Automobili Lamborghini was founded by Ferruccio Lamborghini, the child of viticulturists from the comune of Renazzo di Cento, Province of Ferrara, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. After serving as a mechanic in the Regia Aeronautica, during World War II, Lamborghini went into business building tractors out of leftover military hardware from the war effort. By the mid-1950s, Lamborghini's tractor company, Lamborghini Trattori S.p.A., had become one of the largest agricultural equipment manufacturers in the country.
Lamborghini's wealth allowed him to cultivate a childhood interest in cars, owning a number of luxury automobiles including Alfa Romeos, Lancias, Maseratis, and a Mercedes Benz. He purchased his first Ferrari, a 250GT, in 1958, and went on to own several more. Lamborghini was fond of the Ferraris, but considered them too noisy and rough to be proper road cars, likening them to repurposed track cars. Lamborghini gradually gained the impetus to create cars as he envisioned them, and decided to pursue an automobile manufacturing venture of his own.
Lamborghini met with success in 1966 with the release of the mid-engined Miura sports coupé, and in 1968 with the Espada GT, the latter of which sold over 1,200 units during ten years of production. After almost a decade of rapid growth, and the release of classic models like the Countach in 1974, hard times befell the company in the late 1970s, as sales plunged in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. Bankruptcy crippled the automaker, and after passing through the hands of a number of Swiss entrepreneurs, Lamborghini came under the corporate umbrella of industry giant Chrysler. The American company failed to make the Italian manufacturer profitable, and in 1994, the company was sold to Indonesian interests.
Lamborghini would remain on life support throughout the rest of the 1990s, continuously updating the Diablo of 1990 in lieu of a planned expanded range of offerings, including a smaller car that would appeal to American enthusiasts. Reeling from the Asian financial crisis of the previous year, in 1998 Lamborghini's owners sold the troubled automaker to AUDI AG, the luxury car subsidiary of German automotive concern Volkswagen Group. German ownership marked the beginning of a period of stability and increased productivity for Lamborghini, with sales increasing nearly tenfold over the course of the next decade.