In the late 1970s the US Army
decided to replace the Jeep
with a larger, more versatile vehicle, and Lamborghini
- famous for their supercars, but also a noted tractor
manufacturer - were asked to come up with a prototype. After an experimental project called 'Cheetah
', the eventual result was the LM001
, an extraordinary off-roader powered by the same petrol 5.2-litre V12
that went into the Lamborghini Countach
, mounted in the vehicle's rear. Physically resembling a 'Humvee
' on steroids, the LM001 had a top speed in excess of 120mph on level ground, weighed almost three tonnes, and drank petrol at a rate of one gallon every five miles.
The US Army were aghast. They wanted something relatively simple; the LM001, however, was powered by a temperamental supercar engine, and had a radar cross-section the size of a battleship. Worried that the financially-unsound Lamborghini would be unable to meet their order requirement, the Army gave the green light to General Motors who produced the famous Humvee, a considerably more sensible vehicle, albiet conceptually and physically similar, and not much cheaper.
Lamborghini persisted with the concept, however, and after moving the engine to the front of the machine, the LM001 was reborn in 1986 as the civilianised LM002. With a full-leather interior and a wide range of luxury options (televisions, refrigerators, video recorders, bullet-proof glass and so forth), the LM002 was aimed squarely at the Middle Eastern market. Consequently, it is very rare in the rest of the world, especially as it is over eight feet wide and doesn't comfortably fit most roads. Even compared to the late 1990s wave of corpulent American trucks, it still appears plus-sized. A stripped-down 600bhp version was used in rallying, although this was curtailed by Lamborghini's eventual buy-out by General Motors.
Just over three hundred were made. Nowadays, prices are surprisingly low - £50,000 up to about £80,000 depending on options - as the LM002 terrifies buyers. For a start, it has a bona fide Italian supercar engine, with an annual service cost of not less than £1,500, and potentially much more. Secondly, at three miles to the gallon (the LM002 is heavier than the LM001), a full tank of petrol costs £150, and will run out in a few hours if the vehicle is taken off-road. Thirdly, most people don't have a garage large enough to house the LM002, and it's not the kind of car that you can park on the street.