07 Apr 2013

Lamborghini Miura SV Catches Fire in London

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Those London firemen must have stopped for a cup of tea before arriving to extinguish the fire.

They only made 764 Miuras between 1968 and 1972. This one was a P400SV, probably made after 1970.

British sports cars were notorious for a wilingness to rust, and for every kind of electrical problem. (Famous joke: “Why do the British drink warm beer? Because Lucas made the refrigerators.”) But members of the exclusive club rich enough to own an Italian exotic car could apparently get with it really exotic issues… like a propensity to catch fire at idle(!).

Says commenter The Yellow Elise:

Lamborghini [Miura]’s use[d] Weber 40 IDL 3C1 carburetors which were designed exclusively for racing applications and weren’t suitable for road use. The problem occurred when the car sat idling (e.g. at a stoplight), the area above the throttles filled with fuel which often ignited when the car accelerated away from the stop.

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Peter Orosz was allowed to examine and sit in one at a collectible car company, and he was moved to rhapsodize:

There is a menacing beauty to the Miura up close. The roofline is so low the car would be inadequate to cover the private parts of a man were he to approach it naked. The cute eyelashes of the ventilation ducts surrounding the headlights begin to look like alien claws. As you make your way into the snug cabin, the velocity trumpets of that great engine tower over your head, mere inches away. If not for the thin plate of glass between you and the six carburetors, a blip of the gas pedal would send loose strands of your hair down their throats, ready to combine with gasoline. And burn.

My girlfriend Natalie, described the driving position as “basically perfect”, quite a surprise when you consider the monkey-boy ergonomics of most Italian cars. The cabin is simple yet full of gorgeous detail, a combination of fine materials and charming reminders of low-volume handmade production.

But said perfection combines with much imperfection: The Miura has an annoying tendency to catch on fire at idle. The front end tends to lose traction at speed. And its spotty relationship with reliability is most likely a direct function of being an Italian car, built in a small factory almost half a century ago.

Still, being up close to one makes it more desirable to me than ever. No matter how many times I see a Miura—and I haven’t seen many, and this is the first one I’ve actually sat in—I am always in awe of its impeccable proportions, its wonderful punk history, and its sheer sense of speed and style. Inside, you dream of gently twisting motorways with no speed limits, and no traffic. Of mountain roads and plains and electric blue lakes. Of tunnels to amplify the shriek of that V12. Driving a Miura is one of life’s great petrolhead fantasies. But to enjoy it, you don’t even have to drive. Just climb inside, close your eyes, and dream your merry automotive dreams.

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