It is March 1992, a little over two years ago the Lamborghini Diablo was introduced as the successor to the legendary Countach, at this time the Diablo is only available in rear-wheel drive … and now Lamborghini reveals a stunning Roadster concept in Geneva … but it will remain a one-off, and it would take several years before a production version is available.
Fast forward to December 1995, the local Bologna Motor Show, and Lamborghini finally introduced the Diablo VT Roadster, based on the 1993 VT version, customers can enjoy open-top motoring with that glorious V12 behind their ears for the first time in the history of Automobili Lamborghini SpA.
The Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster is the first V12 convertible production model from Sant’Agata, the 350 GTS was custom-built only twice, and the Miura Roadster was a one-off … the closest to the Diablo VT Roadster were the Silhouette from the Seventies and the Jalpa, but those were V8 models.
This is the first time a V12 flagship model lost its roof, and Lamborghini made it special by developing a lot of bespoke parts just for the Roadster version of their Diablo, at first glance only the front fenders and bonnet were used from the coupe version, and perhaps the windshield, but I’m not sure of the latter, to be honest.
The front bumper on the Roadster comes in a different design, only used on this model, with single fog lamps instead of the two square ones from the coupe, also the side sills with vertical slats were destined for the Roadster while they do look similar to the ones used on the limited edition Diablo SE30. As does the rear wing if we look closely, but it does fit the Diablo Roadster styling.
The big difference starts with the doors, Lamborghini just cut away the top part of the coupe doors to have a removable roof panel instead, made from carbon fiber to keep the weight down, it would still be advisable as a two-person job to put away the roof onto the custom-designed engine cover, and this is where the real magic begins.
The entire section from the windshield to the rear of the Lamborghini Diablo has been redesigned for the Roadster, the rear air intakes above the wheels are flatter compared to the coupe, hence the complete fender is a bespoke Roadster part, just like the built-in roll-over bar behind the seats, it’s an integral part of the design on this Diablo … and to make sure you can take the roof with you when driving topless, it fits on top of the engine cover.
And Lamborghini didn’t stop there … for the Diablo Roadster they came up with new wheels, still in a 17-inch size, but with a stunning multi-piece look that still reminds us of the ‘telephone dial’ Countach wheels, very nice indeed.
Being a convertible car, Lamborghini foresaw the interior might get rained on … not every Diablo Roadster would be sold in regions where it hardly ever rains, so they used a special leather, treated with a top-coat that could resist raindrops better than the usual Italian leather they used.
The first customer deliveries for the Diablo VT Roadster probably didn’t happen in 1995 anymore, more likely all these were 1996 or younger, so in 2021 this topless beauty is celebrating her 25th anniversary, and this is a rare beauty indeed, rumor has it only about 200 Diablo VT Roadster were built before the MY1999 model came around with the fixed headlights.
But there are differences between these early Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster, not all of them were required to have a driver’s airbag, this largely depended on the market the car was destined for, in Europe for instance you would find the Diablo VT Roadster with a beautiful three-spoke steering wheel and no airbags whatsoever, however for the United States market, for instance, a law was passed in 1996 that enforced airbags for both driver and passenger … so Lamborghini installed a rather ugly four-spoke steering wheel with an integrated airbag, and just added a ‘pod’ on top of the dashboard in front of the passenger to house the airbag … which wasn’t pretty, but it was legal.
When the MY1999 facelift came around, the entire interior of all Diablo models received a very nicely designed dashboard, with an integrated passenger airbag, the rather ugly four-spoke steering wheel would remain until the Diablo VT 6.0 came around in 2000, too bad the factory never officially did a Diablo VT 6.0 Roadster version.
Today these early, pre-1999 Diablo VT Roadster are a rare sight, you hardly see them anymore at Italian car events, and when they do show up for sale, they tend to be around the $200,000 mark … which is great value for money considering this was the first, real V12 production convertible from Lamborghini, and the only one with a carbon-fiber roof panel that fits on top of the engine cover, so you still had ‘some’ luggage space at the front.
If you wanted a more practical solution to asking a second person to help you with the carbon-fiber roof panel on your Diablo VT Roadster, or you just wanted to have a sunroof … you could as Swiss-based Affolter for their conversion to be installed, consisting of a roof panel with an integrated, tinted window to allow light into the cabin when fitted, but this custom built roof would slide itself back onto the engine cover electrically by the touch of a button!
Not only did it look almost factory fitted, it was also aerodynamically optimized, and very few Diablo VT Roadster out there have this amazing sliding roof fitted.