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LOOKING BACK: Lamborghini’s 325km/h Diablo was the world’s fastest car 30 years ago

Published Dec 28, 2020


Sant'Agata Bolognese, Italy - Being the follow-up to the Lamborghini Countach that featured on many a car enthusiast’s childhood bedroom wall in the 1970s and ‘80s, the Diablo had a lot to live up to when it first hit the scene 30 years ago.

Thankfully, the Italian supercar maker brought the right quantity of Bull Power to the equation, and at launch in 1990 it was the world’s fastest production car, thanks to a top speed of 325km/h.

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The Diablo story began in 1985. The vehicle was codenamed Project 132, with the aim of replacing the Countach at the top of the Lamborghini range. The clean and aggressive lines are the result of a project by Marcello Gandini that was partially revised by Chrysler's design center, which at the time was the majority shareholder of the Italian carmaker.

The Diablo was powered by the classic Lamborghini 12-cylinder set-up, with a 5.7-liter engine featuring four overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, as well as multi-point electronic injection. The engine produced 362kW and 580Nm of torque, and was mounted in a rear longitudinal position.

Despite being luxuriously finished, with a 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, Lamborghini introduced 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 that same year, the special SE30 series was presented to commemorate 30 years since the birth of the company, with a power increase to 390kW.

The Diablo SV debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 1995, available only as a two-wheel drive version with maximum power of 380kW, 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.

The Diablo SV was restyled in 1999, following the sale of the company to Audi, by the company’s first in-house designer, Luc Donckerwolke. There was also more power, with the engine now producing 394kW and 605Nm. It was equipped with a variable valve lift system and, for the first time on a Lamborghini, the vehicle was fitted with ABS brakes.

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The Diablo, also launched in special series or for competition with 6-liter engines, was Lamborghini’s most produced car to date with 2903 units in total.

It was replaced by the Murciélago in 2001.

IOL Motoring

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