How An Insult From Ferrari's Founder Led To The Birth Of Lamborghini Cars

Those familiar with the works of Larry David and his comedy series "Curb Your Enthusiasm" will likely remember a particular episode in the tenth season where Larry is unhappy with the service at his local coffee shop. From its lukewarm coffee to its muffin-like scones, Larry's feedback for the owner is not well-received, resulting in Larry's banishment from the establishment. Furious, Larry storms out of the cafe but not before swearing revenge in the form of a "spite store."

In a similar series of events, Ferruccio Lamborghini offered his unsolicited critiques to Enzo Ferrari, only to be left rejected and insulted by Ferrari. This conversation would later inspire Lamborghini to build a proper V12 Grand Touring of his own.

Armed with a portfolio flush with capital from his successful tractor company, Lamborghini Tratorri, Ferruccio set out to beat the great old man of Maranello at his own game. Thus, Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A was born – quite possibly the original spite store.

A respected engineer and car enthusiast

Growing up the son of farmers, Ferruccio understood the ins and outs of agriculture — a skill that would later serve him as a winemaker in his autumn years — however, his attention lay elsewhere. Lamborghini found himself tinkering with his father's farming equipment at an early age, allowing him to enroll at a technical school shortly after. Lamborghini then found work as a protege to a local blacksmith in Bologna, Italy, and he eventually founded a workshop of his own when he was 18 years old.

For the next five years, he was known locally as a tuner of automobiles and motorcycles until he found himself drafted into the Italian Air Force at the beginning of WWII. After Italy joined the Axis powers in 1943, Ferruccio was granted permission to open a workshop in the German-occupied territory until the arrival of British forces in 1945. Lamborghini was taken hostage as a prisoner of war and held in captivity until 1946 (via Hemmings).

After returning to Italy with his newfound knowledge, he understood that in order to rebuild his home country, agricultural equipment would be crucial. Making a name for himself repurposing former war vehicles into tractors, Ferruccio founded Lamborghini Trattori in 1948 and experienced continued success with his new business.

One decade and heaps of cash later, Lamborghini would soon be enjoying the fruits of his labor as he found himself behind the wheel of a Ferrari 250 GTO. Despite the reputation the Ferrari 250 GTO has these days, it seems Lamborghini had a different opinion of the V12 Grand Tourer.

Going head-to-head with Enzo Ferrari

Even with his engineering prowess, Lamborghini was not known for his skills behind the wheel and would find himself replacing the clutch of his 250 at an unusual frequency. Car and Driver reports that by the "third or fourth time," Lamborghini became so fed up he had the head mechanic of his tractor company disassemble the gearbox to determine the culprit.

What he found surprised him. After taking apart the Ferrari gearbox, he found "a commercial clutch, fitted on Maseratis, Ferraris, and all the sports cars of those days," former chief test driver Valentino Balboni says in his interview with Car and Driver. Coincidentally, Lamborghini also utilized the exact same clutch in his tractors. This upset the tractor magnate – Balboni recounted that Lamborghini was incensed that a tractor part costing 10 lire would cost 1,000 lire at Ferrari's workshop. Balboni then went into detail regarding a meeting between Lamborghini and Enzo Ferrari (pictured above).

In the same Car and Driver account, Balboni notes that Lamborghini told Ferrari, "You build your beautiful cars with my tractor parts." The emotional Ferrari reportedly replied, "You are a tractor driver, you are a farmer. You shouldn't complain driving my cars because they're the best cars in the world." This upset Lamborghini further, prompting him to utter those famous words: "I'll show you how to make a sports car."

Thus, Ferruccio began his journey to out-build Enzo, the man dubbed "The Engineer." Of course, we all know how this story ended, with Lamborghini becoming one of Ferrari's fiercest competitors in the realm of luxury sports cars.