Dashing Through The Snow, In A 450-Horse Sleigh…
Photography by Rosario Liberti
This Christmas Lamborghini gave me and Rosario a very tasteful gift indeed. It was most unexpected, but very warmly received.
During the first Lamborghini Christmas Drive, we had the chance to test one of the company’s most insane creations to date: the mighty LM002. We left Sant’Agata Bolognese with the boxy black V12 truck and spent a couple of days visiting Bolzano and Brunico to visit their enchanting Christmas markets. Taking advantage of its impressive off-roading capabilities, we then ventured around the Dolomites before setting up a photoshoot on the almost-frozen Lake Braies, a magical atmosphere made all the more special by the presence of the hulking Lamborghini.
The LM002 is the first bull-branded SUV that made it into production, and surely is the spiritual forerunner of the contemporary Urus. Its genesis brings us back to the late 1970s, when Lamborghini created the High Mobility Combat Vehicle (HMCV), a prototype codenamed “Cheetah” that featured a rear-mounted American V8. It was built for Mobility Technology International (MTI), which had been contracted by the US military to design a new all-terrain vehicle. The design was largely a copy of the FMC Corporation’s XR311 prototype developed in 1970, and this resulted in some legal action that left Lamborghini in dire financial straits. Both the XR311 and Cheetah could be considered predecessors of the Humvee, in a sense.
Lamborghini survived and continued the truck’s development in the form of the LM00, wherein the LM stands for “Lamborghini Militaria.” The LM001 had a layout similar to the Cheetah, but after multiple rounds of testing it was determined that a rear-mounted engine was not an ideal solution for an off-road vehicle like it was for a performance-focused road car.
So, in 1982, a new prototype was built: the Lamborghini Militaria Anteriore 002 (LMA002) had its engine moved to the front, and instead of a V8 there was a V12 all but directly transplanted from the Countach. Meanwhile, the US Army chose the Humvee for its needs and Lamborghini had to find a different market. They stripped the spartan military interior, replaced it with a more luxurious ensemble, and sold it to the moneyed public.
Thus the first LM002 was born and launched the brand into the luxury sport utility vehicle market before it really existed. The new truck was unveiled at the Brussels Auto Show, in 1986. Thanks to its powerful design matched with the kind of performance one might expect from Lamborghini’s super sports cars, the LM002 was met with great interest, easily exceeding the standards of those days.
Its 5.2L engine produced approximately 450bhp at 6500rpm, its curb weight was around 2700kg, and it had a top speed of 200km/h. Amazing figures for the time, and impressive even now, especially considering the not-so-efficient aerodynamics. At the time, it was possible to spec a more powerful version called the L804: a model with a 7.2L marine V12 usually fitted on Class 1 offshore powerboats.
The black “standard”-spec pictured here was produced in 1991, and its chassis is number 12231. Today the car belongs to Museo Lamborghini and it has been restored by the marque’s classic department, Polo Storico. It is equally mad and beautiful. The interior is a sumptuous arena of Italian butterscotch leather and thick carpeting; standard equipment included electric windows, air con, and a roof-mounted cassette stereo. The car is so wide that the space between driver and passenger—due to the massive transmission tunnel—makes the conversation between me and Rosario a bit surreal; a good old tin can telecomm system could find practical application in here. Something you are really not used to unless you’ve ridden around in an H1. Another bit of serious truck-cred is the fact that the driver must manually lock the two front wheels into the four-wheel drive mode. The LM002 is very thirsty regardless of where the power’s being sent, though: its 169L fuel tank, we can assure you, can be drained quite quickly.
Sources on the LM002 tell us that a total of 328 units were produced between 1986 and 1992, with the first production example being delivered to the King of Morocco. Sylvester Stallone famously had one too, hence the rhyming nickname, “Rambo Lambo.” Other customers? Mike Tyson, Eddy Van Halen, and Tina Turner, who had a special version with a Mercedes V8 engine and an automatic transmission as she could not drive manual. The LM002 also appealed to spoiled young Saudi sheiks wanting to surf the sand dunes at speed to survey their oil field holdings. Uday Hussein, son of Saddam, had one, which the US military blew up during a “test” to simulate the effects of a car bomb back in 2004. We would have definitely saved it and used a Humvee as lab rat for such an experiment instead, wouldn’t you?