Going Nowhere Fast: Lamborghini Supercars

An Accidental Legacy

Ferruccio Lamborghini started his car company to make a better car than Enzo Ferrari -- but better didn't mean faster, it meant that his cars would be more reliable and more comfortable than Ferrari road cars were because they wouldn't be designed for racing.

Lamborghini's first car was the fairly sedate 1964 350GT, but his engineering team had a trio of enthusiastic, talented guys in their twenties who had other ideas. If you know anything about twenty-something car enthusiasts, you know that a grand tourer won't hold their attention for long. In their spare time, the boys -- Giampaolo Dallara, Paolo Stanzini, and Bob Wallace -- created a mid-engine rolling chassis in the vein of Ford's breathtaking GT40 race car. Even though he had no plans to actually build it, Lamborghini figured it could serve as a four-wheeled demonstration of his company's engineering capabilities. To that end, he brought the chassis to the Turin motor show in November 1965, where it became the unexpected star of the show -- despite the fact that it didn't even have a body on it.

Lamborghini hired Bertone to sculpt a skin for the chassis, and the project was assigned to another twenty-something guy full of energy and imagination. Marcello Gandini had no formal design experience, but he became a legend the minute the car he designed debuted at the 1966 Geneva motor show. The Miura went on to become the template for the mid-engine supercar -- precisely the kind of compromised, over-the-top cars that Ferruccio never wanted to build.

The Countach's Crazy Cousin

Almost every reunion includes one family member that's just a little off -- and in the Lamborghini's lunatic V-12 family tree, it's the LM002 that's the most lovingly absurd of them all.

Long story short: In the midst of one of the company's many financial crises, Lamborghini was selling its engineering services to outside companies. Using funds borrowed from the Italian government earmarked for the development of the BMW M1 supercar, Lamborghini instead began working on a military vehicle for the U.S. government. The project was abandoned after an intellectual-property dispute, but Lamborghini recognized another opportunity when it saw one -- and continued development of a civilian version.

The LM002 was anything but civil, though, with the Countach QV's V-12 under the hood. At 6800 pounds, it wasn't nearly as fast as the similarly priced Countach, but it could still make it to 60 mph in less than eight seconds. If the old "slow and steady" adage works, the LM002 would win the race against any other Lamborghini -- with 76.6 gallons of gasoline on board, it could travel some 600 miles between fill-ups. More important, it's the Countach of SUVs -- a reminder that if a company like Lamborghini ever makes an SUV again (see page 53), it should be as over-the-top as its cars are.

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