A trip to Italy confirms Shropshire's leading role in the Lamborghini legend
A delve into the archives of one of the world's great supercar companies has confirmed the pioneering part Shropshire played in the birth of the Lamborghini legend.
Italian car enthusiast David Morris of Shrewsbury and Carl Peele, the Lamborghini Club's company secretary and treasurer, travelled to the firm's factory in Italy to verify that the very first Lamborghini sold in the world was to a Shropshire buyer and that it was the first road-legal Lamborghini ever produced.
It was the same sleek white car Dave had seen as a car-mad youngster one Saturday in September 1964 when he cycled down to Jones's newsagents at The Column, Shrewsbury, to collect a magazine.
The sports car pulled up with Italian number plates and, incongruously, the driver got out and went to the shop to buy a can of Heinz baked beans.
Dave found out later that the owner was wealthy industrialist Robin Grant, of Pitchford Hall, near Shrewsbury, who had taken delivery on August 21, 1964, although the driver on the day he saw it was Oliver Colthurst, who was married to Robin's stepdaughter Caroline.
Finding out more has meant years of research culminating in the Italian trip confirming that car's historic significance.
"They let us loose in their factory archive," said Dave, of the Italian AutoMoto Club.
"The build records were all contained in handwritten Woolworth's-type exercise books, with entries made in ballpoint pen, and it was quite a shock to see how primitive they were.
"They were able to confirm that Mr Grant was the very first purchaser and owner of a Lamborghini car in the world, and they were delighted when I handed over the copy of the very first receipt ever issued by Mr Lamborghini – to Mr Grant – which they had not seen before and had not got in their filing system.
"They asked me to sign its authenticity, and it is now sitting in the company's archive, together with the build records.
"They confirmed that I held more information on that first car than they did, and asked me to update them if we come across further information."
Lamborghini already knew about Dave's researches as the company had a copy of a Star article about his discoveries from some years ago.
Plans are now being drawn up to hold Lamborghini's 60th anniversary celebrations at Pitchford Hall next year.
"On the anniversary day we are expecting Mr Grant's son, who is now in his 90s, to come down from his monastery in Scotland and chat to us, and also one of his old friends from Ludlow Mr Hely Hutchinson, again, in his 90s, who used to go on continental jaunts with Mr Grant in his very rare cars."
In another exciting development Dave says the current owners of Pitchford Hall have unearthed some cine footage of the car.
Robin Grant's Lamborghini was beset by many technical shortcomings, but his constructive feedback helped Ferruccio Lamborghini iron them out.
He went on to get another Lamborghini, the Miura, and the first car was stored and later went to a collector.
Sadly Robin was diagnosed with cancer and while towards the end of his life he was told he could no longer drive on a public road, it is said that he had a Maserati, a Ferrari Dino, and a Lamborghini Miura delivered to Pitchford Hall and drove them up and down the drive.
He died aged 68 on January 21, 1972.
As for the car, it has changed hands – and colours – several times.
Dave said: "The car is now painted blue and is owned by Georg Gebhard, a rare minerals dealer in Germany. He keeps the car in a museum in Sinsheim, where it is mistakenly described as the first car made, which it is not. It is the first one ever ordered and sold.
"It's chassis 0105. Chassis 0101 to 0104 were development cars which were scrapped before Mr Grant picked his car up from the factory, but were later restored and put back on the road."