The idea of building a luxury SUV at Sant’Agata Bolognese first arose before the SUV segment had even come into being. In 1977 Automobili Lamborghini unveiled the Cheetah to the world. The project was still in its infancy, but there was a clear desire to make history. Three years later, the Cheetah project was taken up again, and out of the ashes of this fully off-road vehicle emerged the LM001, a prototype that could harness the power of a rear-mounted V8 engine under extreme conditions and on treacherous terrains such as the desert. The sector was new, as were the hurdles to be overcome – it was truly pioneering stuff and, like any prototype, the LM001 still had its teething problems.
But going beyond the limits of off-road vehicles no longer seemed impossible. A few years later, a new prototype was unveiled, the Lamborghini LMA, with a front-mounted V12 engine from the Countach, which made a compelling sound and developed incredible power. When the LMA was presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 1982, the stunning vision of our engineers had the whole auto world dreaming.
All these stages ultimately led to a production model that debuted in 1986 at the Brussels Motor Show, where Automobili Lamborghini launched an assault on the all-terrain world with a completely redesigned version based on the LMA, unlike anything that had gone before.
The new model, dubbed LM002, boasted a 455 HP V12, again front-mounted, like on the Countach, with a five-speed transmission with underdrive for the toughest slopes and Pirelli Scorpion tires specially designed for the car and perfect for desert climates. The LM002’s relatively low center of gravity kept it anchored to the ground even on the off-road terrain.
In spite of its size, the designers managed to give it the bold, distinctive look of an authentic Lamborghini. The interiors were fitted with high-quality leather upholstery and matching carpets, a state-of-the-art stereo system and a powerful air-conditioning unit, as well as an amazing range of optional extras, including armor-plating, tinted windows, and television, just to name a few. The LM002 was unlike any other vehicle in the world at the time: an extremely powerful car with sport performance at the highest level (at the time there were few cars, some far more compact, that could reach and surpass 210 km/h), yet able to move with ease on all terrains thanks to its selective four-wheel drive, special tires and reduced gears. The LM002 offered power, mobility, safety and finishes that were far above standard at the time.
And, of course, it became the top choice for the rich and famous. It had such huge success in the United States that the company decided to produce a run of 60 cars designed exclusively for the American market.
The LM002’s journey came to an end in 1992, due in part to the economic crisis, after 300 had been produced, but six years had been sufficient to ensure its place in history.