Car Video: Oversteer
Here's Why the Lamborghini LM002 Is Worth $400,000
I recently had the chance to drive the single most ridiculous Lamborghini of all time. It's not the Miura, which was known to dangerously lift its front wheels off the ground at high speeds. It's not the Countach, where you need to open the door when you're backing up in order to see behind you.
Instead, the single most ridiculous Lamborghini of all time is the LM002 -- a bulbous off-roader SUV manufactured from 1986 to 1993, which largely shares its V12 powertrain with the Lamborghini Diablo. To understand this thing, imagine a Hummer ... with the engine from a Lamborghini Aventador. That was the LM002.
I got the opportunity to drive the LM002 from a local exotic-car dealership near Princeton, New Jersey, called Interstate Motorsport. I've been to a lot of car dealerships to film a lot of videos, but I've never seen an inventory quite like this. Many Countaches. Several Diablos. A Ferrari F40. A Maybach 62. But when it came time for me to choose which one I wanted to film, my answer was simple: the LM002. The response was: Which one? They have two.
I wanted to drive the LM002 for a few reasons. One is, of course, because of its absurdity. There's also its size, and its powertrain, and its design, and its rarity, and also because there really isn't all that much information out there on these things. But most importantly, I wanted to see if the LM002 experience matched up with its recent rise in values: After hitting a low of $100,000 or less a few years ago, LM002 prices have been rocketing up to $300,000 or more for the right one.
So I borrowed a white LM002, which is especially exciting because it's an ultra-rare late-production 1990 "LM America" model -- one of less than 50 built for the U.S. market. While early LM002s made for the global market were a bit on the utilitarian side, later models -- including the LM America -- had more luxury equipment and a nicer interior, draped in leather, and wood, and absurdity.
The LM America also boasts an improved engine over the earlier models. Although the LM002 initially used a 444-horsepower 5.2-liter V12 borrowed from the Countach, the LM America's power plant received many updates from the Diablo -- including fuel injection, revised heads and, most importantly, more power: With the Diablo engine, the LM002 was putting out just under 500 horses. That may not seem like much today, but consider this: Back then, the most horsepower you could get in a Range Rover was 182. The Chevy Suburban had 160. The LM002 must've been the most enormous mic drop in luxury-SUV history.
And it didn't stop with the engine. Back when it was new, the LM002 was fitted with unique Pirelli Scorpion tires that included a "sand lip" -- and that were further reinforced with a synthetic Nylon-like substance similar to Kevlar. The result was that the truck could still drive on sand even if the tires were fully deflated, which gives a pretty good indication of where Lamborghini thought most of the LM002's buyers would be located.
But since that was almost 30 years ago -- and since Lamborghini only made about 300 LM002s for the entire world -- the tires are long out of production. Although Pirelli recently recreated a small batch for eager LM002 owners, the new tires didn't include the distinctive sand lip -- and the going rate was somewhere between $2,500 and $5,000 per tire, depending on who you ask. Fortunately, the LM002 I drove had a far more cost-effective solution: It was fitted with Super Swampers, the well-known off-road tire, which made the LM look like it could bound over rocks without putting up a fight.
But I didn't use the LM002 to bound over rocks. Instead, I drove it on the road and on the highway throughout central New Jersey for over an hour. And it was possibly the single most unforgettable driving experience of my entire life.
When you climb inside an LM002, the first thing you notice is that the accelerator pedal is unbelievably difficult to push. I was told it would be hard to push the clutch pedal, and that's true -- but the gas pedal is, inexplicably, even more difficult to press down. I guess when you're surrounded by more than 6,000 pounds of V12-powered mass, they want you to be really sure you're looking to get going in a hurry.
Then you shift into gear. The owner of the dealership, Steve, rode in the passenger seat during my LM002 drive -- and he enjoyed the experience just as much as I did, encouraging me to go faster and drive further. But before we set off, he also informed me that a clutch replacement in an LM002 is $12,000 -- so I made sure to be mindful with my shifting. That isn't always easy, since the LM002 uses a dogleg transmission with first gear at the bottom left -- but I adapted quickly.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the LM002 driving experience was just how normal it was. When you get past the clutch, and the difficult accelerator pedal, and the fact that we put in twenty dollars' worth of gas and burned it all in roughly 45 minutes, the LM002 actually seems fairly docile on the road. It's nowhere near as loud on the inside as it is on the outside (where you can hear the V12 screaming), and it seemed quiet -- almost refined -- as we were moving down the highway. The seats were cushy and comfortable. Once you get over the whole accelerator-pedal thing, it almost feels like a car you could drive ... often!
More interestingly, there was nothing funky about the steering or handling: The steering was surprisingly direct, and moving the wheel moved the truck with little drama. Admittedly, the biggest flaw came on curvy roads: The LM002 suffers from some, though not excessive, body roll. I'm told the original models -- with the reinforced tires and the sand lip -- managed this better, while the Super Swampers allow the heavy SUV to pitch more dramatically.
As for acceleration, you'll be happy to know I did test it out -- and the LM002 was surprisingly quick. Despite its size, the thing scoots from zero to 60 in a little over 7 seconds, which isn't too fast -- but it feels a lot faster than it is, with the V12 making some serious noises as you climb above 3,000 rpm. You don't want to build up too much momentum, though. Jam the throttle down and you start to feel pretty precarious as you get past 50 or 60 miles per hour. While the LM002 feels fairly stable on the highway, full acceleration is another thing: As you gain speed quickly, you're acutely aware of just how much mass you're moving.
Speaking of the mass, the LM002's size is worth a discussion. At Steve's insistence, I took the LM over the Washington Crossing Bridge, which spans the Delaware River between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where George Washington and his troops crossed it in 1776 during the American Revolution. I note all this history because the bridge was built in 1904, back when they couldn't conceive of SUVs, or V12 engines, or three crazy guys in a Lamborghini that looks like a military-grade weapon with turn signals. The bridge has a speed limit of 15 miles per hour, it has a weight limit of three tons per vehicle, and it's just a lane and a half wide -- meaning that cars have to steer toward the edge when they pass one another. It's a scary experience in any car, let alone an ultra-rare Lamborghini SUV.
But driving the LM002 over the bridge didn't make me as nervous as I thought it would, largely for one simple reason: While the LM002 was massive by the standards of its time, it just isn't all that big compared to modern cars. The LM002's 78.7-inch width was hilarious back in 1986, for instance, when a Honda Accord was just 67 inches wide. But today's Ford F-150 starts at 79.9 inches in width and goes from there. And the LM002's length of 188.2 inches makes it shorter than a modern Toyota Camry. Simply put, the LM002 looks like a brawny, hulking brute -- but its size is actually pretty manageable.
Eventually, we returned to the dealership, and it was over: I had driven the LM002.
I've idolized this vehicle my entire life. I've always known that Lamborghini made "a truck" -- and, similarly, I'd always assumed I'd never even see one, let alone drive it. Even during this year's Monterey Car Week, where it's a regular occurrence to see a LaFerrari driving down the street, an LM002 sighting made my jaw drop. They're just so rare, so weird, so distinctive, so costly to maintain (I assume), so expensive to drive, so expensive to buy, and so freaking bizarre. It's the Lamborghini experience on a completely different level of insane.
And that begs the question: Is the Lamborghini LM002 worth $400,000? None have traded at that level yet -- but they're getting close. And since the LM lives right at the intersection of "vintage Lamborghini" and "old SUV" -- two things that are tremendously hot right now -- I'll answer this a different way: I'm surprised it isn't worth more.
To this day, the only time I've ever seen a Lamborghini LM002 "in the wild" was a few years ago, in Monaco, when a man casually smoking a cigarette parked a black one on the street next to me just as I happened to be walking past. At that moment, I transformed into full-on 13-year-old car freak, taking pictures of it from every possible angle and staring at all the details. These days, I drive a lot of cars, so I rarely get that feeling anymore -- but I'm happy to report that it came back the moment I climbed inside the LM002, put it in gear, and pushed down that heavy accelerator pedal.
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.
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