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LM001 - the STORY

After the Cheetah was sent back to the United States in late 1977 the option of adding an off-road model to the lineup at Lamborghini kept lurking in the back of their heads, and three years later, in 1981 the Geneva Auto Show was the scene for an evolution of the idea in the shape of the LM001 … or Lamborghini Militaria number 1 according to some sources, while other sources mentioned Lamborghini Mimram for the abbreviation as the Swiss based Mimran family just bought into the company.

The injection of fresh funds from the Mimran came at just the right timing, and an expansion of the lineup was desperately needed in the early Eighties, the Countach was still around, and in the same year the V8 Jalpa was shown in Geneva, next to the big LM001.

If you compare the Cheetah with the LM001 you can hardly call the latter an evolution of the Cheetah, instead it was more a revolution. Sure the engine was mounted in the same location, and it also was an American made V8 … but the similarities tend to stop there. This first LM001 prototype had a 5896cc AMC engine installed, but later on the option of putting in a Countach sourced V12, 4754cc unit was taken into consideration … the latter would put 375 hp on all four wheels.

The LM001 did however suffer from the same issue that plagued the Cheetah three years earlier, with the engine in this position the front to rear weight balance was less than perfect, the AMC V8 engine offered ‘only’ 180hp, but this still allowed the LM001 to reach a top speed of 160 Km/h … just imagine what a 375hp V12 would mean. Taken into account the Countach put about 1,500kg down while the LM001 weighed in at 2,100 kg and didn’t have the same aerodynamic shape I do think speeds well over 200 Km/h would be possible as the Countach listed 300 Km/h as a top speed … which might have been a but optimistic however.

But straight line speed wouldn’t be the issue on the LM001, cornering and outright maneuverability were negatively influenced from being tail heavy, some further development and testing was put into the LM001 before Lamborghini decided to turn around the entire concept and put the engine in the front … which lead to the LMA002 prototype.

If you take a closer look at the design of the LM001 it is very obvious this Lamborghini wasn’t built with sleek looks in mind, but a more practical approach was taken on this concept, a lot of flat panels were used, which would allow armor plating to be executed much easier when required for military use or to protect the wealthy owner of the car.

Up front a pair of rectangular headlights replaced the quartet of round units seen on the Cheetah, while the four doors on the LM001 were meant to stay in place, unlike on the Cheetah which was seen without doors in most photos, still the roof was able to open up, a large canvas section could be moved backwards allowing a machine gun turret to be used.

With the engine in the back some serious looking air intakes were required, these were found behind the rear doors but also in front of the rear wheels on the side sills and additionally large air vents were present at the rear too, because of this extra weight in the back it became apparent the front would become light under fierce acceleration.

It would take a radical change to the initial design of the LM001 to make it viable for sale, and the third attempt was a giant leap forward, the LMA002 was developed with the massive V12 engine between the front wheels … this concept would eventually lead to the actual production version LM002 that would impress the world as a real Lamborghini.

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April 15. 2010

Text © Mark Smeyers

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Frontal view of the Lamborghini LM001 prototype, you can clearly see the angular design of this off-road vehicle.

The LM001 prototype, perhaps a bit heavy at the rear because of the V8 engine, which wasn't a Lamborghini unit by the way.

 A side view of the one and only LM001 ever made, using a V8 engine mounted at the rear.

 The Lamborghini LM001, a new prototype based on the concept of the Cheetah, also using a rear mounted engine ...

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