Classic Brock Yates Lamborghini LM002 Review From ’87 Car and Driver

The following is an excerpt from a classic Brock Yates review of a Lamborghini LM002. It originally appeared in the October 1987 issue of Car and Driver. Somehow the story telling in today’s magazines just can’t seem to match what these guys were able to put out. Could it be because the product isn’t as stimulating? Then again, what’s as stimulating as a Rambo Lambo…

Grab your Guccis, status slaves: the price of fame is rising fast. Just when you thought your new double-throwdown four-wheel-driver had more than enough beans to chug you up the social ladder, we bring you devastating news. Dump your Range Rover, scrap your Isuzu Trooper, and pawn off your cute little Suzuki Samurai on your second cousin from Dubuque, because there is a big, bad new boomer roaming the streets, and it’s destined to make those dinkmobiles as passé as two-tone Willys Jeepsters. Let us introduce you to a vehicle that is to chichi off-road boutique items what the L.A. Raiders are to the Joffrey Ballet. Meet the Mad Max machine. Meet the closest thing to a street-legal Tiger tank known to man. Meet the Lamborghini LM002. Meet the Rambo Lambo.

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Before we proceed, let us prove our point with some stupefying statistics. If, later, we lapse into hyperbole, consider it intentional. This machine weighs 6780 pounds. That is 2472 pounds heavier than the Range Rover, which many describe as the ultimate in this genre. The Lambo carries a 5.2-liter V-12 that produces 444 horsepower, giving it almost 300 hp more than the 3.5-liter V-8 Range Rover. The LM002 will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, almost twice as quick as the Range Rover. Its top speed is 118 mph, or 23 mph faster than the best from Solihull. And, oh yes, the Lamborghini costs about $120,000, which is $90,000 more than the cuddly little Englishman. But as Napoleon Bonaparte observed outside the gates of Moscow, domination and intimidation never come cheap.

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Never before in recent memory have we driven a vehicle that has turned as many heads, blown as many minds, freaked as many citizens, or been as much insane, outrageous fun as the Rambo Lambo. Our LM002 was the first to reach these shores through Joe Nastasi’s Lamborghini East distributorship (two more were on the boat: one destined for Chrysler, the new owner of Lamborghini, and one for that renowned trendy Malcolm Forbes), and it riveted attention upon itself wherever we went. Onlookers took hundreds of candid photos of it every time we pulled off the road. Those who spotted the “Lamborghini” logo on its chin-high hood behaved as if they had just witnessed a miracle at Lourdes.


When we lifted the hood, strong men swooned. There, rising to roughly eye level, is mounted one of the same four-cam, 48-valve V-12s that power the famed Countach, except that this one ingests its fuel—a gallon about every eight miles—through six dual-throat Weber carburetors hidden inside a massive, cast-aluminum airbox. Beside the engine are a pair of immense, jarlike air cleaners intended to filter out the desert sand and other nasties kicked up during vigorous off-road outings. The reason our test vehicle’s L510 V-12 was rated at 444 hp, 24 higher than the same engine in the Countach, is that Lamborghini East had not yet cleaned up its exhaust emissions to meet U.S. specs. Even after certification, the LM002 may still be more powerful than the Countach, because the emissions regs are less stringent for “light trucks” than for cars.


But why, you puzzle, have the boys from Bologna built something so weird? Isn’t the Countach bizarre enough?

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It all began back in 1976, when a small, ambitious American defense contractor, Mobility Technology International, approached Lamborghini with a design for an all-terrain vehicle that might have military applications. The result, unveiled in 1977 at the Geneva show, was the Lamborghini Cheetah, a wild, low-slung four-wheeler powered by a rear-mounted, 5.9-liter Chrysler V-8. There was only one small problem: the Cheetah looked amazingly like another American-designed vehicle, a project for the Pentagon known as the FMC XR311; in fact, some of the MTI designers had previously worked on the FMC machine. Because the Cheetah was so similar to the XR311, FMC threatened legal action against both MTI and Lamborghini, and the Cheetah was quickly dropped. (In contrast, the XR311 led ultimately to the army’s new HMMWV light-utility vehicle.) The whole sordid episode, plus a joint effort with BMW that also went sour, severely damaged Lamborghini’s reputation and nearly caused the company’s collapse. The only Cheetah ever built was destroyed in a crash in the United States.


Lamborghini’s interest in a Cheetah-like vehicle lived on, however—mainly because of the booming worldwide business in military hardware. In 1980, the Swiss brothers Patrick and Jean-Claude Mimran bought Lamborghini and began the process of restoring the company to financial health. The LM001 debuted the following year at Geneva, and by 1982 the first LM002 had been constructed. The engine, a home-grown V-12, had been relocated to the front for better traction and weight distribution than the Cheetah-like 001 had offered.

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The new chassis was fabricated from large steel tubes welded into a stiff space frame and was covered with a light, slab-sided, fiberglass-and-aluminum body. The suspension was fully independent, with unequal-length control arms and coil springs fore and aft. The four-wheel-drive system worked through a center-mounted two-speed transfer case, which permitted 4wd operation in low and high ranges, plus conventional rear-wheel drive. The transmission was a heavy-duty ZF S5-24/3 five-speed manual, mounted behind the engine. Inside the cabin was room for four passengers, and two to four more could ride shotgun (literally) in an open-air observation deck out back. The entire setup was mounted on the most awesome tires this side of a tractor pull. Our Rambo Lambo made its way over hill and dale on a set of 345 (that’sthree, forty-five) 60VR-17 Pirelli radials, which, though DOT-rated, were previously unknown on these shores and are presumably about as expensive as a fleet of Yugos.


If the first LM002 was anything, it was complicated. This was immediately apparent to military types, who recognized that for all its formidable performance, the Lambo’s usefulness in battle would be limited. Expecting a squad of dropout draftees to field-service six Webers and a four-cam V-12 would be like entrusting the Botswana Air Force with a space shuttle. It was decided, however, that the LM002 would make an ideal scout car for Middle Eastern sheiks and aspiring private-militia commanders. In order to appeal to this upscale market, Lamborghini outfitted its beast with leather seats, power windows, air conditioning, a stereo system, and other amenities necessary to properly elegant dune hopping. Jump seats were installed in the open rear deck for gun bearers or harem members.

Continue reading page 2 of the rest of the story HERE

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