Lamborghini looks back at its rich V12 history


Those following the brand know that Lamborghini is entering its “hybridization” phase in 2023. That said, the Sant'Agata Bolognese-based company is looking back to pay tribute to its most memorable engine, the 12-cylinder power plant that has powered iconic models for almost 60 years and became a symbol of technological innovation, vision, and engineering expertise.


  • Who did Ferruccio Lamborghini commissioned to work on the company's first V12 engine?

    Lamborghini commissioned Quercianella-native engineer Giotto Bizzarrini to build the company's first V12.
  • Who did Lamborghini hire to tame down the 360-horsepower engine?

    Ferruccio tapped Paolo Stanzani who toned the V12 engine down to 280hp.
  • What was the first Lamborghini to use this 280hp engine?

    The first Lamborghini to use the V12 was the 350 GT.
  • According to Lamborghini, its V12 engine was designed and engineered by Giotto Bizzarrini. The Quercianella-born engineer was a huge fan of racing and dreamed of building an engine for Formula 1.

    Lamborghini shares that Bizzarrini was commissioned by Ferruccio to build an engine with 12 cylinders with a displacement of 3.5 liters and — lots and lots of horsepower.


    The story goes on to tell that Ferruccio wanted to incentivize Bizzarrini by giving the engineer a bonus for every additional 10 horsepower over the target of 350hp. Bizzarrini succeeded by adding 10 more horses to the V12 at the time when the engine ran on the test bench. The results were spectacular and Ferruccio paid Bizzarrini what he owed. However, he later realized that the engineer built a Formula 1 engine that was not appropriate for the road and thus cannot be used for road-going vehicles and is unsuited for mass production.

    Ferruccio then tapped Paolo Stanzani to tame the 360hp V12. Stanzani worked on “rationalizing” and “civilizing” the engine and was able to tone it down to 280 horses with a top speed of 250kph. This engine was used to power the 350 GT.


    The very first production Lamborghini 350 GT was then delivered to Giampiero Giusti, a Livorno-native drummer from the band “I 5 di Lucca,” later named “Quartetto di Lucca.” the group is considered to be one of the most important jazz ensembles in Italy and thus sparked the popularity of the 280-hp Lamborghini 350 GT and began the brand’s close relationship with the entertainment world.


    Since then, many actors and performers have become passionate about the company.

    “Paul McCartney, a true living legend both as bass player and vocalist for the Beatles and as a solo artist, has been a loyal Lamborghini customer for many years, with several cars of different models in his collection,” Lamborghini said in a press release.

    McCartney had a red 1968 400 GT and kept it for 10 years.

    It wasn’t long before various Lamborghini models appeared on screen. The V12-powered Lamborghini 350 GT was featured in the 1967 Columbia Pictures film Kill Me Quick, I'm Cold directed by Francesco Maselli, where it was used as a means of transport for the leading couple, the celebrated Monica Vitti and Jean Sorel.

    “From its debut in 1964, the Lamborghini V12 became a benchmark for its torque, elasticity, reliability, and durability. The same unit, with only minimal modifications, would remain in production until the 1990s, growing to seven liters of displacement with power over 500 horsepower before subsequently receiving more substantial structural modifications,” said Lamborghini.

    Photos from Lamborghini

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