In the late 80’s it was time for the Lamborghini Countach to be replaced and Crystler had just bought the Italian company, they were ready to pump money into finishing its development and get that top speed over the 200 mph mark. What they created was nothing short of incredible and today I want to tell you a little about it.
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In the 80’s Lamborghini was pulled out of bankruptcy and given a kick back to life by its new owners, Jean Claude and Patrick Mimran, who set about the development of Project 132 which would replace the aging Countach. They wanted the car to have a top speed of at least 196 mph and to be more aerodynamic and outrageous than the car it replaced.
However this was all interrupted by Chrysler purchasing the company in 1987, who were uncomfortable with the design and instead put car legend Lee Iaccoca in charge of the project who decided to get a new designer to soften up the car and make it a commercial success.
The original design of what would become the Diablo was contracted to the legendary designer Marcello Gandini who had designed the Miura and Countach before it. He had made the original design for the new car (seen above) before Chrysler bought the company in 1987.
The big Detroit company was pumping 6 billion Italian Lira into the project and as such there was big oversight from management including Lee Iaccoca who was now president of the company. They were worried about Gandini’s design being too stark and wanted the design “softened”, which left Gandini famously unimpressed with the whole project, refusing to redesign the car. This exact same situation took place on his next project, the Bugatti EB110. Gandini did use this design though on the Cizeta-Moroder V16T a year later.
Chrysler commissioned its Detroit design team to extensively redesign the car, they softened all the sharp edges and corners of Gandini’s design. This left us with a truly stunning car design, which still had that Lamborghini madness but with less of a stark contrast that would leave it a love/hate style. It had aggressive road presence and it looked as fast as it was even while standing still.
In 1999 the company gave the car a face lift, replacing the old pop-up headlamps at the front of the car with composite lenses from the Nissan 300ZX as well as new rims and a heavily updated interior. By this point the company was now part of the VW group.
The Diablo continued using more or less the same V12 that was in the Miura and Countach before it, however the company had increased the displacement all the way to 5.7 liters which gave the original Diablo a good chunk of power at its disposal. The car had 485 bhp and 428 lb-ft of torque. The engine sported dual overhead cam, 4 valves per cylinder version of the existing V12 engine and computer-controlled multi-point fuel injection.
During the lifetime of the car the engine would again be pushed in terms of displacement to 6 liters and reaching 575 bhp and the top end.
The original engine in the Diablo made it one of the fastest cars of its day and the first production car to hit the 200 mph mark, topping out at 202 mph. The car, unlike most modern Lamborghini’s was rear wheel drive but this didn’t stop it going from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, which isn’t hypercar performance now but it was back then.
Like the Countach before the, the Diablo was one of the coolest cars of its time and made it onto every young boys bedroom wall as a poster that we loved and dreamed of. These days Lamborghini’s don’t seem as outrageous as this car and that is not a bad thing but it does make you wonder, should they go for absolutely bonkers just one more time in the future?