Lamborghini Diablo: A brief history of world’s fastest production car of its time

It was born 30 years ago; it then made way for the Murciélago in 2001, which was then replaced by the Aventador in 2011.


One of the most iconic models in the history of Automobili Lamborghini, the Diablo, was launched 30 years ago, in January 1990. But the Diablo story began five years earlier, in 1985. Codenamed Project 132, the Diablo was designed to replace the Countach at the top of the Lamborghini range. The Diablo was officially the fastest production car in the world at the time of its launch, capable of a top speed of 325 km/h (203.1 mph). It was powered by the classic Lamborghini 12-cylinder set-up, with a 5.7-litre engine, four overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, equipped with multi-point electronic injection capable of developing 485 horsepower and 580Nm of torque. It had traction on the rear wheels only, and no electronic driving aids or power steering were available until 1993.

In 1993, Lamborghini launched the Diablo VT, the first Lamborghini Granturismo to be equipped with four-wheel drive. Also, in 1993, the special SE30 series was presented to commemorate 30 years since the birth of the company, with a power increase to 523 horsepower. The Diablo SV debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 1995, available only as a two-wheel drive version with maximum power of 510 horsepower, and with an adjustable rear wing. In December of the same year, the Diablo VT Roadster came to market: it was Lamborghini’s first 12-cylinder, open-roofed, mass-produced car, 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 modernisation through revised design lines and interior. The Diablo, with 2,903 units made in total, remained available until 2001, when it was succeeded by the Murciélago; in 2011, the Murciélago made way for the now famous Aventador.

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