If it wasn’t for our huge competitive nature tethered into our DNA, we might not have had many of today’s technological advances. More importantly, we wouldn’t get to gaze in awe at many of the automotive world’s jewels, and the Lamborghini Diablo is certainly one of those!
At the era when Enzo Ferrari was building state-of-the-art race cars in the Scuderia factory, Ferruccio Lamborghini, a great businessman and tractor builder, suggested he make a few changes that could improve the Ferrari cars, making them faster.
Ferruccio was a client of Ferrari at that time. Being unhappy with some of the technical issues that he was having on his cars at the time, the businessman went to see Enzo to present his views.
Enzo dismissed Ferruccio Lamborghini’s views, finding it demeaning to take advice from a tractor builder. Since Ferruccio himself wasn’t the most diplomatic guy out there, this event sparked a huge rivalry. One that was about to continue for decades to come.
When Lamborghini unveiled the Countach, it was revolutionary! Many believed that the Countach would be the pinnacle of the brand, as matching the performance and the outlandish looks of Lamborghini’s first supercar were not going to be something easily achievable.
Oh, how little did we know! As it emerged, the Lamborghini Diablo made track days go beyond the childish joy of driving fast around the bends.
Tire squealing, metal rumbling and engine roaring like a demon from the deepest pit of hell – all these ingredients made the Lamborghini Diablo juggle the line between a fun supercar and a terrifying 4-wheel monster. Through all its iterations between 1990 and 2001, Lamborghini Diablo jumpstarted the crowd everywhere it went, as its aggressive design mixed with a roided-up powertrain made it possible to break the 200mph limit.
The Original Lamborghini Diablo
Project 132 was the name given to the concept that Lamborghini took on to replace the Countach, as early as 1985. The main point of the project? A new flagship model that is able to reach 196mph (315kmh).
Starting from scratch, designer Marcello Gandini (who was also responsible for drawing Miura and Countach) sketched a very aggressive, sharp body for what was to become the Diablo.
However, as Lamborghini was bought over by Chrysler Corporation, upper management rejected Gandini’s designs and commissioned a team in Detroit to soften up the edges. The Italian wasn’t impressed. He went on and deployed the original design on the Cizeta-Moroder V16T.
Since Lamborghini had a tradition of naming its cars after famous breeds of fighting bulls, Diablo was named after the bull that was raised by the Duke of Veragua and battled “el Chicorro” in 1869.
Offered for sale since 21st of January 1990, the first Lamborghini Diablo drew its force from a 5.7-liter V12 engine that was mounted centrally for near-perfect weight distribution.
The engine (492hp and 428 lb-ft of torque) paired with a rear-wheel-drive system allowed the supercar to reach 60mph in 4.5 seconds and hit the limit at 202mph. It featured a double overhead cam configuration, based on the 1963 design of Giotto Bizzarrini. A multi-point, computer-controlled fuel injection made it possible to fine-tune the power over the entire RPM range.
Power was delivered to the wheels via a 5-speed manual gearbox with a long final ratio to allow Diablo to become the first Lamborghini to surpass the 200mph mark.
Compared to Countach, the Lamborghini Diablo had a better-equipped interior, even though it may seem a bit spartan by modern standards.
Seats were now fully adjustable, as was the steering wheel, and windows were actioned electrically. Hand-sewn fine Italian leather covered the insides of the car, top to bottom.
Lamborghini added power steering into the mix as of 1993, and the supercar also saw the addition of ABS.
Even at that time, various luxury perks were available with supercars; Lamborghini offered the possibility to buy a custom-molded seat for the driver, rear spoiler, a factory luggage set, and even a limited edition Breguet clock for your car’s dashboard.
The Lamborghini Diablo Roadster Concept
Introduced during the 1992 Geneva Auto Show, the Diablo Roadster allowed Lamborghini to showcase how the new supercar would look like with an open top.
The Roadster not only had the roof removed, but the windshield was replaced by a lower visor. To compensate for the lack of a roof, the chassis needed to be reinforced.
On the inside, the dashboard suffered a major redesign, becoming smaller in size but retaining all the required elements. Bigger clearance was created between the seats, allowing the windscreen mounted rearview mirror to reflect the world behind the car.
Lamborghini boosted the size of the air intakes on the rear wings and increased the cross-section of air ducts running the sides of the concept.
While there were talks to make the concept into a limited edition run, the project never reached production. However, many elements of the Diablo Roadster Concept found their way into future iterations such as the Diablo VT and Diablo VT Roadster.
The Diablo VT- All-Wheel Drive
Introduced 3 years after the debut of Diablo, the VT brought on several changes. The most notable difference compared to the original Diablo is the addition of all-wheel drive.
To integrate it, Lamborghini borrowed and redesigned the viscous differential (hence VT – Viscous Traction) in the 4WD system found on its military-spec LM002 model. The new drivetrain allowed 40% of the power to the front wheels.
The all-wheel-drive system made it easier to control the 492hp output of the roaring V12. Some would even say that Lamborghini took out the challenge of driving a Diablo when they introduced the 4WD in the VT model.
Furthermore, the adjustable suspension and speed-based power steering made the bull tamer, yet just as strong.
To celebrate 30 years of existence, Lamborghini released the limited-edition Diablo SE30 in 1993. The idea was rather simple: SE30 was a racecar somehow legal to drive on the streets.
The engine was tuned upwards to 523hp thanks to a new fuel system, magnesium intake manifolds, and a free-flowing exhaust system.
Furthermore, the Lamborghini Diablo SE30 ditched the 4-wheel drive and resumed powering just the rear wheels to shave off weight. To compensate for the obvious oversteer, Lamborghini engineers fitted adjustable anti-roll bars that the driver could control directly from the cockpit.
Like most racecars of the time, more weight was shed by replacing glass windows with plexiglass. Air conditioning, power steering, music – all were taken out in the name of lower weight. Fine Italian leather seats were taken out and replaced by lightweight carbon fiber counterparts which were also made to fit 4-point harnesses.
The Diablo SV Pushes 510HP
Once again, the Geneva Motor Show was the host for Lamborghini’s new Diablo iteration. Named Diablo SV, the model revived the Super Veloce nomination used last time on the Miura SV.
Oddly, Diablo SV was based on the original Diablo model and thus lacks a viscous differential and 4-wheel drive. On the bright side, the engine was revised, allowing it to push 510hp to the wheels at an eye-pleasing, eargasmic 7,100 RPM.
To account for the power boost, extra brake cooling ducts were integrated along with bigger 340mm front brakes. Bigger, 18” wheels were fitted to accommodate the increased diameter brakes.
A rear spoiler came standard with the SV, and it could have been painted in accordance with the rest of the car or built out of carbon fiber. Even with the revised engine, Lamborghini set the SV below the price of the standard Diablo.
Twenty limited run “Monterey Edition” Diablo SVs were built for the United States, most of them built in vibrant colors, something that was highly unusual for the Italian brand at the time.
The Diablo GT- Hitting a Top Speed of 210mph
Based on SE30 and SE30 Jota, Lamborghini revealed the Diablo GT in 1998.
Compared to its tamer relatives, Diablo GT was built more for the track rather than for the public roads. This was prevalent not only via the revised design but also through the plethora of components unique to the model.
On the outside, huge brake ducts were fitted alongside an air dam and central vent flowing to the oil cooler. There was no luggage compartment left as a large air extractor was installed in place. NACA ducts replaced the small fender vents, with the fender themselves being widened to match the upgrades.
Aiding aerodynamics, bumpers were stripped and replaced by carbon fiber diffusers with integrated lamps. The engine sucked air through a central air duct that opened on the roof.
To get the car as light as possible, most of the bodywork was laminated in carbon fiber. It all summed up to a 300lbs weight reduction over the standard Diablo, translating to a 12-second quarter-mile and a top speed of 210mph!
For the first time on the model, the V12 engine displacement was altered. Stroke was lengthened by 0.2 inches and made for a 6-liter total displacement. Power output was rated at 575hp and 465 lb-ft of torque.
The production was limited to only 83 units sold, each for an eye-watering $258,000 US dollars.
Race Spec Diablo
As mentioned earlier, Lamborghini also provided a number of race-spec iterations of the Diablo. The Jota conversion kit was created to allow Japan Lamborghini Owners Club (JLOC) to run the JGTC racing. Only three cars were made, and all three are still in Japan.
To bring something to the prototype stage and trying to catch-up with Porsche, Lamborghini developed the GT1 Stradale with the help of French prototype builder Signes Advanced Technologies. As per GT1 class requirements, the GT1 Stradale featured a tubular steel chassis and carbon fiber bodywork. The powertrain was supplied by Lamborghini, a 6-liter V12 iteration that was capable of 655bhp at 7,550RPM, coupled to a 6-speed sequential gearbox.
In 1996, Diablo SV-R was shown to the public as a competition-spec version of the existing SV. The SV-R was the first Lamborghini built specifically for racing, and the Italian automaker went as far as creating their own league called Lamborghini Supertrophy. Twenty-eight SV-Rs entered the event, built in just 4 months. Amazingly, all of them finished the race without major issues.
One of the rarest Lamborghini Diablo existing today, the GTR was launched after the immense success witnessed by the SV-R. Like a proper race-oriented car, the Lamborghini Diablo GTR was stripped down to the minimum required to save weight, 6-point belts were added as well as a huge rear spoiler, integrated air jacks, and 18-inch center-lock OZ wheels. The 60liter V12 engine would push 590hp and was bolted to the regular 5-speed manual transmission powering the rear wheels.
The Lamborghini Diablo was the last of its breed. Coming from a time where an RWD Lamborghini was the norm while the 4WD was the odd one out, the Italian supercar was highly watched by the public, once for its outstanding sharp edge design and secondly for the overwhelmingly powerful V12 engine roaring at the center of the car.
With various iteration and even a racing event dedicated to the model, Lamborghini managed to create a more-than-worthy successor of the Countach. A true raging bull, which, regardless of its form, delivered raw power and made the driver earn each turn on the track.