The year 1966 was memorable for the Italian car industry. It was the year that Giorgetto Giugiaro started his own studio, and the year in which Marcello Ghandini, recently employed by Bertone, presented his radical mid-engined Lamborghini Miura at the Geneva Motor Show. But, on a sadder note, the year's end also witnessed the demise of the once great styling house of Touring.
Originally founded in 1926 by Felice Bianchi Anderloni, Touring contributed significantly to the evolution of Italian car coachbuilding. In its post-war revival, the firm basked in the limelight of patronage from quality car makers such as Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Lancia and Maserati, all of which came to it for design studies and models. Such liaisons resulted in the Alfa Romeo 2000 Spyder (1958), Aston Martin DB4 (1958), Lancia Flaminia GT (1958), Maserati 3500GT (1957) and several more significant cars from that era.
In September 1961, Touring came to an agreement with the Rootes Group in England to produce special-bodied versions of its production cars such as the Sunbeam Alpine and Hillman Super Minx. Anderloni's approach to this tie-up with a major car manufacturer was both ambitious and expansionist. The firm had obviously outgrown its small workshops in the town of Ludovico de Breme, and the search began for larger premises. A suitable 30,000-sq-m site was located near Nova Milanese, and the move began.
Installed in its new factory, Touring went from strength to strength, and in 1963 it was approached by tractor manufacturer Ferruchio Lamborghini to work on the car he had presented at the Turin show that year. His first car, the 350GTV, was the work of relatively unknown designer Franco Scaglioni and had received some criticism for its looks. Some people liked it and others hated it. The 350GTV was, in a word, controversial.
Touring was distinguished in this era for continuing its pre-war leitmotif of simple and pure lines which bucked the trend of other designers toward such Transatlantic extravagances as fins and lots of chrome embellishment. Touring's approach to the Lamborghini 350GTV was to keep the Scaglioni style but improve upon it with a purer line. In four months, the redesigned car was ready and was presented at the 1964 Geneva Motor Show where it received a warm welcome.
Thirteen 350GTVs were made in 1964, the first year of production, and to capitalize on the interest stirred up in this car, Touring released a spider version known as the 350GTS. Visual alterations were few-removal of the roof and alterations to the windows and trunk for storage of the top. Two 350GTS models were made in 1965, one of which received great acclaim at that year's Paris Auto Salon.
Still a young company, Lamborghini was going through a period of intense reorganization, and other priorities prevented production of the very attractive 350GTS. Head of that list was producing the best grand touring sports car in the world, and Lamborghini realized the 350GT would have to be improved upon.
Thus, early 1966 saw the unveiling of the 400GT. Lamborghini, in collaboration with Touring, had worked relentlessly on the new car for debut at Geneva. The 60-degree V12 engine had been uprated from 3464cc and 270 bhp to 3929cc and 320 bhp for the 350GT "4-liter" version, and Touring modified the body to include two small rear seats. The basic lines of the two cars were very similar, and a fast-moving 400GT was distinguished by its four round headlamps in place of the oval units on the 350GT. Both cars were made alongside each other. With a claimed top speed of 165 mph, the Lamborghini 400GT was a worthy rival to Ferrari's 275GTB.
The grass was not so green at the house of Touring, however. In the heyday of its renaissance in the late 1950s, the firm's dramatic expansionist ideas had begun to flounder with the fortunes of one of its biggest clients, the Rootes Group. The Italian state had taken control of Touring in 1963, in the process laying off 120 of the 400-strong workforce. But the management continued to think big and poured money into new prototypes. In a sense, when the Lamborghini/Touring liaison was forged, the company was already sailing in troubled waters.
Anderloni had taken a liking to the load-carrying derivatives of sports cars that had been successfully pioneered by the 1954 Corvette Nomad and Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake in 1965. He saw this concept as a viable alternative body style for the Lamborghini 400GT and, despite the financial trouble his company was in, pressed ahead with the project.
The wheelbase of the 400GT was 2.55m (100.39 in.) long. To achieve the visual proportions desired, and because of the deletion of the rear seat, the wheelbase was shortened to 2.45m (96.46 in.), which also made the car more agile on the road. This was logical, because Zagato's 1965 London Motor Show 3500GTZ prototype was based on the 350GT and used this dimension. It had thus already been proven to work well with the weight distribution and suspension settings of the car.