1997 Lamborghini Diablo SV
12-cyl. 5707cc/510hp SMPFI
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Lamborghini officially replaced the Countach when it unveiled the Diablo in Monte Carlo in January of 1990. The lead-up to that unveiling was a tension-filled takeover of the Italian carmaker by Chrysler, and an ensuing conflict between Chrysler and Lamborghini over who would style the latest Lamborghini supercar. In the end, Lamborghini was able to retain Marcello Gandini for the Diablo's design, albeit with some massaging by Chrysler engineers in order to soften the shape.
Customer deliveries began in June of 1990, and while the car retained the layout of the Countach including the former car's unique mid-mounted reverse engine/transmission configuration with side mounted radiators, there were differences. Power now came from an enlarged 5.7-liter, 492-hp version of the long-serving Lamborghini 60-degree V-12. Bodywork was now an aluminum alloy with composite pieces used for the trunk and engine cover, and square section tubing was used for the car's tube frame. The Chrysler-designed interior offered comfort and room that a Countach owner might find difficult to imagine.
By 1994, Chrysler was out of the picture and the Diablo VT was available in the United States with a viscous four-wheel-drive system that sent up to 20% of the car’s torque to the front wheels. Other additions included power steering, bigger brakes, a revised interior and dash, and minor bodywork changes. Most of these changes made their way onto the standard two-wheel-drive Diablo as well, though by 1998 the two-wheel-drive car had been phased out with the exception being a number of higher performance limited editions. The 1995 model year saw the Diablo VT roadster appear with a carbon-fiber roof panel that was stored over the engine cover when the driver of this incredible performer wanted to bask in the sunshine. Audi took the helm at Lamborghini in 1998, and a minor revision quickly followed in 1999, with a new dash and fixed headlights being the biggest changes. The Diablo experienced one final redesign in 2000, becoming the Diablo 6.0. Revised bodywork and interior appointments as well as a 6-liter, 575-hp motor characterized this final variant of the car that lasted until the advent of the Murcielago in 2001. After 11 years of production, this breathtaking car ended with just under 2,900 being built.
The 200+ mph top speed and 4.5-second 0-60 blast of the base car still didn't prevent Lamborghini from offering lightweight higher performance limited editions of the Diablo, with some notable ones being the SE30 and the SV. Both of these cars emphasized reduced weight and more horsepower, and are highly valued in the collector market today. Any Diablo offers a thrilling ride, often for pennies on the dollar of what they cost when new. Buyers should proceed with caution, however, as yesterday’s supercars have often led hard lives despite what the odometer might have you believe. The best advice is to shop owners as much as the car, and to look most seriously at those cars with the most documentation.