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Seven years ago in Iraq, when American soldiers wired explosives to a cruddy old pickup, they unwittingly chose to bomb the rarest and most Italian 4×4 to ever pound sand. It was a Lamborghini LM002, and while the world wasn’t weeping over the loss of one of Uday Hussein’s personal vehicles—or Uday himself, one of Saddam Hussein’s sons who was killed by U.S. troops in 2003—exotic-car enthusiasts winced.
Next month, a far tidier example of the super truck will be offered for sale by RM Auctions. Listen to the money, though, and you’ll find the LM002 to be a significantly undervalued Lamborghini, not only for its sheer insanity as a V-12 dune buggy but also as the precursor to the automaker’s next SUV, the Urus, slated for 2017. When our own Brock Yates tested one of the first U.S. models in 1987—he nicknamed it the “Rambo Lambo”—the LM002 was $120,000 to start, or about a quarter-million bucks in today’s dollars. According to Hagerty’s, the average price of an LM002 hovers around $95,000. The red 1989 model you see here recently sold for $122,000, and it’s unlikely to bring much more than that at auction.
This is a 6780-pound hulk that, in its day, was twice as quick as a comparable Range Rover (0 to 60 in 7.7 seconds) and stopped shorter than most compact sedans. It came with a 5.2-liter Countach V-12 mounted up front, a five-speed manual, a two-speed transfer case, and 345-width Pirellis reinforced with Kevlar. It took nearly three decades before other 12-cylinder SUVs like the Audi Q7 V-12 TDI and Mercedes G65 AMG hit the scene. Who wouldn’t want a piece of history, that, as Yates put it, threw every other luxury car “to the trash heap of social obsolescence”?
Among modern collectors, it’s simply not hot enough. Robert Meyer, who owns a shingle business in Washington state, sold this cherry LM002 in September because of its poor appreciation. Plus, it’s nigh impossible to find parts and nearly as difficult to service. Thus, to drive an LM002 is to risk grounding it indefinitely. Even when we tested one new, the electronics were already failing, a water line was rubbing against a fan belt and the clutch made a “Peterbilt feel like a Civic.” There’s also the issue of feeding the 76.6-gallon tank.
Meyer’s LM002, gifted to himself after a divorce, is one of the luckier LM002s. Compared to the six-carb model Yates drove two years earlier, the 1989 models came with fuel injection, an air-conditioning compressor that functioned, and myriad improvements that made the 444-hp beast easier to drive. Meyer did his own repairs and had little go wrong—he only put 10,000 miles on it over 18 years—but beyond some seals for the transfer case and headers, “there’s nothing out there,” he said. That goes for the aluminum and fiberglass body, the Pirelli Scorpion tires, and anything involving the four-wheel-drive system. Meyer had the front driveshaft removed, effectively underscoring the “2” in LM002, because that’s the part that gets removed for each oil change. According to Meyer, Lamborghini designed the engine to run on six cylinders in case of catastrophic failure, and in that process, duplicated many of the parts under the hood. As you might surmise, an LM002 is “sort of a pain in the ass when you’re trying to work on it.”
Like most all pre-Audi Lamborghini models, the LM002 nearly bankrupted the Sant’Agata company. The prototype 1977 Cheetah, designed by an American defense contractor, didn’t win over military commanders when it debuted at the Geneva auto show. The mid-mounted Chrysler V-8 gave the top-heavy Lambo nervous handling, and a year later, BMW cut ties with Lamborghini after the company allegedly funneled money from the M1 to the Cheetah project. A thoroughly revised LM001 debuted at the 1981 Geneva auto show, and before long, the LM002 was born as “just the thing for touring the front of the Iran-Iraq war,” according to Yates.
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The last LM American models came with the Diablo’s 492-hp V-12, yet even with such frippery, none have seen the surging prices seen by the early to mid-1980s Countach. When the Urus debuts, might LM002 owners realize the treasure on their hands, knowing they guard the direct lineage to what will be a 200-mph SUV? “I could care less about the new one,” said Meyer. “It’s just another piece of high-tech shit.”
With year-end sales looming the latest information from the National Automobile Dealers Association indicates now might be a good time to make a deal.
Year-End New Car Deals
According to Kelley Blue Book, December can be a great time to buy a new car.
“Annual sales are a key metric for automakers, so they are anxious to land as many last-minute sales in the final days of the year as possible,” says Karl Brauer, Kelley Blue Book senior analyst. “Over the years, we’ve seen automakers offer aggressive incentives combined with a strong marketing push to break through the holiday noise and create a year- end (sales) spike.” Brauer says.
But if you’re someone who’s held onto their vehicle, hoping to wring out every last mile, how will you fare when you decide to trade it in to take advantage of these deals?
As it turns out, you might do rather well.
Used Car Values
According to the National Automobile Dealers Association’s (NADA) most recent report, that used car sitting in your driveway kept most of its value in November courtesy of a strong demand for used cars and a decrease in the number of vehicles available through wholesale auction.
According to Jonathan Banks, Executive Analyst for the NADA Used Car Guide, “Usually wholesale auction volume decreases during this time of year – and it did, again. This time, however, it fell even a bit more than normal. If there are less used vehicles in the marketplace, then competition increases, and values hold a little better as a result.”
Because of the strong performance of used cars in November, NADA’s seasonally adjusted used car price index rose nearly 2 points over October – a figure that nearly matches that of last November (when it was 124).
December is normally a down month for used car values and this year promises to be no different. Average used car values are expected to fall about 1.5 percent with the biggest losers predicted to be luxury and compact cars.
But with manufacturers pushing for their year-end sales goals, any loss in value could very easily be offset by increased new car incentives.
The Bottom Line
December is typically a good time to buy a new car since manufacturers are set on attaining their year-end sales goals. Buyers with a trade-in could also benefit from higher than normal used car values, so it looks like this month might be a good time to trade in that old ride on a new one.
Car thieves are also looking for a little Christmas cheer so be sure to check out these tips from HEAT
‘Tis the Season for Auto Thefts
With the annual holiday season upon us, it’s time to take a look at some tips from H.E.A.T. (Help Eliminate Auto Thefts), a Michigan organization that works with various law enforcement agencies to follow-up on auto theft-related tips.
This year, H.E.A.T. is encouraging shoppers to consider following these tips to protect themselves and their property:
- Be alert - Always be aware of your surroundings. As you approach your vehicle, avoid talking or texting on cell phones, digging for keys or juggling multiple packages.
- Parking - If you can, avoid shopping alone after dark. But if you must, park in a well-lit area with pedestrian traffic or in a lot with an attendant. If possible, avoid parking near objects that block your view of the surrounding area, such as dumpsters, bushes and large vans or trucks. Also avoid parking next to cars with tinted windows that you cannot see through.
- Remember where your car is parked - Walk directly to your car and do not spend unnecessary time wandering around the parking lot. Walk confidently and with purpose.
- Always ask - If you’re alone and don’t feel comfortable walking to your car, don’t hesitate to ask retail security personnel for an escort.
- Place items in trunk - If you must leave something in your vehicle, lock it in the trunk or place items out of sight. Do not leave packages on the seat of your car.
- Move your car - Move to another area of the parking lot if you return to your car in the middle of a shopping trip, even if it means giving up a prime spot. This will deter a thief who may have been watching you unload your purchases.
- Use common sense - Even if you are just going into a store for a quick errand, never leave your car unlocked or your vehicle running unattended.
- Keep passengers safe - Criminals are not timid about approaching people in their driveways. Take children and the elderly into the house first, then immediately unload all purchases from your car. Never leave vulnerable loved ones alone in a vehicle, even if you will only be gone “for a minute.”
- Don’t argue – If a carjacker wants your vehicle, let him have it. A vehicle isn’t worth your life. According to Terri Miller, executive director of H.E.A.T., most carjackings involve a weapon. So don’t resist or argue, instead get a good look at the carjacker and what he or she is wearing.
- Call the police immediately - If you witness an auto theft or carjacking, call 911 immediately. After you have informed local law enforcement, (Michigan residents should) call H.E.A.T.’s 24/7 confidential tip reward line (1-800-242-HEAT) if you have any information regarding auto theft, insurance fraud or carjackings.
The Bottom Line
By following these tips from H.E.A.T., car owners should have a much better chance of keeping the holidays bright. And remember, the holidays are also a dangerous time for identity theft, so remember to watch your credit statements as much as your car.
And of course, if you need a car this holidays, but your credit isn’t the best, be sure to fill out our quick and easy online auto loan application to see what Auto Credit Expresss can do for you!