Sadly, Bob Wallace has passed away. He was Lamborghini's Chief Test Driver from 1964 to 1975 and the father of the legendary Miura SV Jota and Ferruccio's only hot rod, the Jarama S "Bob."
Born in New Zealand, Wallace moved to Italy at the age of 21 where he worked for racing teams that included Ferrari and Maserati. Following his stint in motorsports, he moved to Lamborghini where he served as a mechanic who played a pivotal role in creating Lamborghini's famous V12 and the gorgeous Miura.
His most famous creation was the Miura SVJ, the "J" standing for Jota. Wallace wanted to build a faster, track ready Miura, but since Ferruccio Lamborghini was against any racing activity, Wallace only got chassis number 5084 and the factory tools to work with after his normal shift ended. He was road-testing Lamborghini’s developmental prototypes under the cover of night, where he’d frequently drive to 170mph on the Autostrada.
To reach his goal, the chassis had to be upgraded and the body panels had to be replaced by ones made of a very light alloy called Avional (4.75% copper, 0.5% magnesium and 1.4% silicon), with extra holes cut in the hood for additional cooling.
A stripped interior, quick fuel filler, a single wiper and fixed headlights completed the package, as well as the widest Campagnolo wheels (12-inch wide at the back and 9-inch up front) wrapped in Dunlop slicks. The V12 got a higher compression ratio, modified cams, a completely electronic ignition system and dry sump lubrication.
Wallace covered 12,427 miles on Pirelli's test tracks with his 440 horsepower racecar. The Jota was sold in 1972, only to be crashed by a mechanic. It burned to the ground, melting the bodywork and bending the chassis beyond repair.
After the original Jota's death, Wallace moved on to creating the ultimate Jarama S. With a stiffened chassis and the engine moved a bit further back, he managed to get almost perfect 50/50 weight distribution. Aluminum panels, adjustable Koni suspension, big brakes, fatter wheels and a roll cage supported the lightened V12 that produced 380 hp at 8,000 rpm. This special 165 mph car ended up in Saudi Arabia before it was rediscovered in 1999.
Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann had this to say after his death this week:
The news received today of the death of Bob Wallace hit me and all of us at Lamborghini and leaves us with a great sorrow. As the first test driver of the company, Wallace has played a key role in the early years of Lamborghini and strongly contributed to the birth of the myth of the Bull. We were sorry that he could not accept our invitation and come to celebrate the 50’ anniversary at our factory in May due to health reasons, but his words in a video message impressed all of the thousand guests. Automobili Lamborghini is close to his relatives and friends, and will honor his memory.
His legend lives on.