Among the most popular and curious items that has ever appeared at Curated has to be the massive Lamborghini LM002, the first of the purpose-built trucks (pre-dating SUVs) produced by the Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy-based sports car manufacturer famous for Supercars such as the Miura and Countach.
Built from 1986 to 1993, the Lamborghini LM002 is thought by many to be the predecessor to the more commonly seen Hummer which has its roots with the American military, notoriously making its first appearance under fire during the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. And, much like the Hummer the LM002 began life as a military light truck designed for the Italian army, the LM designation standing for “Lamborghini Militaria” (more commonly referred to as “Rambo Lambo”) to compete with Land Rover, Jeep and the setting the stage for the emerging luxury SUV segment.
There were two prototypes produced by Lamborghini, the Cheetah and the LM001, both of which used rear-mounted Chrysler V8 motors likewise for military use which were not well received. The Cheetah and LM001s were deemed too unruly to drive with their big American V8 motors mounted in the rear making them very unbalanced and difficult to handle.
Lamborghini took over the project with an all new chassis, placing their famous Countach V12 Downdraft engine in the front and becoming the LM002 which was publicly revealed at the Brussels Auto Show in 1986 where it received the “Rambo Lambo” moniker by attending media.
In civilian guise, the LM002 comes complete with luxury touches such as full leather interior, air conditioning, power windows, premium sound systems controlled in the roof-mounted console, creating it a bit more of a comfortable and entertaining ride for drivers and passengers.
Pirelli was commissioned to produce the massive, specially made Scorpion 345/60 R17 tires with two different tread patterns, for off road sand and mixed use. The tires also featured run flat technology which enabled them to run virtually flat in the hot desert sands and over the road.
Lamborghini S.p.A. actually had plans to take part in the Paris-Dakar event in 1988 with the LM002, going so far as to hire a team of engineers to lighten the vehicle where ever possible and upgrade the suspension and frame in order to handle the punishment that desert raid races give the cars. Unfortunately, funding ran out before the team lead by driver Sandro Munari could take part in Paris-Dakar, but they did participate in one of other “Desert Raid” events, which were gaining in popularity at the time, notably the Rally of the Pharos in Egypt.
The thirsty LM002 gets about eight miles per gallon and features a seventy-two gallon fuel tank, requires four gallons of engine oil and four gallons of engine coolant. So, for those wishing for fuel economy and making a light environmental impact from the 5.2 liter V12 engine in a package weighing 6,780lbs, perhaps best to look elsewhere.
In all, Lamborghini built 328 LM002s over seven years. So, they’re pretty rare items usually only seen at specialist automobile events and rarely on the road. Performance in a vehicle this heavy, the 48 valve V12 producing 444BHP, far more than segment competitors Land Rover or Jeep, acceleration from 0 to 60MPH is 7.7 seconds with a top speed of 118MPH. Of course, if the plan is to drive at this pace, count on emptying that big gas tank in a matter of minutes.
As a curiosity, the Lamborghini LM002 may be as an intriguing a vehicle as has ever been made. From the day the first one arrived at Curated, it attracted a lot of interested passers-by to see it up close, take pictures and ask about what it is.
As a collectible automobile, the LM002 ticks all the boxes, rare, hand-made, V12 engine and a virtual template for military type light duty trucks and SUVs far into the future and rising values in the market which may not be said for too many SUVs these days.
But, as usual, someone gets the bright idea to take an LM002 racing again.
The big prize, Dakar.
In the late 70’s through the mid-80’s the Paris-Dakar “Desert Raid” emerged as the blue ribband event of its kind, run like a rally in special stages but only on a far larger scale.
Starting in Paris on New Year’s Eve winding through Southern France (or the Iberian Peninsula) then a ferry ride across the Mediterranean onto Continental Africa in Libya winding through the high Sahara Desert and deepest jungles until reaching Dakar on the western tip of Senegal, the scenic city which gave its name to part of a major international off road race.
To this day the event is still called “Dakar” even though it has gone through several iterations and venues, most notably to South America from 2009 through 2019 and in 2020, Saudi Arabia.
The Paris-Dakar event began to catch the imagination of World Rally Championship (WRC) and sports car racing factory teams alike with no less than Porsche A.G. entering Rothmans liveried 959 examples for French rallying star Rene Metge and Belgian Formula One and Le Mans racing legend Jacky Ickx with Metge winning the event overall, the second of his three overall Paris-Dakar wins (1981, 1984 and 1986).
Other manufactures, keen to prove their Paris-Dakar competitiveness included WRC factory teams which also experienced success in the event including overall winning teams Peugeot (1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990), Citroen (1991, 1994, 1995 and 1996) and Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution which came to dominate at Dakar no less than eleven times (1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007).
Dakar: Along comes the LM002.
In 1996 a heavily modified LM002 with chassis number HMA12046 was entered in Dakar in the Prototype category. This specific LM002 was once owned by Lucy Mimran, the ex-wife of then Lamborghini owner Patrick Mimran. The Mimran family owned the entire Lamborghini factory and Lucy Mimran had received the LM002 as a gift.
Italian racing driver Andrea Barenghi bought the LM002 from Lucy Mimran in the mid-90s and spent over a year preparing it for Dakar. Swiss race tuner Garage Burnier took on the job of converting the LM002 for the extreme conditions and racing. The engine was taken out of the car and received a custom-made injection system, the factory standard catalyst was removed and both cooling and lubrication were modified and reinforced so the car would be able to withstand anything the grueling rally could throw at it.
The front brakes were replaced by AP units and a massive 800-liter (211 gallons) fuel tank was installed to increase the range of the fuel guzzling Countach V12 unit that has more than 600BHP. The added horsepower and the fact over 500kg (1,110lbs) was removed from the original LM002 resulted in some impressive performance figures. The original military grade chassis of the LM002 turned out to be so structurally sound that it wasn’t necessary to modify it for the race.
So, LM002 #HLA12046 was officially entered into the 1996 Granada-Dakar (so renamed as the event was started from Granada, Spain instead of Paris) race and designated as number 246. The big bull kept up with the competition on the flooded roads of Spain and on the Sahara Desert sands, unfortunately an important aspect was overlooked.
The LM002 was no lightweight to begin with, the 211-gallon fuel cell and the massive Pirelli Scorpion tires didn’t help keeping weight down either, the combination of high-speed driving through the desert, jungles, bad roads and back breaking jumps took their toll on the suspension. In a matter of days the team went through more than 24 shock absorbers and had to withdraw from the race due to a lack of spare parts.
After Dakar, the car changed hands again, sold to Gildo Pallanco Pastor, owner of Venturi Automobiles, who wanted to turn this final LM002 into a high-performance fun car to enjoy on the roads around Monaco. Pastor had the car shipped to a Lamborghini specialist who had the entire engine rebuilt, starting with a standard Countach engine once again but the project got cancelled at some time and the car was left abandoned still mostly in its Dakar race specs.
The LM002 was eventually sold to the USA and again abandoned by a California based enthusiast who intended to restore the car. When we were offered the car a few months ago after chasing it down and we decided to bring it back to its glory! Still wearing its original Dakar graphics, a few race bruises and faded race seats, the plan is to restore LM002 #HLA12046 back to original Dakar rally spec and continue to document its history and story!
“At Curated, we do not acquire cars simply for inventory but rather based on what the car is. We love interesting provenance, very low production, very low mileage, very special and often weird cars”
John Temerian, Jr.