Launched in 1990, Lamborghini’s Diablo was officially the fastest car in the world in its heyday.

Powered by a free revving 5.7-litre V12 engine, it could scream to a top speed of 325km/h.

The iconic Diablo celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

The Diablo story began way back in 1985, with Project 132, codename of the model earmarked as a replacement for the Countach at the top of the Lambo range.

Its clean aggressive lines are the work of Marcello Gandini, partially revised by Chrysler’s design centre, which became the majority shareholder of Automobili Lamborghini.

Diablo’s impressive performance was achieved with the help of intense development work that involved rally champion Sandro Munari.

Its rear, longitudinally mounted V12 featured four overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, and was fed by multi-point electronic injection, and developed some 362kW of power and 580Nm of torque.

Despite being luxuriously finished, with leather interior, air conditioning, electric windows and electrically adjustable seats, the Diablo was still very much a hard-edged, pure bred sports car with drive to the rear wheels.

No electronic driving aids or power steering were available until 1993.

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In 1993, Automobili Lamborghini launched the Diablo VT, the first of its GTs to be equipped with all-wheel drive.

It 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, with a power increase to 390kW, commemorated 30 years since the birth of the company.

The Diablo SV debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 1995, available only as a two-wheel drive version with maximum power of 380kW, and 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 model with slightly revised lines and was offered with all-wheel drive transmission only.

In 1999, following the purchase of Automobili Lamborghini by the Audi Group, the “restyled” Diablo SV was unveiled, designed by Luc Donckerwolke — Lamborghini’s first in-house designer.

The SV, VT and VT Roadster, all three showed clear signs of modernisation, with revised lines and interior.

From a mechanical point of view the engine, now with an output of 395kW and 605Nm of torque, was equipped with a variable valve lift system and, for the first time on a Lamborghini, the brakes had ABS.

A track version of the car was also launched with a 6.0-litre engine.

Diablo was Lamborghini’s best seller to date, with 2903 units in total and remained in production until 2001, when it was succeeded by the Murciélago.

 

Units Produced

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

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Headshot Riley 96x96 - Diablo reigned supreme for more than a decade

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.
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