Rambo Lambo: The Original Off-Road Lamborghini, the LM002

Car Culture 2 December 6, 2017 by

In this week’s Wednesday Want we’ve found something truly special in the classified adverts and thought it really deserved some attention. You can check out past Wednesday Want entries right here.

Lamborghini loves to make some simply mad vehicles. There’s almost nothing off limits for the company as long as it’s fast and completely over-the-top. This is why this week’s want focuses in on one of the craziest ideas Lamborghini had, the LM002.

That is, the craziest idea until this week. On Monday, Lamborghini took the wraps off the Urus on social media. With a powerful V8, supposed off-road capabilities, an insane top speed, and horrible practicality, the Urus is definitely a fitting spiritual successor to the LM002.

The idea for the LM002 weirdly finds its roots in the military. While we typically don’t associate the Italians with making military hardware, in the 1970s Lambo was keen on breaking into the market. The US military was looking for a replacement for its aging fleet of Jeep vehicles. Lamborghini threw its hat into the ring with the Cheetah prototype.

The Cheetah didn’t even make it to the testing phase, losing out to the HMMWV. It did spawn a civilian version through — the LM001. Once the LM001 prototype was built, Lamborghini found it to be dreadful in almost every way to drive. This was in part due to the heavy AMC V8 in the rear of the vehicle. It scrapped the LM001 and then went back to the drawing board.

This is where the Lambo craziness enters the picture. Instead of sticking with a Chrysler powerplant — who was on the verge of owning Lamborghini at the time — Ferruccio & Co opted for the V12 out of the Countach. This 5.2-liter engine made a whopping 450 horsepower and 369lbft of torque.

At the time, this was one of the most powerful off-roaders on the market. For comparison, a 1986 Chevy Suburban only made 240 horsepower and 375lbft of torque from a 7.4-liter V8 engine.

Back in 1987 when Car & Driver put it through its paces, the LM002 hit 60 mph in just 7.7 seconds. On top speed runs it managed 117 mph too — which was fast for such a massive off-roader in those days. However, the best part of the test was the fuel economy, which clocked in at 8mpg.

Despite the off-road prowess of the LM002, it didn’t skimp on luxury — well didn’t skimp as far as off-roaders went. Even with a sea of leather, most of the components looked like they came from a vehicle built before the moon landing. The turn signals weren’t auto canceling and the radio sounded like it came from a swap meet. The air conditioning also didn’t work when the temps climbed over 80 degrees.

Reliability was quintessentially Italian too. The electronics had numerous gremlins and the manufacturing was pretty much “that’ll do”. There are reports of oil and water lines hitting spinning belts and all sorts of leaks from loose fittings.

The tires were also absurdly expensive — $5,000 a piece. In order to maintain the nearly four-ton heft of the LM002, Lamborghini sought out the services of Pirelli to make bespoke tires for the beast. Pirelli ended up coming up with a mixed-use all-terrain tire for most of its customers. It also made a sand tire due to the love of Middle Eastern royalty scooping up the LM002 as fast as Lambo could make them.

None of this matters though. The LM002 is truly an awesome vehicle and one didn’t buy it for reliability or to even stay cool. They bought it because it turned every head in a three-block radius when it rumbled through the streets.

For this reason, we were excited to see this pristine example of a 1990 LM002 pop up on the RM Sotheby’s lot catalog for it’s New York Icons Auction.

This “Rambo-Lambo” is one of only 48 that ever made it to US shores. Not surprisingly this example originally entered the US by way of Miami. At the height of the drug cartels, this truck probably has some stories to tell.

The current owner gave the big Lambo a full restoration that took nearly five years. This is probably as close to a factory-fresh LM002 as you can get without hopping in a time machine.

Everything from the paint to the exhaust to the interior was completely redone. Not one nook or cranny was missed during the process. Even the floor mats are original LM002 items. No word on the cost of this restoration, but we venture to guess several hundred thousand isn’t out of the question.

A few modern features find their way into this example as well. The owner replaced the horrendous stereo with an Alpine unit and even installed Bluetooth.

As part of an extremely rare option for the US, this LM002 also includes a rear toolbox and tonneau cover. In addition to those goodies, the truck comes with original American import bumpers, a rear spare tire cover, and original OZ Racing wheels.

The auction estimate for this example is a few kilos of the white stuff more than the $120k price tag from the 1980s. Sotheby’s expects this example to bring in between $400–$500k, which is right around the market average for this rig today.

Thankfully, if that’s too rich for your blood the Urus is only $200,000. However, it’s not nearly as crazy as this wild Rambo-Lambo.

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