The Lamborghini Diablo is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and remains one of the most iconic supercars of the era, symbolising everything the marque is famous for and originally on the market from January 1990.
Codenamed Project 132, the Diablo story began in 1985 and was given the difficult task of replacing the Countach at the top of the Lamborghini range. The Italian sharp-shooter boasted clean and aggressive lines penned by the famous Marcello Gandini but were partially changed by Chrysler’s design centre, which in the meantime became the majority shareholder of Automobili Lamborghini.
It was instantly the spare room pin-up and appreciated by its loyal fans from day one; the Diablo was officially the fastest production car in the world at launch, capable of an eye-watering top speed of 325 km/h (203.1 mph) – fast even by today’s standards. Its impressive dynamic behaviour was the result of intense development work involving the rally champion Sandro Munari.
Diablo – 12-Cylinder Powerhouse
The Diablo sports the classic Lamborghini 12-cylinder set-up, with a potent 5.7-litre engine, four overhead camshafts and an impressive four valves per cylinder, equipped with multi-point electronic injection capable of developing 485 HP and 580 Nm of torque, in a rear longitudinal position. Despite being luxuriously finished, with leather interior, air conditioning, electric windows and electrically adjustable seats, the Diablo is still a hard and pure car with traction on the rear wheels only: no electronic driving aids or power steering were available until 1993.
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In 1993, Automobili Lamborghini launched the Diablo VT, the first Lamborghini Granturismo to be equipped with four-wheel drive, which also brought a series of mechanical improvements and stylistic changes also to be soon adopted on the two-wheel-drive version. In 1993, the special SE30 series was presented to commemorate 30 years since the birth of the company, with a power increase to 523 HP.
The Diablo SV debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 1995, available only as a two-wheel drive version with a maximum power of 510 HP, and with an adjustable rear wing. In December of the same year, the Diablo VT Roadster came to market: Lamborghini’s first 12-cylinder, open-roofed, mass-produced Lamborghini, with slightly revised lines and offered with the four-wheel-drive transmission only.
In 1999, following the purchase of Automobili Lamborghini by the Audi Group, there was the unveiling of the Diablo SV “restyling” designed by Luc Donckerwolke, Lamborghini’s first in-house designer. It followed the VT and VT Roadster: all three models evoked clear signs of modernization through its revised lines and interior. From a mechanical point of view the engine, now with 529 HP and capable of 605 Nm of torque, was equipped with the variable valve lift system and, for the first time on a Lamborghini, the brakes were completed by ABS.
The Diablo, also launched in special series or for competition with 6-litre engines, was Lamborghini’s most-produced car to date with 2903 units in total. It remained available until 2001 when it was succeeded by the Murciélago model.
Love or loathe, the outlandish and quirky Lamborghini Diablo can still turn even the most arthritic of heads around on its travels…