The Design by Luigi Colani That Makes the Lamborghini Miura Look Boring
The Lamborghini Miura is considered to be the first real supercar. When it came out in 1966, it was such an exceptional car that even teenagers ditched the magazines that they had found under their dad’s bed so that they could drool over pictures of this Italian beauty, and the rich guys that had emptied their pockets so that they could drive a Miura completely forgot about those magazines, since they were enjoying the kind of attention that could satisfy even the biggest ego. But in 1970, designer Luigi Colani took a Miura, chopped it up a bit, and reshaped it with his own ideas, and ended up creating a car that is still making jaws drop today.
In the 1960s, the Lamborghini Miura was something no one had ever seen before. It was an ultra-low wedge car with doors that looked like the horns of a bull when they were opened. And it had a V12 engine that was mounted transversely. Behind the driver. In the middle of the car! That was some kind of crazy for people back then. Nevertheless, the new, never-before-seen lines and the complete supercar package cast a spell over the general public. The Miura became perhaps the most sought-after car in the world and has retained this feature to this day; it also set an example for other manufacturers on how to create a real supercar.
However, industrial designer Luigi Colani didn’t think this model was all that special, so he created his own version in 1970. It was supposedly a Le Mans prototype that didn’t look anything like the Miura.
Not only was the 1970 Lamborghini Miura Le Mans concept nothing like any other car that had ever been made before – it was nothing like any other car that has ever been made since. It was a car made of two parts. The rear was Lamborghini Miura down to the tiniest screw, just with some improvements to the bodywork surrounding the mechanical part so that they went with the overall picture. It was fitted with the Miura’s 3.9-litre V12 engine, gearbox, suspension, and basically everything that was in the Miura right up to the passenger seats. Colani cut the Miura in half – that would be the easiest way to explain how he was able to separate a car with a rolling chassis – and attached a passenger compartment of his own design to the rear part.
Or perhaps more precisely – a cockpit, like you would normally find in a glider. From the side, the fibreglass cockpit looked like a drop of water being blown by the wind, and it was so thin that it resembled a dead flounder floating on its side. The driver and passenger had to stretch out on recliners to fit inside. A lot like today’s Formula-1 drivers. And because of the enormous windscreen, the passengers also looked like flounders packed in a plastic container from the outside. There was no steering wheel – the car had to be driven with a joystick.
The front part of the Miura Le Mans concept didn’t have a single angle; the designer wanted to keep it so sleek and stream-lined that he hid the wheels under the body. He didn’t provide any space for the front wheels to move, so they only stood straight, attached to the frame. The front wheels didn’t turn, and the rear wheel didn’t either. The entire assembly did. Since the front and rear parts of the car were connected by a few moving metal pieces and some tie rods and pedal cables, the Colani Miura could bend in half like an articulated bus. And that’s how this car could take a turn.
Luigi Colani is one of the pioneers of bionics, and his work often featured this type of design. Even though his name sounds Italian, Luigi was born in 1928 in Berlin to a family of Kurdish and Polish descent and was originally named Lutz. Lutz grew up in Berlin, and studied sculpture and painting there at the Academy of Arts. He later studied aerodynamics in Paris, and his first job involved new materials research. So he knew what he was doing, and as people now say about inventors who were not understood in the past – he was ahead of his time.
He is not a car designer, but he made his mark in the automotive world with pieces like the Colani-BMW 700 concept and the Ferrari Testa d’Oro one-off that he still owns. He is an industrial designer who has designed ground-effect vehicles, trains, lorries, aeroplanes, kitchens, cameras, televisions and other things that have little in common but which are distinct for the crazy bionic design that is his alone. Colani has never created a product that was put into mass production – most of his concepts have remained just that. However, he did contribute somewhat to various solutions that we use today.
Luigi Colani’s 1970 Lamborghini Miura Le Mans concept had a similar fate: even though it was a functioning model, it never took part in Le Mans or any other race. Rather, it spent the four years after its introduction travelling to various international shows and overshadowing other Lamborghini models.
In 1974, the bright orange prototype was painted blue and badged with Veedol Oil logos. After a trip around Europe, it left for America and disappeared there, forgotten by all.
More than three decade later, it resurfaced in 2010 in the state of Indiana. Without the V12 engine, with the paint peeling off of the fibreglass, and with a broken front suspension, but with the same bright orange rear wheels. The only model in the world built by the hands of Luigi Colani – or more precisely, its remnants – was auctioned for USD 75,000.