Ferruccio Lamborghini's very first car, the 350 GT, already rivalled the best his competitors had to offer.
When he debuted the chassis of his second car two years later, at the 1965 Turin Show, the world was stunned by its ground-breaking design configuration. It was presented as a bare chassis only and at that time no coach-builder was commissioned yet to design and construct a body. For the time being, the new Lamborghini was known as the P 400, the P was for posteriore, Italian for mid-mounted and 400 represented the 4 litre displacement of its engine.
From the late 1950s it had become apparent in motor racing that mounting the engine between the driver and the rear axle provided for a near-perfect weight balance. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome when employing this configuration for road use was the length of the driveline. A front mounted engine could be mounted almost under the dashboard without causing any problems and adding to the wheelbase. A mid-engine and transaxle had to be mounted behind the driver, but in front of the rear axle.
Chassis designer Gianpaulo Dallara overcame this problem by mounting the engine and gearbox transversely, with the crankshaft parallel to axle. This rare setup had previously only been used in the ill-fated Bugatti Type 252 and Honda RA 272 Formula 1 racers. As a result, the wheelbase increased by only 54 mm compared to the front-engined 350 GT. Much like the contemporary F1 racers, the radiator was mounted in the nose, but at an angle to decrease the frontal area and thus drag. In its design, the chassis was very much like that of the Ford GT40, which was also a major inspiration for Lamborghini to construct a mid-engined car in the first place.