Lamborghini built its first military vehicle, a prototype vehicle codenamed the "Cheetah", in 1977. Lamborghini had designed the vehicle with hopes of selling it to the US military. The original Cheetah prototype had a rear-mounted Chrysler V8 engine. The prototype was destroyed during testing by the US military. This led Lamborghini to develop the LM001, which was very similar to the Cheetah, but had an AMC V8 engine.
It was finally determined that the engine being mounted in the rear caused too many unfavorable handling characteristics in an offroad vehicle, and the LMA002 was built with an entirely new chassis, moving the engine (now the V12 out of the Lamborghini Countach) to the front. After much testing and altering of the prototype, it was finally given a serial number and became the first LM002. The production model was unveiled in an early 1986 Brussels Auto Show
Dubbed the "Rambo-Lambo", its aggressive styling and powerful engine made it a success for Lamborghini. Civilian models were outfitted with a full luxury package, including full leather trim, tinted power windows, air conditioning, and a premium stereo mounted in a roof console. In order to meet the vehicle's tire needs, Lamborghini commissioned Pirelli to create the Pirelli Scorpion tires with custom, run-flat tread designs. These were made specifically for the LM and were offered in two different tread designs, one for mixed use and the other for sand use only. These tires could be run virtually flat without risk and were the only rubbers available to compete with the desert heat, the loading and the speeds that the LM could inflict on them. A 76 gallon (290 litre) fuel tank supplied fuel.
The civilian version was often marketed toward rich Saudi sheiks because of its incomparable performance in the desert due to the Scorpion tires, an oversized radiator, and a large air cleaner which sat on top of 6 Weber carburetors. For those requiring even more power, the L804 7.2 litre marine V12, more commonly found in Class 1 offshore powerboats, could be specified.
The military version of the LM002 was never built and contrary to many claims across the internet of orders from the Libyan and Saudi Arabian military, no military versions of the LM002 exist and none were ever sold to foreign Governments or military forces.
In 1988, Lamborghini sent an LM002 to a team of special engineers with the intention of making it capable of participating in the Paris Dakar Rally. They stripped it of anything that added unnecessary weight and gave it an upgraded suspension, engine modifications which brought it to 600 hp (450 kW), full roll cage, plexiglas windows, and GPS equipment. Unfortunately, the money ran out before it could officially be entered in competition, although it did participate in the Rallye des Pharaons in Egypt and another in Greece, both times driven by Sandro Munari.
Near the end of the LM002's production, Turin based autoshop owner Salvatore Diomante created a one-off "Estate" version by enclosing the back area and raising the roof. This added significantly to the interior room.
On July 18, 2004, at a US military base near Baqubah, members of the American military used an LM002 that had belonged to Uday Hussein to simulate the effects of a car bomb.
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