Why Lamborghini’s 60-Year-Old V12 Engine Is Still A Beast Even Today

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The Lamborghini The V12 engine has been in production for more than six decades. It’s hard to believe that Lamborghini kept building and evolving the same engine for so long. The first-generation four-cam V12 was developed to snub Ferrari, much like the brand itself when it debuted in the 350 GT. The engine was only dropped when the Murcielago gave way to the Aventador.

It’s a little hard to imagine the same engine powering the iconic ’70s kid Countach that sat just 4 inches off the ground, and the giant LM 002 (Rambo Lambo) SUV that sat 12 inches off the ground. In the early 70s, the Countach LP 500 received the 3.9 liter V12 powered by six carburetors. It’s such a versatile engine that it’s powered just about every Lamborghini you know, Miura, Countach, LM 002, Diablo, Reventón and finally in the Murciélago. The V12 was also Lamborghini’s very first internal combustion engine developed in-house. 60 years later, Lamborghini will finally pull the plug on the V12, likely for a plug-in hybrid for its next-gen flagship hypercar. Let’s take a look at the colorful history of the iconic Lamborghini V12.


Related: How Depreciation Made The Lamborghini Murcielago A Bargain-Priced V12 Supercar

The not-so-humble beginnings of the V12

You can hardly call it humble when a company goes into the business with an in-house developed V12 engine. Fueled by an insatiable drive to create the perfect sports car (and beat the crap out of Ferrari), Ferruccio Lamborghini reportedly even offered engineer and designer Giotto Bizzarrini a bonus per additional horsepower. Yes, he got his supposed bonus because the 1964 Lamborghini 350 GT produced 320 hp with its V12 against the Ferrari 250 GT Lusso which only had 250 hp with the 3.0-liter V12. Despite this power gap, the Ferrari was the sales hit and not the Lambo. The design department hadn’t gone into the groove, but the engine was perfect for defining the intimidating nature of the Lambo V12s. Many other models followed with more power like the 400 GT, Espada, Islero, Jarama, etc.


The engine really took on its charm when the beautiful Miura joined the model range. Engineers mounted the V12 transversely, at the rear, to improve weight distribution. The 365hp Miura was the fastest car in the world when it was released, all thanks to the power of that V12 engine. Even so, perhaps the most iconic poster of the 70s will be the production version Countach LP 400. Remembered and loved by all, it had the screaming 4.0-liter V12 developing 375 hp at a high rev of 8,000 rpm. It was modern with racing technology built into its suspension, had ventilated disc brakes with racing calipers, and could hit 186 mph on a wave of V12 Melody. But then Lamborghini has no shortage of poster supermodels. The Diablo, Murciélago and Aventador all have the V12 in massively powerful tuning states with their own character and sophistication.


Related: Lamborghini Rolls Out Uber-Exotic Lambo V12 GT Vision Gran Turismo For Supercar Blondie

Why the giant SUV then

Hmm, why not? Lamborghini predicted the coming penchant for large premium SUVs decades ago. They released the LM 002 in 1986 with the 5.2-liter version of the V12 as a possible spiritual grandfather of modern high-performance SUV culture. The LM 002 was based on Lamborghini’s Cheetah concept, which was to be designed for the military but was cancelled. Even by today’s standards, few manufacturers use a gigantic V12 engine for their luxury SUVs. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan has one, Bentley has also stuck a W12 in the Bentayga (and the Q7), and the Ferrari Purosangue will have a V12 that pretty much completes the small list. The others have puny V8s and V6s, paaah!


Although the Rambo Lambo (yes, Sylvester Stallone has one) shared its engine with the Countach, they had to drop 20 hp and add four-wheel-drive hardware to make it a pretty capable machine. That’s the greatness of that V12 engine, the combination of a center differential and low-end gearing converts a trail weapon into an off-road monster. And since even that was not extreme by Lamborghini standards, they created a special version with a 7.2-liter V12 developing 700 hp for endurance racing in the desert. Imagine a massive 5,952lb Lego that can accelerate from 0-60mph in 7.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 118mph.


About the future of the elusive Lamborghini V12

Okay, technically the original V12 was replaced with a new design in 2011. The Murciélago Super Veloce LP 670-4 carried the last hurray for the original V12 engine that saw decades of engineering and success. . The fresher Aventador featured the new 6.5-liter V12 that can rev to a ridiculous 217 mph. But the latest iteration of the original was no slouch either. The LP 670-4 developed 660 bhp and had a top speed of 205 mph. Lamborghini also gave the Countach a glorious start recently by unveiling the visionary LPI 800-4 concept. It’s a testament to how the Countach would have evolved over the years, but its production is tiny. It’s also because the whole notion of V12-powered supercars is becoming a welfare hazard due to crippling emissions regulations. It is therefore official that the Aventador LP 780-4 Ultimae will feature the last of the naturally aspirated V12 engines. It will develop 769 hp, the most powerful V12 out of Lamborghini’s magical workshop. This is the final callback.


Don’t worry, Lamborghini’s high-performance electric Terzo Millennio will set the bar high for the Italian brand. Replacing the V12 powertrain with electric motors, the Terzo Millennio will be a game-changer for supercar enthusiasts, but with a heavy heart, we’re sure. Lamborghini engineers are working on a supercapacitor and working with non-materials to blow the lid off performance cars. However, purists will never forget the majesty and thundering sounds of the original V12-powered Lamborghinis that still adorn the bedroom walls. No, these posters don’t depict future electrics but hail the glory of the fire-breathing supercars of yesteryear.

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