Though Lamborghini ended production of its signature Diablo model in 2001, it lives on in the hearts of luxury and sports cars aficionados the world over. Jeremy Clarkson, the former host of Top Gear, once commented that the Diablo was intended “solely to be the biggest head-turner in the world”. It accomplished this mission with gusto.
Development of the Diablo began in 1985 when Lamborghini was financed by Swiss-based brothers Jean Claude and Patrick Mimran, and it was intended to replace the firm’s existing flagship model, the Countach. A company brief specified that the top speed of the new model must be at least 315 km/hr (196 mph). Marcello Gandini, designer of the Diablo’s two predecessors, was contracted to develop the Diablo. In 1987, the Mimran brothers sold their stake to Chrysler. Designers at Chrysler initiated an extensive redesign of the Diablo, much to the consternation of Gandini. Chrysler’s design smoothed out the sharp edges and corners of Gandini’s vision. Development of the Diablo cost an estimated six billion Italian lira.
Lamborghini continued a company tradition by naming the model after a legendary fighting bull. “Diablo” was a well-known fighting bull of the 19th century and was one half of a memorable bullfight with matador “El Chicorro” on July 11th, 1869.
The Diablo was introduced to the public on January 21, 1990. The rear-wheel drive base model boasted a 5,707 cc V12 engine mid-mounted to balance the weight of the vehicle. It featured dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and computer-controlled multi-point fuel injection. Performance was impressive: 0-100 km/hr in 4.5 seconds, a max speed of 202 mph, a max output of 492 PS, and 580 Nm of torque. Several iterations of the Diablo were released leading up to 1998. Lamborghini also issued several racing variations of the Diablo with altered specifications suitable for the racetrack.
Lamborghini initiated changes to the Diablo in 1998 and introduced an updated version in 1999. The base model was eliminated and the SV model became the most basic model available. The most notable exterior alteration was the elimination of pop-up headlamps and their replacement by fixed lenses. All models were outfitted with new 18 inch wheels. The interior of the new Diablos was updated substantially.
A great company never rests on its laurels, and Lamborghini replaced the popular Diablo in 2001 with the Murcielago. Seventeen years later, the Diablo remains a legend, and an astute auto enthusiast will still notice Diablos on the road from time to time.