April 28, 2016 8:00 AM EDT

When Ferruccio Lamborghini was born 100 years ago—on April 28, 1916it was into a life where sports cars, then a young concept, were out of reach. The son of a farmer, Lamborghini called on his family background after World War II to launch a business turning leftover military vehicle parts into affordable tractors.

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The business proved a success, enabling Lamborghini to start other ventures in the decade that followed. By the early 1960s, he could afford the car of his dreams—all that was left was building it. By 1963, he had succeeded at that too. In the half-century that followed, Lamborghinis would become some of the most recognizable sports cars in the world.

As these early images show, that distinctive look didn’t take long to develop.


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Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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