This year marks 30 years since Lamborghini’s iconic super sports car, the Diablo, updated the Italian manufacturer’s 12-cylinder blueprint.
Codenamed Project 132, the Diablo was designed to replace the flagship Countach and, like its predecessor, became an instant classic from the moment it arrived.
The Diablo also upped the luxury, introducing leather interior, air conditioning, electric windows, and electrically adjustable seats to Lamborghini’s supercar slate.
Automobili Lamborghini has celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Diablo during 2020. Commemorating one of the most iconic models in the history of super sports cars, the Diablo heralded the arrival of a brand-new decade with fireworks when it first went on sale in January 1990.
The Diablo story began in 1985. It was codenamed Project 132, with the aim of replacing the Countach at the top of the Lamborghini range. The clean and aggressive lines were the result of a project by Marcello Gandini that was partially revised by Chrysler's design centre, which in the meantime became the majority shareholder of Automobili Lamborghini.
Winning the hearts of fans since day one, the Diablo was officially the fastest production car in the world at launch, capable of a top speed of 325km/h. Its impressive dynamic behaviour was the result of intense development work involving the rally champion Sandro Munari.
The Diablo sports 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 485hp (361kW) and 580Nm of torque, in a rear longitudinal position.
Despite being luxuriously finished, with leather interior, air conditioning, electric windows and electrically adjustable seats, the Diablo was still a pure driver’s car with traction on the rear wheels only: no electronic driving aids or power steering were available until 1993.
That year, 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 523hp (390kW). The Diablo SV debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 1995, available only as a two-wheel drive version with maximum power of 510hp (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.
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 its revised lines and interior. From a mechanical point of view the engine, now with 529hp (394kW) and capable of 605Nm 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 remains Lamborghini’s most produced car to date, with 2903 units built in total across its 20-year life span. It remained available until 2001, when it was succeeded by the Murciélago.
Diablo: 1990-1998, 873
Diablo VT: 1993-1998, 529
Diablo SE:1993-1994, 157
Diablo SV: 1995-1999, 346
Diablo VT Roadster: 1995-1998, 468
Diablo SVR: 1996, 34
Diablo GTR: 1999-2000, 32
Diablo 6.0: 2000-2001, 337
Diablo 6.0 SE: 2001, 44
Diablo GT: 1999-2000, 83