This wasn’t designed to glide into parking spots at the mall.
Back in 1982 Lamborghini shocked the world by debuting the LM002 off-roader at the Geneva Motor Show. People hadn’t thought of the Italian automaker as producing anything other than supercars like the Countach. Of course, those who were actually paying attention weren’t surprised in the least since the “Rambo Lambo” didn’t just come out of nowhere.
Two predecessors signaled that something like the LM002 was coming. The first was the Lamborghini LM001, a prototype off-road SUV revealed in 1981 at the Geneva Motor Show. Even older, the Lamborghini Cheetah was debuted in 1977 as the company’s first attempt at breaking into the military vehicle market.
There was still work to be done for the Lamborghini LM002 to be market-ready, a goal it achieved finally in 1986. One of the most difficult engineering feats Lamborghini insisted on was that the heavy SUV could hit at least 100 mph on the road and accelerate with ferocity. Not only did the V12 allow for that, it provided enough low-end torque to allow the SUV to climb a 120% gradient. It was an exotic Italian truck which could roll over rocks and ford rivers.
In the video accompanying this article, you can hear from John Harrison how he helped prove the Lamborghini LM002’s mettle in America along with two Italian race drivers. It’s a pretty wild story about cops, bad weather, other teams in the rally sabotaging them, and more, so it’s definitely worth watching the video. The most amazing part of Harrison’s story is how he emphasized the Lambo SUV had zero mechanical problems the entire multi-day trip. That alone is amazing, because the Italian automaker didn’t exactly have a stellar reputation for reliability back in the 80s.
That endurance run on roads instead of taking the LM002 on a long off-road course was arranged by Chrysler to prove one thing: the SUV could do well for long stints on pavement. Bringing the vehicle to the US was a gamble since it hadn’t been developed for this market, so there was some effort to make it appealing to well-heeled consumers who probably weren’t going to hit the Rubicon or Metal Masher, even though the Lambo could handle that kind of abuse.
There’s no doubt the Lamborghini LM002 was an engineering masterpiece. It also was the early predecessor to the super SUVs of today like the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, Mercedes-AMG GLS 63, and BMW X5 M.