually far more innovative than historians give it credit for. Its compact V8 – a Lamborghini first – was mounted longitudinally, like the Countach (and not the Miura), and yet still left room in the car for a pair of vestigial rear seats, giving it claimed 2+2 status. The all-aluminium power unit was designed by Gian Paolo Dallara, and ended up being offered in 2.0-, 2.5-, 3.0- and (later in the Jalpa) 3.5-litre form – and in a car designed to compete with the Porsche 911, this was quite a leap forward.
The P200 and P250 weren’t exactly over-endowed with power, but both were sweet, tractable and perfect for their intended market. So all should have been fine for Lamborghini, which despite having only just launched the Countach and Urraco, were already looking towards developing their replacements, just as the Energy Crisis hit at the tail end of 1973.
Within months, sales for exotic cars had dried up, leaving Lamborghini struggling to stay afloat. Unlike rival Ferrari, there was no large benfactor (in the form of Fiat) to ensure its survival. So when the Bravo concept was unveiled at the 1974 Turin motor show, the company was already on its knees.
And that’s a shame, because this car looked hugely promising, mating dramatic Countach-style looks with the Urraco’s underpinnings. The car was styled by Bertone’s Marcello Gandini, and featured a number of styling features that echoed the Countach, as well as predicting a few future ones, including those amazing alloy wheels.
Once the motor show spotlights had dimmed, the Bravo went away to Lamborghini and was subjected to an extensive testing programme, with a view to getting into production by the late-1970s. It had all the power and performance the early Urracos lacked, and with 300bhp, would have been more than a match for the later giant-slaying Porsche 911 Turbo of 1975. Sadly, events overtook the Bravo, it was put on the shelf, and in the end, the company continued to develop the rapidly ageing Urraco into the Silhouette and then Jalpa. It remained in production until 1988.
But would the lovely Bravo have made the impression that was hoped of it? Yes, because Lamborghini had forged quite a career building amazing cars, and this would have fitted the bill, looking like something from another planet, compared with the Ferrari 308GTB and Maserati Merak. Lamborghini knew this, too – and once stability had been restored in the 1980s, it kicked off the L140 programme (see the Lamborghini museum for examples of that), which in many ways, owed a great deal of inspiration to the Bravo.
In the end, it wasn’t until 2003 and the launch of the Gallardo that Lamborghini finally put a forward-looking Baby Bull like the Bravo into production. And it ended up being the most successful car the company has ever made – and you can still see its DNA in the latest addition to the brood, the Huracán. As for the Bravo, it survived testing, and remained in the Stile Bertone collection before being sold by RM Auctions in 2011 for 588,000 euros.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.