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March 28th, 2007

Story by Jack Riddell

For over 35 years I have lived with a 1967 Lamborghini 400GT 2+2,one of the most exotic, complex, rare (one of 247 built) and unusual Italian cars ever to grace our shores. For the first 25 years, it was my everyday car, and even today it gets driven as often as possible. Throughout the years, living with a V12 Lamborghini has been, for the most part, a pleasant experience which has provided me with reliable transportation as well as all the fun and enjoyment owning such a car can bring.

A Lamborghini for $6,250
I first fell in love with Lamborghini back in 1966 when I read an article in Road and Track magazine that featured a road test and driver’s impressions on a 350 GT. I was struck by how elegant the car looked and performed. Later that year, I had a ride in one and swore to myself that one day, I would have one of these cars, somehow, some way.

By the early 1970s, I had a bit more earning power and by then, the 350s and 400s had actually dropped in price. On Sundays I bought the Los Angeles Times and scanned the used cars section in the classifieds. And every time I saw one, my wife and I would jump in the family car (a 1966 Jaguar XKE) and motor up to LA to look at Lamborghinis. It was very discouraging. The cars I viewed were either too expensive or beat up badly. Then one day in 1972, I picked up a local flyer and noticed a Lamborghini 400GT 2+2 listed for sale, in excellent condition with only 23,000 miles, and within a week, I had struck a deal for the car for $6250.00 and sold the Jag.

Wherever I was transferred during my Navy career, the car went along and until the mid-1990s, I drove it to work regularly. I kept records of my driving and to date, have put over 250,000 miles on the car. When I tell people that, they are incredulous that an exotic like that can be reliable enough to last that long. I assure them that the 400 is indeed, a very reliable car.

Having driven in the 400 for so many miles Jack often lets total strangers behind the wheel.

Lions and Tigers and Lambos
Reliable, yes, but just like any other type of car, occasionally things did go wrong; minor things, like losing a fan belt while driving through Lion Country Safari with my parents in the back seat (no small achievement either!). They were enjoying watching the wild lions and other jungle creatures but asked me to roll down the window. When I did, the engine died. And it wouldn’t start up again--the only sound was the click click of the solenoid as the battery had run low after the alternator threw the belt.

It’s a distinct possibility Michael Crichton must have learned of our adventure while doing research for “Jurassic Park.” As I anxiously tried to start the Lambo, the lions were approaching the car from all directions. This was not good. My wife and mother were getting visibly upset, to put it mildly. At the last minute, an attendant in a Land Rover pulled up and was able to chase away the lions long enough to give me a jump start. I turned off everything except the ignition and limped back home, fortunately, with all our body parts. No matter what kind of car one might have been driving, it was an experience one never forgets. Having the experience in a Lamborghini makes it even more memorable.

Jack Riddell has stood by his car, literally and figuratively, for over 35 years.

I had always done most of my own work on the cars I owned and decided to do the same with this one. I changed oil at regular intervals(all 12 quarts!), and in terms of maintenance, took good care of the car.

The DOHC V12 engine and the six Weber side draft carbs looked pretty intimidating, but the truth is, the engine is pretty straightforward and not all that difficult to work on. I bought several books on the Webers and soon became pretty adept and rebuilding and tuning them. Valve adjustments took a while to master, since the process involves using shims and a feeler gauge. Over the years I replaced whatever needed replacing, and overhauled the engine a couple of times.

Interior was completely refurbished by top notch upholsterer Louie Meza.

A few of years ago, I completely rebuilt the engine with new everything, rebuilt the suspension system, repainted the car (I did the paint at home in my garage), and paid a local expert, Louie Meza, to replace the entire interior, top to bottom, and his work was flawless. I replaced the scratched side windows, the windshield, all the rubber on the car, and had the Borrani wire wheels restored by Cork Adams. I replaced the entire exhaust system in stainless steel.

California Emissions
For several years, California went though a series of legislative events that forced me to submit the car to smog testing. The car was originally allowed into California on a special exemption from smog testing due to it multiple carburetors and other considerations. But this didn’t stop the politicians from mandating smog tests years later. As you might imagine, getting a carbureted V12 to pass any smog test is problematic. I tried retarding timing, leaning the carbs, fitting a home-designed PCV setup, among other tricks. But nothing I did would pass the emissions test. I ended up buying catalytic converters for the car just to get through smog testing. Finally, the laws were revised to exempt the older cars once again.

The joys of ownership come in many ways. Here Riddell,center, meets both Jay Leno and designer Marcello Gandini at the same time.

Drive and show
I have been a member of Lamborghini Club America for over 25 years, and every year I have made the annual trip from San Diego to Monterey for the big weekend in August. The car has been shown at Concorso Italiano (many times), the Santa Barbara Concorso, the Pasadena Art Center College of Design, and many other mostly California venues. It is always well received by the public and it is always fun when a driver passes you on the freeway with the “thumbs up” sign.

The market for these early cars has recently spiked upwards. For several decades, you could buy a reasonably nice (unrestored) 400GT 2+2 for $35 – 50K dollars. But in the past couple of years, that has all changed, Several of the early models, particularly the two-seater Miura, have seen some radical jumps in price. The Miura roadster (a one of a kind model) recently sold for over a million dollars and other restored examples of Miuras are now selling for $500,000.00 and up. The 350s, the 400 interims (350 models fitted with 4.0 liter engine and transmission), and the 400 GT 2+2 models are now selling for well over $150,000.00. Any fully restored examples are selling for considerably more. So my $6250.00 investment in 1972 has evolved into a pretty nice form of IRA (not that I have any plans to sell the car). The down side of this increase in value is that it forces many owners to park the cars rather than drive them. I noticed that at the events I routinely attend, their numbers have dwindled greatly.

Sharing the knowledge
In 2002, I got together with an old friend and fellow owner of a 1967 400GT 2+2, Fred Paroutaud. Together, we decided to start a Yahoo forum to share some of our 50+ years of experience with the owners of the early Lamborghinis. We decided to name it the Vintage Lamborghini Garage and it grew from six people in late 2002 to the current membership of 757 and provides valuable information for the pre-Diablo Lamborghinis.

When I performed my last, major engine rebuild, I took a lot of notes and digital photos. Later I compiled all the notes and pictures into an Engine Overhaul Manual comprising 100 pages. I later did the same thing for rebuilding the suspension and a few other repair events. I made them all free on the Vintage Lamborghini Garage. They are accessible to anyone who joins the Vintage Lamborghini Garage forum. This involves creating a Yahoo name and password, then simply clicking on the “Join This Group Icon on the home page at Vintage Lambo.

To see many of the events I have attended and photographed, please visit my (very amateur) web site at:

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