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Driving the First Lambo


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Nice article about the 350. Cheers, Fred ------------- DRIVING THE FIRST LAMBO When someone installs an almost total stranger behind the wheel of his irreplaceable and much loved classic, and says merely "Cheerio - enjoy the drive" he must have unusual reserves of British phlegm. Gloucestershire farmer, Noel Gibbs continued to smile benignly as I kept all 12 cylinders on the boil, felt the clutch out gingerly to where it gripped, and trickled out of his drive. That was the first surprise.I had expected a savage bite from a heavily-sprung clutch, and a near stall as an over-tuned motor fell into a big hole in the torque curve. In fact the clutch was light and controllable and bottom-end power was responsive and beefy. Out on the highway, it quickly became apparent that all my preconceptions about this car were completely wrong. I had imagined that the first tentative production Lamborghini would be badly flawed - a sort of unresolved kit-car with pretensions to high performance… spikey and excessive power and let down by poor build quality, design, and detailing. Not so. The car is uncannily good . In particular, the large reduction in power in favour of a gentler torque curve between prototype 350 GTV (360, bhp) to 270 in this production version must have contributed considerably to making the car a pleasure to drive. At idle, the engine is remarkably quiet, while useful power comes in at around 2,700 rpm. It can rev to 8,000 rpm too(though fear of expensive noises inhibited me from winding it up that far), so it"s a long, long power band. It"s the untemperamental nature that"s so impressive; the 350 GT is happy to woofle along on a light throttle - or go like a bat (contemporary tests gave a 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds). Drop a gear, open the throttles, and you"re repayed by impressive acceleration and a stirring sonorous V12 sound that"s more like an organ note than an exhaust. That"s the great strength of multi-cylinders; for the same power output, the piston area equation means that a "twelve" can be in a much "softer" (and therefore more driveable) state of tune than a "six". Well chosen gear ratios which match the power characteristics also help to make driving the car a delight, and on this example, the shift on the 5-speed ZF box was smooth, light and accurate. However, from the production and service point of view there are undoubted penalties in getting so much machinery and performance into the slim Touring body shell. The car is built rather like a Chinese puzzle. On this drive, the fuel pumps (twin Bendix. Red tops) started to play up. Noel Gibbs believed that they lived somewhere on the bulkhead at the very front of the boot, but climbing in there (quite capacious) and unscrewing a panel revealed the battery, flanked surprisingly, by two brake servos! They"re a long way from the brake pedal, and from the manifolds - a pipe takes the "vacuum" back there from the engine. However, that"s the sort of shoehorning that"s needed to combine V12 power with the elegance Ferruccio Lamborghini demanded. We never did find the fuel pumps! As I was returning the car, they started to falter again on a long uphill gradient. When it would pull no more, I managed to back into a steep downhill drive, and allowed the pumps to tick away until the float chambers were full, followed by a quick blast to the summit, and on to flat ground. It was the only trouble met during the drive. A modest 75,000 kilometers were showing on the clock, and the car felt very properly `on song". No shakes or rattles betrayed its 20 years age perhaps a hint of whine from the Salisbury differential - but Motor Sport commented on that when the cars were new, and Noel Gibbs says the noise level has stayed the same since he has owed the car. Steering is through a box at the front of the engine compartment, but in spite of tha


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Last modified: 12th January 2020