You have ... one ... message:
"Hi Chris, this is Gary. Have you got Miura fever yet?"

It was the third such message from Gary Bobileff of Bobileff Motors. Miura fever was running high due to plans by Joe Sackey to gather as many Miuras as possible in Carmel Valley on August 18th, 2000 for a celebration of the 35th anniversary of the design. (See the Lamborghini Club - America web site for details.) Gary had another Miura in his shop that was starting a complete restoration, and he said that it would be mutually beneficial to do two cars together. It was tempting. The fever was starting to grab me.

Flashback to another phone call, in Seattle Washington, 1979:

   "Is this the Chris Holl that's in the Lamborghini Club?"
    Yes, it was.
   "Have you ever worked on a Miura before?"
    No, I had not.
    < pause >
   "Would you like to?"

Thus began my friendship with Bob Merrell. Bob had convinced the owner of the 1969 Miura that he could rebuild the engine. The owner had tried several times to have the engine rebuilt, but each time he had entrusted less-than-qualified shops to the work in an effort to save money. Bob was another attempt. To make a long story short, after about six months Bob returned the car to its owner. Bob and I had learned a lot and formed a lifetime friendship, but the car was still not running.

About two years after Bob returned the car I called the owner. He still had it, still not running, in another shop. And yes, he would be willing to sell it. He had bought the car in England in 1978, a year before Bob worked on it, and drove it home "on nine cylinders."

I was hesitant about buying it because even though it was considerably less than a running Miura (which could be had for $25,000 to $35,000) it was still a lot of money for me. Bob was beyond encouraging. He removed every fear I had about buying it. I lived in an apartment and had no place to keep it. No problem; I could keep it in his garage. I didn't have the money and hadn't gone into debt before. Bob said that if I didn't buy it, he would, and if I ever regretted the purchase he'd buy it from me. There was no way I could lose. I have this car today because of Bob.

Bob and I picked it up on December 14, 1982 and brought it to his house.

Bob's house, 1982. The car was painted black and gold. I was so excited about getting the car that I bought some baby announcement cards and used this photo to send to a few friends. Name: Miura, Date: 12/14/82, Weight: ~2480 lbs! (About the same as my MGB.)

It was rusty, tired, and in poor mechanical shape. But it was mine. And it was all there. The seller told me that I could have it back on the road for about $6,000. Not that I believed it. I knew what I was buying. Over the next couple of years I completely dismantled the car (see Early Efforts). Each step was discouraging. Bad wires, rust, poor paint, rust, rotting carpet, rust, body damage, and more rust. I guess England is hard on cars. After stripping it to a rolling chassis no progress was made for years. I never had the time and money to work on it, and it was just too intimidating. With only 25,000 miles on it, 3901 was set aside for a better day.

Bob passed away in June of 2007 from cancer. He was a wonderful and dear friend, and I'm deeply sad that he will never see the completed restoration. When 3901 makes its first public appearance there will be a tribute plaque to Bob with it, and he will certainly be there in spirit.

The History of 3901

I've been doing some research on the car because of many parts found with the number 127 stamped on them, instead of 254 - the car's production number. Thanks to "Lambo" Jack Riddell I was able to contact Enzo Moruzzi at Lamborghini. He remembered my car and was able to confirm what I believed and add some details.

The car was originally production number 127, chassis 3297, engine 1681, blue with a mustard interior. It was delivered to the Modena dealer LAMBORCAR on 7 Feb 1968, and purchased by Formula 1 driver Vittorio Brambilla. Nicknamed the Monza Gorilla, Vittorio had his only Grand Prix victory in 1975 at Osterreichring, Austria driving a March 751. The race was shortened due to rain, and Brambilla was so excited by his victory that on crossing the finish line he threw his hands in the air, lost control of his car in the wet, and slid into the wall. He completed his victory lap with the nose of the March damaged, and still waving enthusiastically to the crowd he became an Italian hero.

Vittorio Brambilla, The Monza Gorilla. Brambilla had a reputation for being hard on his race cars, and apparently this held true on the street too. After owning the Miura a few months Vittorio crashed the car and it was sent back to the factory via LAMBORCAR for repair. In the process, it was painted a custom Brambilla Blue (according to the Coltrin book). For some reason Brambilla didn't take the car back. It was bought by the factory (or a replacement Miura or Espada was provided to LAMBORCAR) and sold to a friend of Sig. Moruzzi at a discount. Just before it was delivered it was given new identification: production number 254 (twice 127), chassis 3901, and engine 2727. It was delivered on 31 Dec 1968 as a 1969 model, and was the last P400 to leave the factory. Because it was a rebuild it was finished much sooner than the serial numbers around it (3898 and 3904), which were finished in February 1969.

Vittorio passed away in May 2001 from a heart attack. He is survived by his older brother Ernesto "Tino" Brambilla, who was also a racer. See the Wikipedia article on Brambilla.

Brambilla in his March 751. Click the image to watch a video tribute to Brambilla on YouTube.

Post Brambilla

Sometime later 3901 made its way to England, and in 1977 was put up for sale at Motorfair. The car didn't sell, but eventually it was bought by its previous owner and brought to Seattle, WA.

1969 Miura 3901, in England, in Brambilla Blue. (Click image to enlarge.) Fortunately Brambilla Blue was found under the windshield rubber and inside the wheel wells, so the car can be returned to its special colour.
A visitor to this site sent me this photo from Motor magazine, November 12, 1977. I have since acquired a copy of this issue. The article is about Christie's auction at Motorfair. The only reference to the Miura is "But a Lamborghini P400 Miura, body by Bertone, which surely must be in the dream-car class and cost £10,500 new only in 1969 could not raise more than £6,500 and didn't sell." (Click image to enlarge.)

In late 2005 another visitor to the site not only remembered that he had gone to the 1977 Motorfair with his dad and saw the Miura, but had taken photos! He was kind enough to send me copies of the pictures he took. Thanks Steve!

It appears the car has been repainted because the blue colour is different (or it could be the colour balance of the film, or the fact that that photos are 30 years old), and the wheels and rocker panels have been painted gold.

Click on the following pictures to enlarge. (Click "Back" to return.) I wonder who is sitting in the car. Also note the wheels and rocker panels are gold, but in the Brambilla Blue photo above they are silver.

My First Time

The first Miura I saw in person belonged to a local doctor. I think it was a P400, but all I really remember was it was white. Sadly that Miura was completely destroyed when the owner’s garage caught fire. It was replaced with an orange-red Miura S. I used to stop by his house occasionally to see the car. It was kept outside in his carport and would get pretty dirty. One day I brought over a bucket and supplies and washed and waxed the car. I never asked or told anyone, and when the dirt accumulated after a month or so, I did it again.

After a few months the owner discovered me washing his car. He had been wondering who the mystery cleaner was, and he was very nice about it. He took me out for a short ride (my first) and let me drive it back. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. I’ll never forget it.

But the story gets better. I invited his daughter to my 19th birthday party and she asked if I wanted anything special. My flip answer was "Your dad's car." Her gift was a certificate allowing me to "own" the car for two hours. The following Saturday I washed and waxed the car and on Sunday took it out for a drive.

November 2, 1975.
Here is a just-turned-19-year-old me with Dr. Lewis’s Miura S.

I've never been the same. Thanks Betsy.