I grew up with Lamborghinis on my walls. Not real ones, of course-posters. Throughout the '80s, my favorite Lambo was the Countach. Not the original LP400; the more wings and vents on my Countach the better. This was the car that defined the sports car image for a host of automotive enthusiasts-and hordes of enthusiastic young boys.
In retrospect, probably the best thing about the Countach was its shape. It was powerful, sure, but practical driving and ergonomic luxuries were basically nonexistent. Something which, interestingly, added to-rather than detracted from-the Lamborghini supercar mythos. The Countach was a conspicuously potent icon on the sports car landscape throughout its production run. But near the end, it was really beginning to show its age. Work began on a successor in 1985. That successor was called the Diablo, introduced at the Countach'sterminus, in 1990, at the bargain-basement price of $240,000.
The Diablo, like today's Murcilago, was undoubtedly the progressive spiritual successor of the Countach and Lamborghini's modern image, propagating the ultra-wide, low-slung wedge shape and horizontally hinged, upswept scissor doors. Unlike the Countach, whose hard lines and trapezoidal panels made it look like some kind of aircraft, the Diablo's softer edges gave it a more organic, menacing shape, like a predatory beast poised to spring.
The original Diablo was rear-wheel drive. Just three years after its inception, Lamborghini decided to offer an even more technically advanced iteration, the Diablo VT, with viscous all-wheel drive and upgraded power steering. Other, later versions made even more power, all the way up to 550 hp. This, though, is maybe the most hardcore of all: the Diablo SE30.
Introduced in 1994 in celebration of Lamborghini's 30th anniversary, the SE30 brought back rear-wheel drive and shed more than 400 pounds over its standard rear-drive brethren. It incorporated lightweight materials like carbon-fiber panels, magnesium wheels, Lexan windows-even titanium lugnuts. The interior was completely stripped: lightweight seats, drilled pedals, no carpets and zero sound-deadening material. It also featured fully revised aerodynamics: bumpers, side skirts, rear wing.
The engine, too, was completely reworked. It saw upgrades like larger cylinder valves and lightweight components (its crankshaft is 15 pounds lighter than standard). It was, for all intents and purposes, a completely different powerplant, pushing peak output to a claimed 525 hp at a screaming 7200 rpm. In those days, Lamborghini was notoriously optimistic about its engine outputs. "I'd laugh if it actually made 525 hp," chuckles the car's current owner. But combined with the significant weight shed, it is among the fastest sports cars, never mind Lamborghinis, on the planet-good for a reported 207 mph. And no, we're not saying how we got that number.
Of course, the SE30 was a limited production car. Over four years ('93 to '97), only 150 were built. None were necessarily intended for the United States. But, inevitably, a few made the voyage.
By all indications, Lamborghini bluffed 25 of them past DOT regulators, although the cars weren't legal for American roads by any stretch of the imagination. Today, they've reportedly been earmarked by DOT for non-entry, so if you can't get your hands on one of the cars already over here, you're pretty much screwed.
This car's owner searched for a couple of years, heart set on a black one, none of which were for sale. Then he came across this purple example. Friend and eminent Lamborghini scholar, Joseph Sackey (he of the lime green Miura, the most beautiful car I've ever seen), recommended he pounce. The color was actually called 30th Anniversary Purple, apparently the more sought-after hue among purists.
We were at our Los Angeles photo studio, shooting another of Mr. Sackey's cars-the chop-top Miura pictured in this month's Money Shot-when the Diablo pulled up out of nowhere. Actually, 'out of nowhere' may be a little misleading, because we heard it coming from at least two miles away. It is quite possibly the loudest automobile I've ever laid ears to. You can almost feel the engine strokes rumbling through your chest cavity. Drop into one of the sport buckets, pull the door down and it doesn't get much quieter. Drop the throttle and ear-splitting becomes absolutely deafening. The rear end squirms mightily as the 335-series rear tires claw for traction-imagine that. Driving this car without immediately throwing it away requires judicious throttle use and carefully placed steering inputs.
We take it for a spin around the neighborhood. As the thundering reports from the open exhaust bounce off the surrounding buildings, I'm amazed every cop in LA hasn't shown up.
Daily driver? Not a chance. The car is just too fast, too freaking loud, and too damn low. In short, it's everything cool about Lamborghini-amplified, to the power of 10.
Good God, I love Lamborghinis.
1994 Lamborg Hinidiablo SE30
*LayoutLongitudinal mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
5.7-liter V12, dohc, 48-valve
Independent wishbones, coil springs, anti-dive, anti-squat
13-inch cross-drilled discs (f), 11.2-inch cross-drilled discs (r)
*Wheels and Tires
Magnesium cast, 8.5x17 (f), 13x18 (r) Pirelli P Zero, 235/40 (f), 335/30 (r)
Peak Power: 525 hp @ 7200 rpmPeak Torque: 428 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm0-60 mph: 4.0 sec.Top Speed: 207 mph