The Lamborghini LM001 was a one-off prototype vehicle that was made in 1981. Unlike most of the Lamborghini lineup from the past and present, this was an off-road vehicle that more closely resembled a jeep than any grand touring car or powerful 2-seater that Lamborghini’s roots were true to. First unveiled at the 1981 Geneva Auto Show, the LM001 was a successor to the failed Cheetah project. It came at a difficult time during Lamborghini’s history, as it was nearly pushed into bankruptcy before being purchased at a rock-bottom price of $3 million in 1981.
LM001 Predecessor: The Cheetah Project
The Lamborghini Cheetah was the first attempt this auto manufacturer took at creating an off-road vehicle. This was actually designed by Mobility Technology International, who had contracted with the US government to provide them with a new military vehicle. The Cheetah resembled the FMC XR311 prototype. So much so that FMC took legal action against MTI and Lamborghini after the unveiling of the Cheetah prototype at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show. The Cheetah was doomed from the beginning and the one-off prototype was never ever tested by the US military which is was built for. The contract instead went to AM General and led to the development of the well-known Humvee.
The LM001 Design
Even though the Cheetah ended in utter failure, Lamborghini’s desire to create an off-road vehicle, potentially suitable for military purposes, was still alive and well in 1981. It even attracted new capital from investors. While there were many differences between the Cheetah and the LM001, one stuck out more than others. Instead of using a Chrysler V8 engine as was done with the Cheetah, the LM001 was first build with an AMC V8, but had hopes to use the existing V12 design from Lamborghini. It was paired with a Chrysler 3-speed automatic. This V12 was currently being used in Lamborghini’s flagship model at the time, the Countach, and was one of the signature engines from Lamborghini. It would not make it into the yet-again doomed off-road design prototype. The LM001 was constructed and unveiled for the 1981 Geneva Auto Show, featuring the V8 Chrysler engine mounted in the rear and four-wheel drive for the ultimate off-road capability. It had a reported top speed of 99 mph and 180 bhp at 4,000 RPM with 267 lb ft of torque at 2,500 RPM. These numbers were sure to change when the V12 would be dropped in. It had a wheelbase of 115.94 inches and was 70.35 inches tall, making it by far the tallest in the Lamborghini lineup, a car manufacturer which usually pushed the boundaries on how low the vehicles’ roofs could be. It weighed a massive 4,631 pounds and was constructed using steel tubular metal. The boxy design allowed for four roomy seats and a small truck-bed like area sat behind the rear passenger row. However, due to the rear-mounted engine, the cargo area was in the front.
Rear Engine Placement
While mounting the engine in the rear was another part of Lamborghini’s winning strategy for its powerful smaller vehicles, this same process was not successfully applied to the LM001. When Lamborghini tested the prototype, which did indeed have a rear-mounted engine, the handling characteristics were very poor. This was unable to be rectified and proved to be a serious issue, especially while accelerating. Without the ability to change the design efficiently to correct the problem, the LM001 was discontinued entirely after just one prototype was created.
Follow Up to the LM001
While the Lamborghini LM001 didn’t make it into production, the plans to build an off-road vehicle made by Lamborghini did not stop. The LM001 was initially followed-up with the Lamborghini LMA002, which eventually turned into the LM002 and was finally brought into limited production.