Lamborghini concepts aren't always wild or wonderful.
When it comes to wild extravagance, Lamborghini is hard to beat. When it comes to concept cars, "wild” is a term often and rightly used for the Italian supercar makers creations. Although the company doesn’t have a wide range of models, it does have an interesting history with concepts that range from those penned by Italian design studios Bertone and Italdesign to designers freewheeling with the Lamborghini parts bin. As a result, there are more Lamborghini concepts out there than actual Lamborghini models. As we’ll see though, they range from the comically absurd to the head-shaking misunderstanding of what Lamborghini always has been as a brand.
In 1980, Lamborghini wasn’t doing so well financially. According to the Bertone design company in a press release, the Athon was designed to show their support for Lamborghini. It was designed by Marc Deschamp to honor the concept cars Bertone created in the 1970s with clear edges and sharp lines while also paying homage to the aesthetic of the Lamborghini Silhouette. The end result is more like a retro idea of what a future car would look like and makes little sense as something Lamborghini would have produced at the time.
Bertone was responsible for some of Lamborghini’s most iconic cars including the Countach and Muira. However, Bertone also came up with this unofficial Countach Quattrovalvole powered Lamborghini Minivan. The 455-horsepower rear-wheel drive minivan boasted gullwing doors and took 30,000 man-hours to build. It’s true that the electrically folding and sliding seating arrangement is well designed, and the vehicle is practical as well as insanely fast. However, the idea of a Lamborghini minivan is as absurd and laughable now as it was then.
If we didn’t know better we would assume a teenage boy came up with the Egoista in his bedroom for his graphic novel project. However, Walter de Silva went on to be the head of design at the Volkswagen Group via the same position at Fiat Alfa Romeo, Seat and Audi AG. The word Egoista means "selfish” in Spanish and Italian, which refers to the fact the Egoista is a single seater. The concept is inspired by, predictably, a fighter jet and an attack helicopter. It’s all a bit too on the nose, even for Lamborghini.
Ryoji Yamazaki is a man of art and design and, early on, he wanted to be a car designer. On his website, he claims there was no car design school at the time so, "he studied car design by delving deeply into nature such as dinosaur skeletons, the form of minerals, and historic buildings and so on.” According to him, the Sogna was a "unique two-fraction design of top and bottom,” but in reality, it looks like something designed in the 1980s for a futuristic sci-fi movie on a budget. He did get Lamborghini onboard and the concept was built with a 455-horsepower 5.2-liter V12 powering the rear wheels.
The Cheetah does actually look pretty cool, but it turned out to be one hell of a disaster. The late 1970s were not a good time for Lamborghini with the recession following the oil crisis draining its bank account. To try and get out from underneath its problems, Lamborghini started taking on contracts from other companies, most notably the chassis development for BMW’s M1. It also borrowed a lot of money from the Italian government to go after a lucrative contract with the US military by building them an all-terrain vehicle on behalf of Mobility Technology International.
The problem was MTI sent Lamborghini plans that had been largely ‘borrowed’ from a competitor and had a rear-mid mounted waterproofed 5.9-liter Chrysler V8 engine. The result was an erratic handling 2-ton vehicle being pushed by a 180 horsepower engine. Later on, the LM001 and LM002 fixed the problems of the Cheetah by using a Lamborghini 4.8-litre V12 mounted at the front of the vehicle.
The Pregunta was designed by the French coachbuilder Carrosserie Heuliez, and is the last instance of a coachbuilder being given the job of designing something for Lamborghini. While not the worst looking design, cars need headlights large enough to work and more than half a roof. Pregunta means "question” in Spanish, but whatever that question is, this car was not the answer.
The Marzal's all glass gullwing doors had Ferruccio Lamborghini worrying that "a lady’s legs would be there for all to see.” However, that was the least of the Marzal’s problems as a Lamborghini design. The louvered rear window took the whole louver fashion thing at the time to a comical level, but the icing on the cake is the straight-six engine. A straight-six is a gloriously smooth and torquey engine when done right, but nothing with a Lamborghini badge should have less than eight cylinders. In fact, there should be a law against it.
The idea of a four-door Lamborghini car never dies. Thankfully, this one designed by Giugiaro and Italdesign as an evolution of the Lamborghini Espada didn’t get past the model making stage. Back in the day, plenty of coachbuilders designed cars on Lamborghini chassis but few proposed the designs directly to Lamborghini, and this one wasn’t accepted. With looks borrowed from a European family car, even the gullwing doors couldn’t save it from being too bland for Lamborghini.
Italian coachbuilder Pietro Frua took 8 months to create his four-door Lamborghini, and you have to wonder why. He used a reinforced 1974 Espada Series II chassis that he extended to bring the car to a length of 18 feet with its excessive overhangs. Frua aimed to have the bloated and heavy Faena built in small quantities but despite showing it at the Turin Salone internazionale dell'Automobile and the Geneva Auto Show in 1978, it didn't get any traction as a concept. The only model built was bought by a Swiss Lamborghini importer then sold to a German collector.