Test Drive: Mel Nichols on the Lamborghini Miura SV
On a cold December day in 1980, I went driving in a Lamborghini Miura SV, writes legendary road tester Mel Nichols.
Its first owner was Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, then 24 and flush with money from Sabbath’s first two albums. He’d paid £5,450 for it, picked it up from Lamborghini’s stand at the Birmingham Motor Show in April 1972 then driven it home to the suburban semi he still shared with his parents. The Miura cost rather more than the street’s most expensive house.
In 1980, after a spell with Scottish farmer Ken Smith, the pale blue ‘Azzurro Cielo’ SV – one of two that colour – was being sold by London dealer Bill Clouston. Even then, £17,950 seemed a steal compared to the prices things like Ferrari Daytonas were commanding.
Despite that morning’s bitter temperature, after three solid prods on the throttle the 4.0-litre V12 snapped into life and idled perfectly. When it was warm, it revved hard and cleanly. How tempting to unleash all 385HP (at 7,850rpm). I soon found a hospitable place.
As the four triple-choke Webers’ butterflies opened, the V12’s rumble changed to a beautifully blended bellow. The SV thrust ahead potently, if not quite savagely. At 8,000rpm, with the noise a tumultuous and gorgeous roar, it was time, at 59mph, to sweep the lever straight back to second. Eight thousand in second brought 86mph, in third 121 and in fourth 153. It felt like the car was flying; never going to stop.
I pushed the throttle again and before I had to back off the tachometer nudged 7,200rpm — or a true 165, if accurate. The speedo said 178.
The steering stayed steady and gentle in the hands and while the car seemed stable enough in itself, it felt slightly loose, too. The SV’s revised rear suspension hadn’t entirely removed the Miura’s high-speed wander. It needed more road than a Daytona, Boxer, Bora or Countach.
Easing along at a modest cruise, the SV felt relaxed, harmonious, sensuous. The engine gained or lost revs instantly whenever the throttle moved a fraction. The steering brought smooth and adroit response. The ride was firm and flat but supple enough, and stayed that way on backroads. There, I cruised swiftly without much effort, being careful only to avoid pelting too fast into tight bends or over blind crests. Nice; the SV was really nice, and didn't feel as old as I’d expected.
I played a couple of times, taking second for some tighter bends and booting out hard from the apex to see if the rear Pirellis would let go. They did. The breakaway was lightning fast, demanding instant correction. The car’s return to line was just as swift, and all without much obvious roll. On faster stretches the SV needed room to romp, weaving slightly under braking. And the brakes, notable when the Miura was launched, were just acceptable then.
Through my long day’s drive, the SV proved easy to enjoy, understand and revere. Devastatingly fast for its time, it was still captivating – an out-and-out sports car intended, as my CAR Magazine colleague Douglas Blain once said, “to be the 20th Century’s answer to the razor-taloned falcon, favourite suit of Swabian armour, private bodyguard of Prussian mercenaries, fine duelling pistols or all the other virility symbols of bygone eras.”
It’s pertinent to remember, too, the words of Bob Wallace, the Lamborghini test driver who honed the Miura’s character: “The Miura did one very good thing. It forced others, mainly Ferrari, to modernise their ideas and come up with something new.”
Mel Nichols’s book And The Revs Keep Rising contains 50 of his stories about the fastest and most interesting cars of the ’70, ’80s and beyond.
K500 subscribers can find market information on the Lamborghini Miura SV HERE.
Photo by Kidston