UUNLIKE WHAT MOST PEOPLE BELIEVE, Lamborghini heralded the luxury SUV when no one was even thinking about it. It was probably too early in the game. Lamborghini first built a military vehicle, a prototype called the “Cheetah” in 1977 for US defence contractor Mobility Technology International. This prototype featured a permanent four-wheel drive system and rather oddly, a rear mounted Chrysler V8 that resulted in a rather wayward handling SUV. The US government however was uninterested in an SUV that wouldn’t be made in America. And as fate were to have it, the only finished prototype was never tested by the US military, merely demonstrated to them by the Cheetah’s designer, Rodney Pharis.
The whole debacle cost Lamborghini dearly and, among others, resulted in the company going bankrupt in 1978. Lamborghini however didn’t give up on its dream of making a high-powered SUV. The LM001 soon happened. An evolution of the Cheetah it now carried an AMC V8 but handling remained woeful and the idea was shelved.
Lamborghini’s fortunes took a turn for the better in the 80s though as the wealthy Swiss Mirman family took over the company in 1984. Money was pumped in and Lamborghini rebooted the LM001 project, but now it was called the LM002. This time better sense prevailed and Lamborghini brought the engine to the front and the LM002 got all-wheel drive and three locking differentials. However, Lamborghini couldn’t stop themselves from doing something outlandish. The engine in the LM002 was the huge V12, lifted straight out of the Countach. It produced 450 horses and revved to 6800rpm. You could even get one with a Lamborghini L804 7.2-litre marine V12. Unveiled at the Brussels Auto Show in 1986, the LM002 came with a full luxury package that included all the leather and wood you’d possibly want. All that meant that the LM002 was a heavy SUV and tipped the scales at nearly three tonnes. Specially designed Pirelli Scorpion run-flat tyres had to be commissioned for the LM002. And adding to the go-anywhere credentials of the Lambo was a 290-litre fuel tank. The LM002 quickly became the choice of the wealthy, famous and the Saudi military. Sylvester Stallone famously owned one resulting in the ‘Rambo-Lambo’ nickname. Around 300 LM002s were produced before production was called off.
The LM002 was an expensive SUV and was as crazy as anything that the world had ever seen. Lamborghini will be hoping that the spiritual successor to the LM002, the Urus can at least draw on the LM002s over-the-top spirit. ⌧
Lamborghini couldn’t stop themselves from doing something outlandish