Which Entrepreneur Made Tractors Before Entering the Sports Car Business?

Dustin Hawley | Feb 15, 2021

Farmers have been buying Lamborghinis for decades. And no, it’s not because they want to drive stylish sports cars up and down the barnyard. Ferruccio Lamborghini, the man who founded the company of his namesake, originally owned a tractor company. Lamborghini Trattori S.p.A was founded in 1948 in Cento, Italy.

lamborghini tractor

Despite being famous for becoming a luxury car entrepreneur, it took Lamborghini fifteen years to begin producing sports cars. Lamborghini’s rise to prominence in the Italian automotive industry is a tale of success, colored by his feud with Ferrari, which put both companies in the spotlight as their bitter competition with one another grew in scale. 

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Interestingly enough, the life of the famous creator of high-end sports cars was marked by both World wars. 

Ferruccio Lamborghini was born in 1916 in the midst of World War I. His parents were viticulturists and had a farm where they grew grapes for wine. Family business played a considerable role in Lamborghini’s life, as he grew up surrounded by the farming lifestyle and, more importantly, agricultural machinery. He developed a robust enthusiasm and passionate interest in mechanics that led him to the Fratelli Taddia technical institute near Bologna. During his studies, Ferruccio worked as an apprentice at a workshop.

Things may have worked out differently had it not been for World War II. Lamborghini ended up getting drafted into the Italian Royal Air Force as a mechanic. In 1943, after nearly four years of conflict, the Italians decided that they didn’t want to fight anymore. Germany was not fond of this decision, and Italy’s military occupation began shortly thereafter. When the British finally took control of Rhodes’ island in the same year, Lamborghini was captured and given a task to work on automobiles. He returned to Italy in 1946, and his luck began to change rapidly.

At first, Lamborghini began producing and selling tractors. But soon, other ventures followed, including the design and manufacturing of air-conditioning and heating systems. Finally achieving success, Lamborghini became wealthy and bought himself luxurious cars. It was during this time that he drove a Ferrari for the first time. But while Lamborghini was known as a great mechanic, he was said to be a “bad driver.” 

Lamborghini owned a 250 GT Ferrari, and when he noticed the vehicle had numerous technical issues, he complained to Enzo Ferrari in person. This set off the dispute between the two exotic carmakers and was the primary reason behind Lamborghini’s brave decision to start his own auto company.

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Lamborghini’s first tractor was built in 1948 and named the Carioca. He decided to build tractors cheap and sell them cheap, and while his tractors were small, they were powerful and well-built. He was able to offer his tractors at a reasonable price point because the mechanical parts were as affordable as they were accessible. 

Lamborghini tractors stood out in the market as a result of this cost-effective access to parts. Another advantage that Lamborghini effectively leveraged was that tractors were very modular at the time. In short, this means that most of their parts were interchangeable, which allowed farmers to cut their costs. By 1951, Lamborghini Trattori had constructed its facility and onboarded more than 30 employees.

 Soon, the company was given a license to produce diesel engines in Italy, and during the 1960s, around 400 people worked at the company. The production rate increased at this time, and Lamborghini was soon able to produce up to 25 tractors per day.

As mentioned above, the business was doing well, and Lamborghini became a wealthy industrialist. Therefore, he could finally afford a luxurious car like a Jaguar, Maserati, and, of course, the very best from Italy - Ferrari.

According to Valentino Balboni, Lamborghini’s longtime test driver, Ferruccio kept burning the clutch on his Ferrari 250 GT, which was eventually the reason behind the big feud between him and Enzo Ferrari.

 After replacing the clutch a few times, Ferruccio eventually disassembled the Ferrari engine and transmission, only to find out that the clutch they used was a commercial component. This made Ferruccio angry, as he felt this was a bad business practice being that Ferrari’s were such expensive vehicles. After a conversation between the two, Ferrari said that the problem wasn’t the clutch, but the driver. Infuriated, Lamborghini vowed to make the best sports car in Italy.

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Armed with motivation resulting from his feud with Ferrari, Lamborghini dedicated himself and his company to creating Italy’s top sports car. He already had the plant to build cars, and this helped his new business quickly take off. Due to his fascination with bullfighting, his cars were named after bulls. Reportedly, Lamborghini simply wanted to create a well-built dream car, and he never advertised his automobiles. But as word got out about his vehicles’ style and performance, the world received Lamborghini sports cars with so much enthusiasm that the brand soon became iconic.

After Lamborghini Trattori began to experience some difficulties, Ferruccio sold the business, and the company changed hands several times until finally, it was purchased by Volkswagen in the late 1990s

 Some of the most famous Lamborghinis emerged from under the German automaker’s wing, including the Murcielago and Gallardo. Rather fittingly, the company still produces tractors to this day. Lamborghini Trattori is now owned by Same Deutz-Fahr, though they still adorn their tractors with the Lamborghini namesake.

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When you put it into perspective, the reality of a tractor business evolving into a supercar phenomenon is a story of vision, courage, and determination. Despite being 46 years old at the time when Lamborghini Automobili took off, Ferruccio Lamborghini made sure that his life’s work would never be forgotten, and his legacy is cemented in the automobile industry.

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