The Lamborghini LM002 has been rightly called the first Super SUV. It was, and still is, a paradox of a vehicle blending the best of the features of a highly-capable 4×4 with the performance and handling of a luxury grand tourer – and then improving on both.
The end result is a four wheel drive that is larger than life, both physically, and in how it drives.
Fast Facts – The Lamborghini LM002
- The Lamborghini LM002 was very quickly christened the “Rambo Lambo” by the press when it first made its debut at the 1986 Brussels Motor Show.
- The LM002 is one of the most luxurious 4x4s ever made and is a product of intelligent and “out of the box” thinking by Lamborghini’s design team.
- The car was designed to be “Land Rover practical” and yet superbly comfortable. It is a superb point to point car with a range of approximately 1,000 km.
- Only around 300 LM002 were made up until 1993 when production ceased.
Creating The Rambo Lambo
In order to create the LM002, Lamborghini had to do things that other design teams would have dismissed out of hand as too radical: just the sheer idea of fitting a 5,167 cc Lamborghini DOHC V12 with four valves per cylinder and breathing through no less than six dual throat Weber carburettors in a 4WD would have seemed outrageous, but Lamborghini chose to do exactly that.
This V12 produces 444 hp, and as one could imagine, could propel this 6,780 lb behemoth from standing to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds. The brakes were also surprisingly up to task being able to take the LM002 from 60 mph to dead stop in just over 200 feet.
Top speed was 118 mph making point to point motoring quick, and the fully independent suspension by unequal length “A” arms soaking up any nastiness the road or off road surface could serve up. The LM002 was stable and predictable in its handling as a Lamborghini is expected to be.
The name of this SUV: the LM002, stood for “Lamborghini Militaria 002” as it was a third effort by Lamborghini to create a vehicle suitable for the military. The first of those was the rear engine Cheetah, which was a bit like a Myers Manx with a V8 engine. The car was created by Lamborghini on contract from Mobility Technology International (MTI) and resulted in legal action when it was found to be rather too similar to the FMC XR311.
The first of the Lamborghini Militaria vehicles was the LM001 which was a result of Lamborghini taking the basic concept of the Cheetah and re-designing it completely to create a vehicle that is undeniably the predecessor of the LM002.
The LM001 showed the promise of the concept but it had been designed with a large American V8 in the rear as had been done in the Cheetah and this, predictably, created a rear heavy vehicle with poor front to rear weight distribution. This is something that Lamborghini should have been well aware of at the design stage, they had encountered the same problem when they created the Miura.
The LM001 was re-designed by Ex-Maserati designer Giulio Alfieri, who had been the designer of the Maserati “Birdcage” racing car of 1961, so he was an engineer who understood tubular space frame construction well and had learned the lessons the Birdcage had taught him. The LM002 was built around a tubular space frame with fibreglass and aluminium panels over it: the whole body/chassis structure made to withstand the rigours of speedy off-road driving.
Alfieri wisely re-located the big V12 Lamborghini engine to the front of the vehicle giving it much better front to rear balance, and thus contributing to its exemplary handling.
Some may wonder at the wisdom of installing the LM002 with a relatively complex DOHC V12 engine in a vehicle expected to be both for civilian and military use. It’s worth remembering that the aircraft engines of the Second World War included the various versions of the V12 Rolls-Royce Merlin as used in the Spitfires and Hurricanes, and the V12 Daimler-Benz DB601 and DB605 used in the Messerschmitts that opposed them being examples.
So a Lamborghini V12 could have been militarized to make it suitable for military use, or they could have simply used a different engine for a military version.
Lamborghini wisely kept the styling of the LM002 simple and functional – yet with a pleasing aesthetic that helped it quickly gain the nickname “The Rambo Lambo.” They gave the LM002 an imposing appearance that is all at once both unpretentious and yet impressive.
This is in truth a vehicle that turns heads, gathers crowds when it is parked, and encourages people to want to take pictures of it: yet it is also a vehicle whose plain appearance means the owner will not be mortified if it happens to get scratched whilst engaging in some off-road antics, just as one would not be upset if one scratched one’s Land Rover Defender for example. The same could not be said of something like a modern Range Rover which was widely considered to be “too pretty to scratch.”
In fact the top of the front fenders of the LM002, like the old Land Rover Defender, are nice and flat so you could scale and fillet a fish on them (just cover the paintwork first and use a decent sized cutting board).
To sum up, the LM002 is a vehicle that has had a great deal of intelligence and out of the box thinking invested into it. It boasts a wonderfully comfortable interior, superb suspension, and smooth quiet power, it is made to be a perfect adventure machine. Fuel consumption is around 8 mpg (US), but it has a 77 US gallon (169 litre) fuel tank, giving it a range of around 600 miles (965 km) or so depending on driving conditions and driver style.
The transmission is a five speed manual and the four-wheel-drive system is controlled by press buttons in a longitudinal row on the centre console next to the gear lever. These buttons from front to rear are: Low, 4×4, 4×4 LOCKED, 4×2.
Lamborghini LM002 – Specifications
Length: 4,790 mm (188.6 in)
Width: 2,000 mm (78.7 in)
Height: 1,850 mm (72.8 in)
Wheelbase: 2,950 mm (116.1 in)
Track both front and rear: 1615 mm (63.47 in)
Ground Clearance: 300 mm (11.79 in)
Weight: 2,700 kgs (5954 lbs)
Weight Distribution Front to rear: 50%/50%
Chassis: Multi-tubular steel space-frame
Suspension: Independent, front and rear oscillating arms, coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers
Brakes: servo-assisted Dual hydraulic circuit split front/rear with load compensating valve. Front, ventilated disc brakes with two four-pot calipers per disc. Rear, 12 inch drums.
Steering: Power assisted recirculating ball, 3.75 turns lock to lock
Turning Circle: 12.2 m (40 ft)
Front and Rear Tyres: Pirelli Scopion 325/65 VR 17 run-flat tyres on custom O.Z. Ruote 11×17 inch alloy rims. (The Pirelli Scorpion run-flat tyres were custom made for the LM002 by Pirelli)
Engine: 5,167 cc (315 cu. in.) DOHC 60 degree V12 light alloy block with pressed-in liners. Wet sump, seven main bearings, four valves per cylinder, chain drive overhead camshafts, compression ratio 9.5:1. Power 450 bhp @ 6800 rpm. Torque 369 lb/ft @ 4,500 rpm. Oversized radiator with twin electric cooling fans. Electronic ignition with distributors, 80 A alternator. Dual electric fuel pumps, 6 side-draught Weber 44 DCNF twin-choke carburetors.
Cooling system: 17 litre (4 US gallon)
Manufacturer claimed fuel consumption: 30 l/100 km (7.84 mpg US)
Transmission: Gearbox ZF S5-24/3, 5 speeds + reverse, with reduction gear, all synchromesh. Clutch Dry-single plate, hydraulically operated. Reverse gear ratio 2.70:1. Final drive ratio 4.125:1.
Front, centre and rear differentials. Centre differential sending 25 % power/torque to the limited slip front differential. Centre differential sending 75% power/torque to the rear limited slip differential. Central differential has 100 % lock facility
Fuel tank capacity: 290 liters (77 US gallons)
Approximate range: 965 km (600 miles).
The 1991 Lamborghini LM002 Shown Here
A 1991 Lamborghini LM002 is coming up for sale by RM Sotheby’s at their Miami auction to be held on 10th December 2022.
This vehicle was a part of the Youngtimer Collection and has 8,931 kilometers (5,549 miles) on the odometer at the time of cataloguing. The car was completed in June 1991 and appears to have spent some time in the hands of a Japanese collector before being acquired by a Kuwait based collector in 2014.
This LM002 presents in well cared for condition and whilst owned by the Kuwaiti collector its odometer only went from 8,875 kilometers to 8,931 kilometers, a gain of just 56 kilometers (35 miles) over eight years.
This represents a rare opportunity to own an LM002.
All pictures courtesy Ahmed Qadri-Pixelhaus Media ©2022 of RM Sotheby’s
Jon Branch has written countless official automobile Buying Guides for eBay Motors over the years, he’s also written for Hagerty, he’s a long time contributor to Silodrome and the official SSAA Magazine, and he’s the founder and senior editor of Revivaler.
Jon has done radio, television, magazine, and newspaper interviews on various issues, and has traveled extensively, having lived in Britain, Australia, China, and Hong Kong. The fastest thing he’s ever driven was a Bolwell Nagari, the slowest was a Caterpillar D9, and the most challenging was a 1950’s MAN semi-trailer with unexpected brake failure.