Lamborghini LM002 – The Original Supercar SUV Long Before Bentayga or Cayenne
Among credos synonymous with raging bull heritage, tirelessly chasing lap times, obliterating 0-60 acceleration expectations, and prioritizing passion play greater public mindshare than developing practical utility vehicles delivering weekend warriors to remote adventures far from city showrooms. Yet never doubt Lamborghini’s innovation even amid expectations. To prove doubters and conventions wrong, the Italian automaker produced its first Super-SUV manifesting extreme performance DNA within a livable everyday jacket decades before rivals found religion. This piece revisits the outrageous yet secretly brilliant Lamborghini LM002 – a precursor to contemporary glam Urus SUVs from Porsche or Bentley. Even 30 years post-production, no SUV matches LM002 excess or all-terrain talents.
LM Origins – Offroading Lamborghini Style for the Saudi Military?
As the 1970s drew to a close, Lamborghini stood financially hobbled by oil crises and quality issues threatening brand stability and limiting R&D budgets. Salvation came courtesy of an unexpected 1978 Saudi Arabian military contract seeking a durable yet high-speed desert patrol vehicle tolerating brutal heat, massive dunes, and long desert range between outposts. Backed by adequate funding yet allowed complete design freedom, Lamborghini’s motorsports engineering team set adapting the proven Countach V12 powertrain within an experimental military vehicle chassis.
First revealed publicly as the Cheetah prototype in 1977, early test mules incorporated a rear mounted V12 engine driving all four customized wheels and beefy tires built to traverse desert dunes at 100+ speeds without fail. Radical specifications required extensive testing culminating in the 1981 LM002 production model (Lamborghini Model 002) available exclusively for the Saudi military. Signature styling carried over from the wild Cheetah prototype including a cockpit situated between the front wheels and elevated rear cargo hold.
Extreme Vectoring and Vengeance for Civilian Ownership
Despite canceled initial military orders as durability issues emerged during late testing, the production investment combined with an ominous 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait reignited interest in high-speed desert patrol vehicles. Adjusting the initial LM002 formula, Lamborghini re-engineered the burly offroader adding weight while civilizing road behavior as a luxury vehicle befitting the automaker’s flashy clientele. But make no mistake – the 5.2 liter V12 churning 444 horsepower produced blistering performance benchmarked more against Ferrari’s track specials than civilian Range Rovers, Jeep Grand Wagoneers or Toyota Land Cruisers dominating early 1980s utility segments.
With a bespoke tubular chassis strengthening the fully boxed ladder frame to corral massive torque loads, the mid-engined V12 weighed nearly 6,000 lbs yet outran all comers thanks to sophisticated all-wheel drive technology vectoring torque fore and aft automatically apportioning thrust perfectly between both axles. Matched with beefy Dana differentials, a stout Borg Warner transfer case, and customized Pirelli rubber, no earthly obstacle stalled progress when conquering boulders or sand seas. In the LM002 trim, Lamborghini proved no challenge beyond reach at any speeds its powertrain afforded. Call it automotive shock and awe allowing just 328 well-heeled aficionados the keys to conquering terrain at autostrada velocities.
Legacy Lamborghini LM002 Paving the Way for Modern Supercar SUVs
With posterity now blessing 1980s Lamborghini leaders greenlighting the outrageous plaything, the once-eccentric LM002 enjoys appreciation as an avant-garde pioneer previewing ultra-high-performance SUVs from 21st brands as diversified as Porsche and Bentley. Combining legitimate off-road talents hidden by the bespoke suited bodywork, the LM002 innocently forecast options securing maximum profits catering to client adventurers seeking to flatten rainforests or scale alpine passes without disembarking from leather-lined cockpits. What originated in securing military supply lines now supports lucrative automaker bottom lines filling wagons and thingamajigs at six-figure clips. Little risk taints playing towards vanity and privilege – then as now.
If any doubt remained whether follow-only rival Urus sharing bare naked chassis structures with agricultural Audi and Porsche SUVs qualifies worthy of wielding the Raging Bull badge, one needs only sample the original assault vehicle DNA coursing through the Avenger’s wheel arches. Sure one wears more polish, sparkle, and sensible ergonomics for Waitrose runs but both share that restless, romping spirit romanticizing the glory days when brawn trumped brains across the battlefields. Glory fades but legends adapt and prosper when fortunes change. The magical fusion of technology and temperament Lamborghini perfected in its radical 1980s LM002 thankfully endures taking different forms confronting altered contexts. Something visceral dies when pragmatism reigns unchecked – the spunky Urus deserves cheers for lambasting level sensibilities.