Rambo Lambo – The Lamborghini LM002

The Lamborghini LM002 was the first production 4×4 built by the Italian supercar (and tractor) builder, it was based on their 1977 Cheetah 4×4 prototype which had been intended for military use – with a rear mounted V8. It’s not known how well-formed the plan was for a Lamborghini-badged military vehicle, although it’s clear that enough progress was made that the Cheetah was demonstrated for the US military.

The second prototype was called the LM001, and it was fitted with an AMC V8 – the theory being that a US-engined vehicle would be more likely to garner US military approval. The contact for the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) would eventually be awarded to AM General and their prototype, which would later be nicknamed Humvee.

Lamborghini didn’t stop development after losing the contact, they chose to pivot and create a luxury SUV called the LM002. They tossed the American V8s in favour of their own V12 – the standard LM002 came with the same 5.2 V12 as the Countach, but owners could spec an even larger Lamborghini L804 type 7.2 litre marine V12, used in Class 1 offshore powerboats.

The military-style spartan interior design was scrapped, and a new all-leather interior was designed. Air-conditioning came as standard, a premium ceiling mounted stereo was fitted, and Pirelli was commissioned to create two all new tire designs that could run flat – one for road and light off-road use, and one specifically for sand use.

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This focus on luxury, air-conditioning, and sand-specific tires wasn’t an accident. Lamborghini had identified the wealthy nouveau riche of the Middle East as a prime market, with similarly well-funded oil exploration companies and Hollywood celebrities being secondary targets.

Upon its release at the Brussels Auto Show in 1986 the new Lamborghini was immediately dubbed the “Rambo Lambo” – a nickname that’s stayed with the car ever since. Over the course of its 1986 to 1993 production run Lamborghini built 328 LM002s, many of them have disappeared – or as was the case with the LM 002 that belonged to Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, blown up by the US armed forces as an example of what IEDs are capable of.

Luxury, high-performance SUVs are commonplace now to the point they’ve become almost passé, but back when the LM002 first appeared it was a unique and breathtaking concept, and the 0 to 60 mph time of 7.7 seconds is still better than most modern cars.

The Lamborghini LM002 LM/American

The car you see here is one of the rare LM/American examples, just 48 were built, from a total production run of 301 LM002s. When it was delivered new in Florida in 1990 it had an MSRP of $158,000 – that’s over $300,000 in today’s money.

It has recently been through a comprehensive $325,000 five year restoration, bringing the car back to its former glory, keeping its original color scheme of Nero over a new black interior. The Lamborghini Countach V12 was rebuilt, a new exhaust system was fitted, with a full new interior, and a full set of new Pirelli Scorpion LM002 tires – not easy to find.

It’s due to be sold by RM Sotheby’s on the 6th of December in New York with an estimated hammer price of between $400,000 and $500,000 – and it’s difficult to imagine it’ll still be possible to pick them up for that kind of money for much longer given their rarity and historic significance.

If you’d like to read more about the LM002 or register to bid you can click here to visit RM Sotheby’s.

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Images: William Walker © Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s