Trucks & SUVs

Lamborghini’s Failed Truck Paved the Way for Something Better

Back in the ’70s Lamborghini tried to design a military vehicle for the U.S. Army and failed. A few years later, the Italian sports car manufacturer evolved this vehicle into a production pickup truck. Manufactured from 1986 to 1993, the Lamborghini LM002 defies imagination.

The Rambo Lambo, as it was nicknamed, was a high-performance vehicle that was technically a truck. But it had enough offroad DNA for Lamborghini to consider it a predecessor to the present-day super-SUV Urus. Why is the LM002 so over-the-top?

Some reasons why the LM002 is so unbelievable

One look at this truck immediately brings to mind a Humvee, which was also first produced in the ’80s. And no wonder since the LM002 is one of the Lamborghini Militaria series of offroad trucks made from the late ’70s to the early ’90s. It’s the only one in the series that made it into production with only 328 built worldwide and just 49 made for the U.S.

Its starting price back in the day was $120,000, which is the equivalent to a quarter of a million dollars in today’s money. If you’d like to buy an LM002 like the one Doug DeMuro drives in his video, better start saving now because you’ll probably pony up $300,000 or more.

The LM002 is constructed like a tank with a steel alloy body and enormous industrial-looking skid plates underneath. It has a curb weight of close to 6,000 pounds. 

For its time, the LM002 boasted a rather imposing wheelbase of 116 inches. The ’80s vintage Jeep CJ-5’s wheelbase was a mere 84 inches and the Land Rover Defender‘s was 110. Compared to current vehicles, the Rambo Lambo’s wheelbase matches the Cadillac Escalade’s and falls short on the mid-size Ford Ranger’s smallish 127 inches.

Lamborghini had two options for the truck’s fuel tank: 50 gallons or 77 gallons. At an optimistic best of 12 mpg, the LM002’s fuel economy is about as poor as you’d expect for a hefty vehicle with a colossal V12 heart. Saving money at the pump probably wasn’t a problem if you could afford this truck, though.

According to Car and Driver, it has a desert-ready suspension. But if you were an owner who lived in Malibu instead of Kuwait, the LM002 could still be your go-to beach vehicle. Its huge, specially-made Pirelli tires have a sand lip and are reinforced with a Kevlar-like material. They roll even when deflated. In Jay Leno’s video that reviews a 1990 model, we’re told that replacement tires go for $4,300 each. 

Middle Eastern oil moguls and celebrity owners such as Mike Tyson or Sylvester Stallone (hence the nickname Rambo Lambo) never reported on the truck’s offroad capability. But the LM002 has four-wheel drive chops thanks to locking hubs. 

To use it, you must get out of the truck and twist a dial on the hub to engage the front wheels. It also featured dual-caliper brakes in the front and giant 12-inch drum brakes in the back.

Another quirky feature of this truck is the bed. To access it, you snap off a tonneau cover and then unlatch both sides of the tailgate. The heavy-duty boilerplated bed floor is quite spacious, and DeMuro’s truck has leather bench seats on either side of this space. There’s also a massive spare tire. 

Inside, the LM002 reflects ’80s overkill. It’s fully upholstered with high-quality Italian leather, just like any other Lambo would be. The stereo is mounted on the ceiling. A distractingly large speaker is embedded between the two rear bucket seats. There’s a cigarette lighter and an ashtray to accommodate back seat passengers.

In the model that Leno drove, a $10,000 clock that originally was an option on the Diablo is mounted on the dash. While the truck has air conditioning, the vents are controlled by not one or two but nine buttons. These oddities, among others, make it so unusual. But let’s not forget the LM002’s centerpiece.

The LM002’s engine

The crown jewel of this vehicle is a four-valve V12 Countach engine using fuel injection tech lifted from the early Diablo. Mated with a five-speed manual transmission, it churns out around 450 hp with 368 lb-ft of torque.

Refinements made by Chrysler after it bought Lamborghini in 1987 pushed the truck’s juice up to 500 hp. A 7.2-liter marine V12 modified from a Class I powerboat that cranked out a blistering 600 hp also became available.

Did this truck lead to Lamborghini’s SUV?

Either way, the LM002 was ridiculously fast, for a truck that was built like the automotive equivalent of a defensive lineman. Both Leno and DeMuro loved the revving roar of the Countach engine out on the road. They both enjoyed its acceleration and appreciated its handling.

It now makes sense why Lamborghini presents the LM002 as the predecessor to the Urus. The Lambo truck helped to lay the groundwork for large luxury SUVs yet still had the gritty offroad capability of a 4X4.

Its shining glory was an amazingly powerful engine. So even though Lamborghini never won the Army contract, it still managed to design one of the most eccentric and fascinating pickup trucks both for the ’80s and now.