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Back in the Eighties, Lambo sold a military vehicle powered by a Countach V12. Urus... meet your father

Rowan Horncastle

Seemingly styled with nothing more than a set square and blunt pencil over a particularly carbtastic Italian lunch, the Lamborghini LM002 is, for all intents and purposes, genesis for the performance SUV sector. It may have taken the likes of Audi, Bentley and Rolls-Royce years to catch up, but this Italian pioneer ploughed a field that manufacturers are now harvesting highly lucrative, posh, fast 4x4s from. But, more importantly, the LM also spawned the DNA for the new Urus, adding credibility to the whole project.

But to this day, there’s a sizeable stigma attached to performance SUVs. It’s a sub-sector hoovered up by the rich but lampooned for trying to achieve incompatible goals. But getting the opportunity to thrash one around a deserted quarry is a sure-fire way to silence any haters.

With the long, sticky throttle pinned, the LM sways on its supple suspension from one slippery corner to another, giving my pipe-cleaner arms a workout to keep the incongruous 4x4 pointing where I want it. But it’s undeniably capable; hustling its weight from one gloopy puddle to another, firing through an abandoned building, then up a shingle wall with ease – all to the blissful tones of a shrieking engine straight out of a Countach.

It has 334kW, 4WD, three self-locking diffs, massive chunky run-flat rubber, weighs nearly three tonnes, is smothered in leather and looks like a Tetris block. No wonder Colonel Gaddafi, Mike Tyson, Pablo Escobar, Tina Turner, Hunter S. Thompson and Sylvester Stallone – now that’s an episode of Come Dine With Me we’d like to see – all had one.

But with lawsuits, supercar hardware, financially crippling consequences, much secrecy, the inclusion of the military, then a few despots, and a sprinkling of celebrity, the story of how the LM002 came to be is good enough for its own Netflix series.

It all started back in the late Seventies, when Lamborghini wanted to make the most of a war-happy zeitgeist and a military industry with money to burn. With this in mind, the Italians spannered together a rear-engined, Chrysler V8-powered, panel-less offroader, in conjunction with ambitious US defence contractor Mobility Technology International.

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February 2018