Lamborghini LM002: Rocky Start Turned Rambo Lambo
All things Lamborghini LM002 on Automobile.
Lamborghini LM002 Essential History
The Lamborghini Urus is undeniably head-turning and Instagram-able, but the Audi-based super-SUV isn't the first high-riding four-door 4x4 to wear the Raging Bull crest. The notoriously macho V-12-powered Lamborghini LM002 produced between 1986 and 1993 was one of the strangest and most fabulously excessive vehicles to emerge from the money-rich and drug-laced 1980s, and has endured in enthusiast culture as a relic of old-world Lamborghini.
The LM002's war-ready looks weren't just for show; in 1977, Sant'Agata contracted Mobility Technology International (MTI) to whip-up a desert-running, rock-crushing, soldier-hauling buggy in hopes of securing a United States defense contract. The result was the infamous 1977 Lamborghini Cheetah prototype, an open-cockpit fiberglass desert runner powered by a rear-mounted 5.9-liter Chrysler V-8. It looked cool, but thanks to atrocious handling and sluggish performance from the 180-hp V-8, no one bit, least of all the U.S. Army. Any lingering interest was wiped out when the Cheetah project ran into substantial legal issues levied from FMC, a competing contractor whose XR311 military prototype was worryingly similar to the Lambo, both mechanically and aesthetically.
Corporate Restructuring to the Rescue
In 1980, Lamborghini was sold to Patrick and Jean-Claude Mimran, who immediately set about diversifying and modernizing the marque's lineup. The stalled mil-spec Cheetah project was reimagined as a plush dune-hopper for Sheiks who needed to prospect sand-locked drilling sites, so the stripped-out, mil-spec Cheetah was reworked by engineering grandmaster Giulio Alfieri into the 1981 LM001 concept. Although a closed cabin vastly improved daily life with the LM001 compared to the Cheetah, the rear-engine architecture was still unwieldy on and off the road.
The clouds cleared with the finalized LM002. The LM001's rear-mounted AMC V-8 was out, now replaced by a front-mounted 5.2-liter V-12 pulled from the then-new Countach LP 5000 Quattrovalvole, nestled in an all-new tubular spaceframe chassis. Compared to the V-8 prototypes, power was way, way up—to 455 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque, to be specific. A dogleg five-speed manual transmission sent power to the four-wheel-drive system, and the mil-spec styling remained, softened only by a super-luxe leather interior.
The Rambo Lambo is Born
Nearly a decade after the Cheetah, the first production LM002s began their prowl on public streets. Predictably, the big, burly off-roader with the Lamborghini badge attracted a star-studded cast of buyers capable of swallowing the $120,000 price tag. The LM002 collected owners like Keke Rosburg, Mike Tyson, Eddie Van Halen, and Sylvester Stallone. Tina Turner famously had the 5.2-liter V-12 ripped out of hers in place of a Mercedes' V-8 and automatic transmission.
In pictures, the LM is monstrous. Usually shot side-by-side with the contemporary Countach, the LM002 appears preposterously large, glowering at its door-stop-shaped sibling over square fenders and chromed bull-bar. However, park one next to an Urus, and you'll quickly realize how times (and proportions) have changed. The O.G. super-SUV is not petite by any means, but it could hide behind a current Chevrolet Tahoe.
Even by the standards of its day, the LM002 wasn't proportionally outlandish—parked next to a regular-cab 1986 Ford F-150, the LM002 was 8.5-inches shorter and just as wide. Even the current-day Urus is over a foot longer and an almost an inch wider than the Rambo Lambo, though the top of the dune-hopping LM sits nine inches above the crossover's roof.
Sliding into the interior is akin to visiting the hillside bunker of a 1980s drug cartel. Every inch of the small-ish cabin is covered in either plush leather or glossy wood paneling, including the massive center tunnel. Ergonomics were never Sant'Agata's strong point, and things are especially dire on the LM. Rubber-sealed buttons bearing intimidating descriptors like "WINCH" and "STOP" are shotgunned across the dash, while a panel of warning lights ripped from a '60s NASA control room stand ready to inform the hapless driver of any catastrophic mechanical failures.
Lamborghini LM002 Highlights
There wasn't anything quite like the LM002 when it came out, and there hasn't been anything since. In essence, this is a smaller, less-ergonomic, more luxurious civilian Hummer with a dogleg manual transmission and the V-12 out of a Lamborghini Countach. Speaking from experience, they're not exactly thrilling to drive—either short or long distance—but as a curio to park next to your line of Lambos in your garage-mahal, it certainly stands out—and is more usable than a Porsche-Diesel tractor.
It screams like a supercar, steers like a bus, handles like Mt. Rushmore, drinks like a top fuel dragster, is as finicky as a reality T.V. star, and accelerates like a boulder rolling down a mountain. We're hooked.
Lamborghini LM002 Buying Tips
Does this have you all excited? Might want to temper that impulsivity a bit—this is not a truck you buy without enough cash to buy it twice outright. For the better part of the past 20 years, the LM002 languished as a strange novelty more than anything seriously considered for blue-chip investment. It was big, bulky, horrendously complex, and parts supply was essentially nil.
As a result, a large chunk of LM002s suffered massive amounts of maintenance deferral over the years, especially as values dipped far beneath the $100,000 mark, putting it within the reach of budget constrained enthusiasts who might see the replacement of the extremely rare and then-discontinued tires as a luxury rather than a requirement.
Now, with values hovering somewhere around the $250,000-$350,000 watermark and renewed interest from major collectors, Lamborghini has fixed the parts supply issue and even offers big (big) money restoration services at the factory for tired LM002s. This doesn't mean you can charge into ownership with your eyes closed, it just means it's less time consuming than it used to be to keep these Rambo Lambos on the road.
You're still going to pay out the nose, though, no matter if the LM is a concours example or a barn-find rat's nest. A pre-purchase inspection is paramount. Body mounting points can be worn out, the dual fuel tanks get gummed up and rotted, and the aforementioned tires go hard and glossy. Seriously, if you're looking for a fun weekend classic 4x4 that doesn't give you much problems, stick with a Toyota Land Cruiser or even an original Hummer—the LM002 isn't for the faint of wallet.
Lamborghini LM002 Recent Auctions
Compared to the pennies paid for LM002s in the mid-2000s, the market exploded then promptly stabilized in the past few years. Surprisingly, major auction houses love to shuffle around LM002s among the wealthy, with more than a few coming up for sale each year.
Lamborghini LM002 Quick Facts
- First year of production: 1986
- Last year of production: 1993
- Original price: ~$120,000
- The first-ever super SUV
- Countach V-12, Countach running expenses
- Good luck keeping this thing on the road for cheap
Lamborghini LM002 FAQ
You have questions about the Lamborghini LM002. Automobile has answers. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked Lamborghini LM002 queries
How much is a Lamborghini LM002?
Unfortunately, you missed the boat on cheap LM002s. To get one that isn't a complete basket case, be prepared to pay around $250,000 for the privilege.
How many Lamborghini LM002s are there?
Not including those who have crashed, burned down, or in the case of Hussein's (yes, that Hussein) LM002, blown up by occupied forces, Lamborghini made 328 before production ceased.
How many Lamborghini trucks are there?
Zero! According to Lamborghini, the LM002 is an SUV, despite its truck-ish proportions. Even that tiny truck bed out back isn't even a bed—four go-seats line the small sitting area presumably for wartime mobility.
|Lamborghini LM002 Specs|
|ENGINE:||5.2L DOHC 48-valve V-12/455 hp @ 6,800 rpm, 368 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION:||5-speed manual transmission|
|LAYOUT:||4-door, 4-passenger, front-engine 4WD SUV|
|L x W x H:||192.9 x 78.7 x 72.8 in|
|0-60 MPH:||7.7 sec|
|TOP SPEED||118 mph|