Words and photography by Vijay Sankar (@pink_helmet)
A solid wall of thunderous wails echoed through the woods lining the Fairfax-Bolinas Road. Flocks of birds were dislodged from mountain sides at the arrival of the exhaust note rocking their world.
As much as the visual presence is iconic, the noise of the Miura precedes it.
The enormous V12 barking at full tilt is all-consuming. Thunderous. Tumultuous. It raises hell long before it arrives at the scene. It is the stuff of angry Spitfire engines waking up to life, throwing caution to the winds, and sending you into visceral throes. Even at part throttle, the mechanical vibrations emanating from the engine bay–just a few inches from the driver’s ears–is downright gnarly and magnificent at the same time.
The Bizzarrini V12 is simply a device that (mostly) converts gasoline into noise–a fantastic noise, and LOTS of it. This is evident in the combined MPG of–wait for it–5.5 that the owner Derek received in his operation of this Italian marvel that evening. As cringeworthy as that sounds, this is perhaps one of the finest ways to turn hydrocarbons into joy. That is, as long as the car does not recall it’s Italian, and promptly breaks down per usual. Yes, it breaks a lot; precisely three times during a three-hour filming period with us that eventful evening.
It is a platitude to layer endless praise upon the Gandini-penned bodywork draping this chassis. It is arguably one of the prettiest cars ever made. Yes, the E-Type is a voluptuous dollop of curves laid over a grand touring chassis, but it falls short in the proportions department by being somewhat unbalanced. The Miura checks all the boxes–elegant lines, a well-proportioned GT body, a timeless silhouette and mid-engine perfection. It is the template that heralded the inimitable supercar moniker.
It’s All About Theatre
Look at it.
As a standalone, you have no way of telling how big or small the footprint is, so you juxtapose it next to anything modern and are stunned by its diminutive size. That’s how well-proportioned the car is. It’s a dainty thing, with vast flowing lines that never let your eyes rest.
The powertrain, on the other hand, is an assault on the senses. Look back and peer through the clear glass framing the monstrous mechanical orchestra behind you. It’s amazing how close it is to the driver, and how much of the valvetrain you can hear resonating through your body. It is pure magic to witness the throttle bodies jolt behind your neck with every twitch of your right foot. And the car demands flamboyant motions from the driver to make it work. It makes you dance with it.
While it looks masterful from the outside, there are lots of crude details inside the car–the pedal box, handbrake, wipers, switchgear. You can tell it was engineered to go racing, but made for the road. The rolling chassis weighed only 150 lbs. when it was first revealed at the 1965 Turin Auto Show.
Intimidating at first but extremely light and agile-feeling, the Miura is a dynamic revelation for its era. It is amazingly chuck-able, and very eager to make changes in direction. This is perhaps a polar opposite to the very hefty Countach that came later on.
Poor ergonomics is a hallmark of Lamborghinis of this era, and this is no different–it’s hard to reach the top of the wheel due to its awkward positioning in conjunction with the seating. The light steering, however, makes up for this to an extent. This is paired with a light clutch, long throttle pedal, and easy-to-modulate brakes. The car turns in beautifully, and rides very well over bumps due to its big, fat sidewalls.
Independent double wishbone suspension and disc brakes all around inspire great confidence while hustling it on a tight backroad, granted the Miura is not at home in such a setting. It is a long-legged grand tourer; but it can still wear the dancing shoes.
Drawing comparisons to the contemporary Ferrari 275 GTB/4, Derek says the Ferrari feels a bit lazy in comparison to this.
The engine makes great noises throughout the rev range, but the startup and idle sound a bit agricultural. The shifter is most definitely as hefty as it looks, with slow meaty throws that demand force and finesse. The crystal-clear gates make it easier to slot into gear. Upshifts also need blipping the throttle because the shifts cannot be rushed, and by the time you find the next gear, the engine revs would’ve dropped fast.
The car demands you to be an attentive driver who is privy to its idiosyncrasies. Any sloppiness in driver inputs will manifest in poor response from the car. Would you have it any other way?
A True Italian
During the brief shower that manifested during our drive, one of the wipers decided to call it a day, and promptly fell off. Later in the evening, the battery died, and demanded a booster to startup. To complete the trifecta, the headlights stopped working momentarily, and turned back on later when the car was in the mood again.
Upon overfilling the fuel tank by mistake, Derek started up the car for us to witness several inches of fuel level gushing down the inlet tube in 2-3 seconds. Luckily, gas was only $7 a gallon that week.
As Derek puts it, the whole experience of operating a Miura is colored by the fear of imminent failure. The authentic Miura experience goes like this: set it on fire, break it, spend $5000 every time you take it out for a spirited drive. The drivetrain is exceedingly delicate, and the fuel system demands dedicated care to not end up torching the car.
But all that goes out the window when the V12 starts stretching its legs–it’s the most primeval sensory overload I’ve experienced in a car. Perhaps worth every quirk you have to live with, as attested by the forty thousand miles on the odometer.
We’ll leave you with images of this Italian car in an improbable use case: out in the rain on a greasy back road. Props to Derek for using it like any great driver’s car should be.
The village bicycle lives another day.
Tip of the hat to Derek Tam ‘Hyphen’ Scott for letting us experience the Miura in all its glory.
Words and photography by Vijay Sankar (@pink_helmet)