Automobili Lamborghini SpA introduced their SE30 Diablo model as a limited edition, only 150 would be made, each one numbered and bearing a special plaque stating which serial number the car had … but during the fabrication of this already very limited production run you could request an even more exclusive edition … a Diablo SE30 with Jota upgrade.
Automobili Lamborghini SpA had the Jota kit developed by Lamborghini Engineering SpA which we could call the ‘Squadra Corse’ department back in those days, in fact from the 28 kits made for 1995 only 12 were mounted right there at the facility, down the street from Automobili Lamborghini SpA … the Diablo was taken from the production line as a regular SE30 and transformed into a Jota specs model in the Lamborghini Engineering SpA building … the same place that built the Lamborghini V12 Formula One engines in the early Nineties.
When Chrysler bought Automobili Lamborghini SpA in 1987 Lee Iacocca (president of Chrysler at that time) decided they should enter F1 racing, so he founded Lamborghini Engineering SpA in Bologna to be run by Daniele Audetto while Mauro Forghieri became technical director with only one mission statement : create a V12 Lamborghini engine for the 3.5 Liter F1 in 1989, a few teams would run Lamborghini F1 engines over the next few years, they even managed to have Ayrton Senna and Mika Hakkinen test a white McLaren car with the Lamborghini V12 … with very positive results, however McLaren decided to use Peugeot engines for the 1994 Formula One season and the new management at Chrysler decided to halt F1 engine development at the Lamborghini Engineering SpA facility, the Formula One program was completely canceled in early 1994 when Megatech bought Lamborghini from Chrysler … in the end this made resources available to develop and install the Jota kit on the Diablo SE30 in 1995.
On the outside the Jota kit consisted of a new, redesigned engine cover featuring two large air scoops peaking above the roof, pulling air onto a pressure plate that was mounted on top of the engine manifold, a similar style engine cover would later be used on the Diablo SV model.
The new engine cover and a rather small ‘Jota’ logo mounted on the rear fascia were the only visible differences on the outside when comparing the Jota specs to the original Diablo SE30 model, but especially in the engine bay the real difference was visible, the famous V12 engine was tuned to nearly 600 Bhp by reprogramming the ECU electronic injection system, installing a pressure plate that required new gaskets for the intake plenums, lighter cranks and different cams … the result was a racing engine for road use.
Some sources state only 12 or 15 Diablo SE30 editions were delivered in full JOTA specifications directly from the factory, however other sources state that no less than 28 Jota kits were made, and in fact both are correct. Actually the total number of Jota kits built by Lamborghini Engineering SpA was 28 … but as this kit only became available towards the end of the 150 production units of the Diablo SE30 they had only 12 kits installed in Sant’Agata, from the remaining 16 kits Lamborghini offered 14 to Diablo SE30 owners, these could be installed by local dealers … but only in countries where the Diablo SE30 Jota would pass emission regulations … the two remaining Jota kits remained at the factory as spares, as far as I know one of these two kits has been subsequently sold to a customer in the United States to convert a Diablo SE30 into a real Jota evolution at Driven.
The Lamborghini Diablo SE30 Jota was developed with BPR FIA GT racing in mind, at that time Lamborghini didn’t have the funds to put together their own racing effort, so they wanted private owners to have their Diablo SE30 converted into a race car, one of the less known options for a Diablo SE30 was in fact a full race specs roll-over cage while the multi-point seat belts were standard fitment anyway.
In a regular Diablo the view through the interior rear view mirror was not too good, on the Diablo SE30 with the louvers on the engine cover visibility became even worse … add the two extra throttle bodies from the Jota kit on top of the engine and rearward visibility becomes a thing of the past … it is reduced to nothing, in fact a rear view camera would be a great modern day option to install in fact.
The feeling of a GT racer becomes even more evident when driving the Diablo SE30 Jota, despite the open exhaust you can actually hear the air being sucked into the air intakes, the engine might have lost some power in the lower region of the rpm range … but when reaching higher rpm the Diablo SE30 Jota transforms into a full blown race car … once you reach speeds over 100mph the air really gets violently pulled onto the pressure plate and the power increase becomes very obvious.
The Lamborghini Diablo SE30 Jota is a car that demands respect … this Bull is very, very fast, and being rear wheel drive only it is extremely easy to have the back spin out of control … even in second gear wheel spin is no problem at all. Driving a Diablo SE30 Jota is a special experience, not only because these cars are so rare but also because visibility is so limited, the windows do not roll down (only a very small part at the lower corner), the sound is almost too much as there is no sound deadening material and standard fitment was an open exhaust … not street legal all over the world, but the raw roar made up for the fact you get pulled over by the Police all the time.
The black car featured on this page was seen in the Netherlands and in Belgium, it was one of the limited 150 SE units built in Italy and probably one of the first to be converted into full Jota specifications at the LIE, apparently you could send your regular Diablo SE30 back to Sant’Agata and have the Jota upgrade performed after you had taken delivery of the car. A visitor of LamboCARS.com did state this rare Jota with production number 117/150 was totally wrecked in an unfortunate car crash, and was apparently not rebuilt.
At least one Diablo SE30 Jota was later modified into a regular SE30 specs engine again, a UK based customer asked to have his 30th Anniversary Lavendar Metallic Jota detuned because he didn’t like the nervous behavior of the engine, so he had a car with the bodywork modifications of a Diablo Jota, but no longer the performance … where the engine modifications from this detune ended up is unknown.
With dual air intakes mounted on the engine cover and a massive ‘pressure tray’ on top of the manifolds, the interior rear view mirror became completely useless and was subsequently removed on the Diablo SE30 Jota. Note that the Lamborghini Diablo SE30 Jota was in fact sold with a statement the car couldn’t be used on the road, it was a circuit car only, but it soon became obvious that several cars were actually driven on the public road, probably by installing a different exhaust system.
A few of these Jota were sold to collectors in Germany and Switzerland, and one original LIE built Lamborghini Diablo SE30 Jota was in fact shipped to the United States … where the car was parked inside a collector’s garage and hasn’t moved since, it could never be registered for road use as the car was equipped with the open race type exhaust system as specified by the factory, hence not street-legal but for track use only.
Several Diablo SE30 Jota editions and Jota kits were shipped to Japan, where they actually were registered and received a license plate … even in Germany a lucky owner managed to get his yellow Jota registered … unfortunately it got caught in a serious accident, totally wrecking the car, in the end he rebuilt this very rare Diablo … into a GTR look alike, images of this car are available in the image galleries.
There are now more Jota kits available at this moment, the one remaining kit at the factory has been lost over time and the kit that was removed from the UK car has never been seen again, another problem is the fact the specifications for the parts and programming of the Jota kit have been lost too when Lamborghini Engineering SpA was closed down … still the Diablo SE30 Jota is a very impressive car rolling on magnesium wheels never used on other Diablo versions and featuring a body style that sets it apart from the regular V12 models from the Nineties … hence these are highly sought after today.