The Lamborghini LM002 is just about the only vehicle on Earth with the ability to make the military Humvee look wimpy. Yes, the Humvee can be ordered with armor, a swiveling minigun or grenade launcher, a natty camo paint job, and all kinds of other high-tech weaponry, but all of those baubles pale in comparison to what the LM002 packs under the hood–the wildly exotic V-12 lifted directly from the Lamborghini Countach. The LM002 has your weapons of mass destruction right here–450 horsepower worth.
–Chris Hafner, CarLustBlog, July 17, 2008
I don’t know which came first: the discovery of the LM002 or its ancestor, the Lamborghini Cheetah. I could’ve read about the LM002 in a DuPont Registry magazine, and then rushed home to use the internet to learn more about it, only to find out about the mythical Cheetah. It’s very probable but don’t take my word for it. What I can confirm is that with my ever-growing automotive tastes and knowledge at the time, I put my interest with Lambo SUVs aside. With the help of such websites like gone-too-soon CarLustBlog.com -where the opening quote comes from- and the occasional online picture, my interest has been rekindled. Even now I’m still learning about this branch of Lamborghini history.
The LM002, Lamborghini’s first –and so far only- production luxury SUV- carried on the torch for off-road outrageousness in its fuel lines. It’s the son of the LMA002 (Lamborghini Militare Anteriore or Lamborghini Militare Alfieri, after renowned automotive engineer Giulio Alfieri, who did his best in taming the rear-engined handling demons on the LMA’s predecessor, the LM001), the third off-road prototype Lamborghini built in pursuit of juicy military off-road vehicle contracts, and the one that shares the most similarities with the LM002, like an engine in the front (specifically the 4754cc Countach S’s V-12), rather than the back like the previous two prototypes, the Cheetah and the LM001. While Lamborghini struck out again in getting a contract, it’s not as if it all went to waste.
Just before the LM002 went to production for the 1986 model year, there were two more interesting pre-production machines: the LM003 and LM004/7000. You could say these were the missing links between the LMA002 and the LM002. The LM003 packed a diesel and 150HP from VM Motori (one source states that it’s a VM di Cento -type HR/692-HT- 6-cylinder turbodiesel, though LamboCars.com says it’s a 5-cylider. I’m going with 6.), which when you put away the Lamborghini outrageousness of the machine, it makes sense. But it wasn’t good enough. The LM003 name would come back in a series of concept art and prototype work for a LM002 of the future. The LM004/7000 on the other hand…
The 1984 LM004/7000. Needs more Pyramids of Giza.
While there were some exterior details that differed with the LM002, it’s what was under the sheetmetal that truly made it stand above its production brethren, and I’m not talking about Countach-like bucket seats. If you thought 5.2 liters of Lambo V-12 was nuts, how about 7 liters of marine-application Lambo V-12 sound? Alas, despite rumors of this engine finding its way underhood of select LM002s, any performance benefits were negligible.
It’s almost impossible to talk about the LM002 without making reference to its nefarious clientele, and I’m not talking about rich gym rat bro types or pearl necklace-wearing trophy wives. I’m talking about dictators. So rather than talk about Eddie Van Halen’s and/or Sylvester Stallone’s (yes, Rambo did indeed own this Lambo) LM002s, people remember names like Muammar Gadhafi, Uday Hussein, King Hassan II and Malcolm Forbes. I was joking with that last one (or am I…?). Even in fiction (like Miami Vice) it’s portrayed as the machine of high-end criminals. Feel free to argue if that includes BullRun or Gumball rally participants.
I’ve seen horsepower figure claims range from 444HP to 455HP (Countach Quattrovalvole V-12) and 420HP to 492HP (Diablo V-12). When the LM002 received the Diablo engine, it also received a new, lower profile hood.
But can you blame people -good or ill- for being attracted to this brute? Sure it weighs well over 3 tons despite its aluminum and fiberglass body, but it gets up and goes since the engine produces 444HP (Countach Quattrovalvole engine, as mentioned by Car and Driver). Four seats not enough? Stuff a couple more in the jump seats out back. Just tell them to hold tight: the LM002 can achieve 0-60mph in a little over 7 seconds. Who’s gonna listen to them complain when the howl of the V-12 singing at speeds of over 118mph? You can ask ‘em what they were hollering when you inevitably have to stop for refuel its huge fuel tank, given that mileage can drop to single digits. I’d be more worried about tire replacement availability, but given the size of today’s bro-truck market, and if one’s not a stickler for originality, I’m sure one could find a suitable replacement, even if said replacements aren’t Kevlar lined or have run-flat technology like the original Pirelli Scorpions.
The LM002 is good off-road. That’s a given. What’s shocking is how good it is on road for what it is. As someone who came of driving age driving multi-person-vehicles, this is what grabs me the most. While the brakes are disc in front and drums out back, they’re more than ready to tame this behemoth. It’s endowed with huge tires and independent suspension with unequal-length control arms, so it’s got the tools for the job. Car and Driver thought it did the job swimmingly.
The LM002 was the first factory Lamborghini racecar (Lamborghini used to have a ‘no factory-backed racing’ policy. Besides, when you keep in mind that the ‘80s was a time when one of the quickest cars of the time was a Buick, the sky’s the limit for off-the-wall stuff like this to happen), and a couple of privateer entries, despite not having any confirmed victories. I’m not counting BullRun or Gumball rally participants. The closest thing we mortals can see this type of rig in racing would be in videogames, most recently the Forza Horizon 2 and 3 racing games. Given that there were around 300+ LM002s built, minus the ones that got wrecked or blown up, one’d think thrice before trying to jump one or something.
One of these two Italian icons has achieved global notoriety. The other is a car. Just kidding. That’s Sabrina Salerno, Europe’s Samantha Fox, meaning that she’s a pop star better known for her… personality. I confess that she’s a guilty pleasure of mine (hence the pic). Here she is making the LM002 seem bigger than what it already is (she’s 5’ 9”). About the LM002, there’s a reason why the air filter pods hood bulge is on the wrong side: it’s an uber-rare right-hand drive model: there’s so few of them that people think only one (a yellow-gold one at Lamborghini) was built. Everything underhood is switched over to the other side.
In terms of aesthetics, I find the LM002 lacking when compared to the Cheetah, the LMA002 and the similar-looking LM004/7000, though I wouldn’t call it butt-ugly; I do find its looks strangely appealing. That goes for its over-the-top bulges. I don’t know how obtrusive they are, but they do stand out. It’s a function-over-form thing: the middle bulge clears the equally huge airbox underneath, while the side-bulge clears the rather high-mounted Weber carbs filter pods. To those that find the bulges ungainly, fear not: for 1989, with the fuel-injected Lamborghini Diablo V-12 taking the place of the Countach’s carb’d version and its tall componentry in these rigs, a more streamlined hood came along as well. That’s the cherry on top, because the LM002 was slightly refined all around. But I still don’t know if Lamborghini ever fitted auto-cancelling turn signals. Those called the LM/American (no idea why they called it that) came with special bits, optional equipment and further refinements now standard. Power-wise, the ultimate production LM002s were said to have 492HP around the end of their run, again from Car and Driver.
My biggest pet peeve with this rig (aside from almost non-existent parts availability) is the name. ‘LM’ either stood for ‘Lamborghini Militare’ or worse ‘Lamborghini Mimran’, after Patrick and Jean-Claude Mimran, aka the Mimran Bros., who I must admit saved Lamborghini from one of their financial collapses. Despite their achievements, this rig is just too cool and too imposing for such a name. One look at the naming history of the company and one wonders why couldn’t Lamborghini name this particular brute after a bull or a breed of bulls, given that it is perhaps the only vehicle the automaker has made that looks like a bull.
Red LM002: Tumblr
LM004/7000: AutoClasico (Flickr)
Brochure pic (cropped by me): Scott Murphy (Flickr)
Sabrina and LM002: www.sabryfansite.com (NSFW)
White LM/American: http://www.autocar.co.uk/