This Lamborghini LM002 Used To Tow Race Cars To Monaco
If you’re driving a Lamborghini LM002 in Italy through the Cisa Pass, you are faced with a dilemma over whether to overtake other vehicles. There are several stretches where it’s forbidden. It doesn’t matter whether you happen to be towing a trailer with a car on it behind you, the acceleration of your SUV is still more than capable of passing speeds, and resisting the temptation to open the throttle wide in the tunnels, for example, might require some considerable self-discipline and a health application of the brakes by the end.
The owner of this example has done that very journey three or four times before, departing from Tuscany and heading to the principality of Monaco to take part in the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique with his historic racing cars. Although the SUV “is able to climb vertical slopes,” as he proudly jokes, he only uses it as a road vehicle, and arriving in the wealthy sovereign micro-state with a perfect example of eighties excess winds the clock back to the golden decade that moderation forgot. For its imposing appearance, and in large part because Sylvester Stallone owned one, this spectacular machine is oft called the “Rambo Lambo.” A little cutesy with the rhyme, but still descriptive of this truck’s capabilities. It’s not all military though, and the interior covered with fine leather and wood is quite deluxe for a vehicle that was born from a very utilitarian purpose.
The LM002’s development started as a high-performance off-road project for military use at the end of the 1970s, with the name of Cheetah given to the project meant to attract a big government contract. After that didn’t pan out, Lamborghini engineer Giulio Alfieri resurrected the project in 1981 with the LM001—which was equipped with a rear-mounted engine—followed by the LMA prototype with a front-mounted one. The final production model of the LM002 came next, and was first presented at the Brussels Auto Show in 1986 with the V12 engine from the Countach Quattrovalvole mounted between the front wheels.
The engine has a 5167cc capacity and produces right around 450bhp at 6800rpm. When the car trailer is not hooked to the LM002, it can sprint from 0-60 mph in less than 8 seconds despite its curb weight verging on 6000lbs. The consumption of such a beast, as you can expect, is considerable, and it can drop to about 3km per liter (approximately 7 mpg) when hauling the trailer. Fortunately, the fuel tank is enormous, with a capacity of 169 liters (45 US gallons). The maximum speed? Nothing less than 130mph.
The LM002 attracted significant attention when launched, and a total of 301 were produced from 1986 to 1992. “Mine is one of the early ones, built in 1987 and equipped with carburetors. It’s number 37,” the owner of this example reveals. He is fond of this kind of vehicle, and the LM002 is an increasingly rare sight in its country of origin.
The model had recently been out of production when he bought this LM002 as a secondhand item in 1995. “I’ve never done anything other than standard maintenance jobs to it since I bought it,” he tells me. And we can’t say he just kept the Lambo asleep in the garage either, but gets to enjoy it as a tow vehicle or otherwise: “Now there are some small oil leaks here and there… It needs some general overhauling, to be honest. And the bodywork could use some TLC.”
With an aluminum and fiberglass body, four-wheel drive transmission, and three self-locking differentials, this SUV is an amazing bit of tech for its time (and truthfully, still is) and the big Lambo can tackle gradients of up to 120%. It was equipped with specially-developed Pirelli Scorpion tires—a notoriously pricey set of rubber boots—allowing exceptional capabilities across soft surfaces while remaining highly durable in hot conditions. In other words, good for jumping sand dunes should you be so inclined.
Although the passionate classic car collector who owns this example complains that the desert tires with special tread pattern to prevent sand ingress are now difficult to find, he rarely enjoys off-road trips “in the woods” with his SUV. But if you’re wondering what cars used to get hauled to Monte Carlo by such a superstar vehicle before its owner bought a modern flatbed transporter instead, you can be sure they were also suitably desirable. One of them is a 1949 Stanguellini 1100 with an Ermini engine, and the other is a 1959 Maserati coupé which the famous driver Lorenzo Bandini, from Scuderia del Centro Sud used to race before being contracted by Ferrari.
“My passion for real speed started when I was 60 years old,” the owner of the LM002 explains. It’s not totally true though, because he’d also already enjoyed the beauty of 14 separate Mille Miglia events with his wife, always finishing in “one of the first 40 positions and many times arriving among the top ten”, he enthuses. Then, when he says that speed’s virus infected him, he started his high-power shuttle runs on the Autostrada of Northern Italy with his Lambo and its factory tow hook, straight to one of the most charismatic events of the historic motorsport calendar. Surely the sight of the Lambo towing a historic Grand Prix car will inspire someone else to pursue such a life.