A first careful attempt at creating an off-road vehicle wearing the Raging Bull logo was the Cheetah back in 1977, although not built at the factory in Sant'Agata but in the United States it was still the first of its kind to wear the Lamborghini logo, sadly this project was halted early on in the development. Next up was the LM001 prototype, Lamborghini Military prototype number 1, similar to the Cheetah as the engine was again a V8 from the United States positioned at the rear of the car, resulting in a weight balance that would keep the engineers up for days in a row … another short lived concept.
Third strike was a giant step in the right direction however, Lamborghini developed a completely new chassis design and mounted their famous V12 engine in the front of the car, it was taken from the Countach LP500S model at that time and turned the LMA002 into a viable option for dune hopping, the actual prototype was shown to the public on the 1982 Geneva Auto Show.
At this time the interior was kept very simple as they intended to sell these ultra high performance off road Lamborghinis to armed forced in the Middle East and the United States, but that didn't quite go as planned.
As usual things don't always turn out as intended, and when military forces didn't warm up to the idea of tuning six double barrel carburetors in a war zone Lamborghini decided to take a totally different route with their impressive off-road model …
The basic layout of the LMA002 prototype remained, with a steel tubular chassis, heavy-duty suspension and a big V12 engine at the front, this time borrowed from the new Countach Quattrovalvole, albeit with a lower compression ratio for the LM002 to allow the use of 94 RON fuel.
The 1982 LMA002 was carefully perfected over the next years and a much improved production prototype was unveiled as the Lamborghini LM002 on an early 1986 Brussels Auto Show in Belgium, the final production version was shown at the Turin Motor Show later that year ... by the end of 1986 a total of 23 units were delivered to happy customers.
The Lamborghini LM002 was unlike anything on the market in the late Eighties so it drew a lot of attention, both good and bad as usual, orders for this over the top off-road Raging Bull slowly started to arrive … in fact the very first production unit of the LM002 was delivered to H.R.H. King Hassan of Morocco in late 1986 while famous race driver Keke Rosberg ordered one too.
Soon deliveries started to go out steadily to a handful of famous owners, Sylvester Stallone owned an LM002, as did Tina Turner and Van Halen while well known Malcolm Forbes ordered one finished in his traditional 'money green' shade. As the LM002 was so incredibly strong both on the road and in the sand it also attracted a lot of attention from more infamous people … Uday Hussein bought one, as did Muumar Qadaffi, Mike Tyson and Pablo Escobar to name a few.
Just about every single LM002 was made to order in those days, from the basic factory model up to heavily armored versions … people driving this kind of car liked to feel safe, even under less than perfect circumstances. At least one of the LM002 was equipped with the L804 engine … a 7.2 liter V12 normally intended for off shore powerboat racing, but it would fit nicely in the LM002 too, aptly named LM004 in that case.
Over the seven years the LM002 was in production it became a decent success, in total 301 would be built … today these cars are at least 20 years old and several have been lost over time which makes them a rare sight, hence no matter where you drive a Lamborghini LM002, you will still be admired. Back in the Eighties a journalist for a well know car magazine nicknamed an LM002 the Rambo Lambo … and that name still hangs on today, probably because of its military looks and huge power, much like the character in the famous Rambo movies … if you think about it, the Lamborghini LM002 looks meaner than Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone combined.
Remember we are talking about an era years before the Hummer H1, BMW X5, Audi Q7 or Porsche Cayenne were even being developed, in the Eighties a car standing 1.89m tall and 2m wide was very impressive and whenever a Lamborghini LM002 would appear in your rear view mirror, it was time to make way for it. Chances were this 2,700 kg mammoth would pass you by at high speed … in a cloud of dust and fuel fumes, this was a solid brick of steel that would reach 100km/h in less than 8 seconds and reach a top speed in excess of 200km/h … on road, and off-road (although off-road it would 'only' do about 180km/h) … in a time we considered a Golf GTI to be fast … naturally fuel consumption was something to worry about behind the wheel of an LM002, and many owners actually ran out of fuel in their LM002.
The Lamborghini LM002 was never intended to look sleek or even aerodynamic, aesthetics were meant to intimidate 'the enemy' not to improve fuel economy or CO2 emissions … in this day an age the LM002 could be described as a Dinosaur … a blast from the past might suit it even better as the sound from those two massive exhaust pipes can only be described as the most amazing sound on the planet … a pure, very deep and utterly raw animal howl!
The Lamborghini LM002 standard equipment list included just about every luxury item available in the Eighties, four leather seats, thick color-matched carpeting everywhere, air-conditioning, tinted power-windows, an Alpine stereo system mounted in a roof console and looks that could (or would) kill … perfect for the wealthy customer Lamborghini had in mind … the person who had everything already … but LM still stood for Lamborghini Military, so the idea of selling these V12 dune buggies to armed forces was still slumbering.
Rumor had it the Saudi army ordered 40 of them for their own use, to be equipped with machine guns, another rumor talked about a vast order from Libya, but neither was ever officially confirmed … in fact some sources state the Lamborghini LM002 was never even made in any form of military trim, although some of them were delivered with a custom made roof panel holding two trap doors, which opened above the rear seats, probably for those armed bodyguards.
On the early models the large center bulge on the hood accommodated an equally huge air-cleaner casing, mounted directly over the six Weber carburetors, the fuel supply system was equipped with two filters, in-line and in-series, and the carburetors were set to burn far less than perfect fuel. An over sized radiator with two high-speed fans kept the 'hot' engine cool, even while traveling through the hot desert.
Later on the carburetors were replaced with a fuel injection system that didn't require the large air cleaner anymore so the engine hood was modified, the angular boxes became more rounded and more importantly didn't stand so high anymore, which improved visibility behind the steering wheel.
The LM002 was fitted with massive 325mm wide Pirelli Scorpion tires which offered unmatched road holding capabilities on both tarmac and sand, in fact Automobili Lamborghini SpA had Pirelli develop them specifically for the LM002, subsequently they offered these tires in two different tread designs, one for 'mixed' use and one for 'sand' use only.
While being rather expensive they were the only option available for Lamborghini as these were the only tires on the market that could be run virtually flat without risk and still handle the desert heat, the weight load and the high speed a Lamborghini LM002 could inflict on them.
Back in those days the Jalpa wasn't built at the Lamborghini factory, final assembly yes, but the paint and bodywork was executed externally, the same method was used on the LM002, in fact the latter came fully mounted from a factory in Spain with final assembly and attention to detail in Sant'Agata to turn it into a real Lamborghini Raging Bull.
We all know the late Ferruccio Lamborghini was set against racing his cars, but by the time the LM002 was in production he already sold the car company, hence the road to competition was open and a Lamborghini LM002 actually participated in the sixth Rally of the Pharaohs, which ran in Egypt from October 18 to October 28 in 1987, as a lead car. Another LM002 was entered in the same race driven by Sandro Munari, but he decided not to start after the team leader had a deadly accident behind the wheel of an offshore powerboat. In the 1987 off-road Rally of Greece, Sandro Munari again entered with an official factory, rally-prepared LM002, co-driving with Mario Mannucci, but this rally had its share of problems and in the end a high speed section was removed from the rally, a track the LM002 would surely win, therefore Sandro decided to withdraw from the race. Before he withdrew from this race although, the Lamborghini LM002 obtained very good results in the sessions it did compete in.
Over the years the idea of an off road Bull never completely vanished, at first an UK based company did some preliminary drawings of what would become the LM003, later on Zagato even made concept designs for an LM003 Borneo or Galileo which in 1997 even made it into a mockup … but none of these designs reached a production stage.
Do note that a Lamborghini LM003 did in fact exist at one time, in fact on the outside it was nearly identical to the LM002 production model, but on the LM003 prototype Lamborghini installed a 5 cylinder turbocharged diesel engine from VM Motori. With a displacement of only 3,600cc and a power output of only 150hp the task of propelling 2,700kg of steel was deemed too much and the project was shelved indefinitely … the LM003 never left the rolling prototype stage.
It would take nearly 20 years after the last LM002 left the factory gates in Sant'Agata for Lamborghini to show a possible successor … on April 23. 2012 the Urus was unveiled in Beijing as the next generation Lamborghini SUV model and a possible third model in the lineup next to the Aventador and the Gallardo (most likely its successor however). Engine options for the Lamborghini Urus could include a V12 high-end sports edition and a more economical Hybrid version … talk about a diesel engine surfaced again too as both the Audi Q7 and the Porsche Cayenne offer a high power diesel too.
Lamborghini already confirmed the Urus will not be entering production any time soon, rumors of an introduction in 2015 have already been declined, and 2017 has been quoted recently before we are bound to see anything close to a successor of the legendary LM002 to leave the gates in Sant'Agata.
By then it would have been 25 years for the LM002 production to have come to an end in 1992, with little over 300 units to be built, a final run of 60 LM002 were called the LM American, these came with special chromed bumpers, unique striping on both sides, upgraded leather interior, special side moldings underneath the doors and modified vents on the engine hood and on the side, also custom alloy OZ/MSW wheels were mounted, these were an option towards the end on the regular LM002 too by the way, in the final year of production a total of 12 LM002 American left the factory.
The total production is estimated between 301 and 328 units, exact numbers have been lost over time unfortunately, but it is safe to state less than 300 LM002 remain today, with prices still at a decent level a second-hand, late model fuel injected LM002 will take around $110,000 to acquire, earlier models in less than perfect shape could be yours for less than $40,000 however.
Just don't think you can afford the Lamborghini LM002 too quickly, buying it is only half the story, think about maintenance and parts … the latter being rather difficult to find after 20 years … for instance the Pirelli Scorpion tires are next to impossible to find, sure you can go for the more recent Scorpion Zero tires, but even those aren't produced in the required 325/65 or 345/60 17 inch size all the time.
But one thing is for sure … if you can afford one, and you can find the color combination you like … don't hesitate and buy it! If you talk about milestone Lamborghini models there are only a handful of them around, the Miura being one … but the LM002 is surely another one, the massive off road Lamborghini didn't have any competition back in the Eighties … and even today it has very little that can even come close to it.
Sure it is expensive to own, fuel consumption is totally ridiculous, but imaging pulling up in an LM002 next to an X5 or a Q7 … and dump the accelerator pedal … the sound alone will make that modern SUV next to you leave in tears. Driving an LM002 today would be so utterly inappropriate and pointless … it has become essential to get one, the LM002 was years ahead of its time … the competition has only just caught up with models like the Mercedes G55 AMG, sadly filling that massive fuel tank of the LM002 might put a serious damper on your enthusiasm.
Only one of these custom bodied LM002 was ever made by Diomante for the Sultan of Brunei in 1986.
(added on April 26. 2010)
The legendary Paris Dakar rally did have a Lamborghini entered ...
(added on January 1. 2012)
The massive LM002 was a reasonable success back in it's days, so a successor could be a great idea.
(added on June 28. 2000)
Why not mount a massive 7-Liter off-shore engine in the LM002 ...
(added on April 26. 2010)
There is still room for more models at Sant'Agata, why not a new SUV to succeed the LM002
(added on December 15. 2002)
January 2. 2013
Text © Mark Smeyers
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